Illness

“You know what I long for, Lord; You hear my every sigh. 
My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. 
My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. 
Even my own family stands at a distance.”
Psalms‬ ‭38:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David, the Psalmist, is ill. And it sounds pretty serious. Serious enough for people to keep well out of his way. We don’t have any clues from Scripture about what he was suffering from, but he was complaining well. 

How do we react in times of illness? Of course it depends on how serious the situation is. Some people are positive and stoical. Others see the Grim Reapers coming up the garden path with the first snivel. I’m the worst when it comes to illness, complaining and ruing the injustices in life before whatever I have caught even takes a hold. In this Covid pandemic, however, we’re reminded once again of the frailty of human life and how vulnerable we are to the damage microscopic organisms can do to us. Unless we lock ourselves away to avoid contact with the people and the environment around us, we will always be at risk of catching something. 

But in His wonderful design, our Creator God has provided two defence mechanisms. One is the natural process our bodies go through to deal with infections, our immune systems, boosted by the vaccines and drugs provided by modern science. The other is the power of prayer and the importance of our relationship with Father God, particularly when the illness is more serious and as yet beyond what medical science can treat. 

What was it about the great missionary doctors and nurses, who in past ages deliberately ignored the risk of infections, instead to minister compassionately to those with horrible illnesses like leprosy? Or those Christians in the Middle Ages, who stayed behind to nurse plague victims while everyone else did a runner? These were dear people who often died at a young age from illnesses caught from those they were ministering to. They had that realisation that our time here on Planet Earth is finite and our lives as Citizens of Heaven has to be lived in accordance with God’s will and purposes; they dedicated their lives to the care of others. 

But David also made the association between his feverish state and his sins and guilt. Is there such a connection? Many people have argued that there isn’t but others, even the medics, have found that an uneasy and guilt-ridden conscience can impact our bodily functions. Personally, I think there is a link, because God has designed us with something called a conscience inside of us; the violation of it will upset our physical and mental well-being and equilibrium, as our Psalmist David knew well.

David finished his Psalm with the prayer, “Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Saviour.” There are two significant words and sentiments here – “help” and “Saviour”. God is always our Helper; He is only a prayer away from our predicament. And He is also our wonderful Saviour. What a wonderful God He is!

God’s Master Plan

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Any attempt to unpick and drill down into this verse can only end up in becoming lost in the depths of our Creator God, full of grateful praise and worship. The bottom line is that God’s wonders, plans and deeds are uncountable because there are so many of them. For example, just take the environment in which we live. The number of conditions that combine to enable life as we know it on this planet are uncountable. And it was God’s plan to create a world where His plans could be developed. And look at the complexities of human life – how could two cells coming together in a mother’s womb ever develop into a human being capable of so much? It beggars belief that so many people believe the lie that our world and all its contents happened by chance. As the verse above points out, our Creator God has performed many wonders and deeds in implementing His plans.

But there is a wonder, a plan, a deed, that is far above anything else God has done for the human race. We find in the Genesis account that God created men and women in His image. And He wanted to have a relationship with them based on love and friendship. But things went horribly wrong with man’s response to God, as we can find in the early accounts of the Israelite nation. God wasn’t going to give up on His creation, though, and He devised a master plan to reconcile mankind back to Him. His love for us was so intense that he wasn’t going to let us continue in living a life less than how He designed it to be. A life without the ultimate richness of being a friend of God. We can read about God’s master plan through the words of Jesus in John 3. This is the Message version. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” That was God’s plan. To put the world back into the place He had designed it to be. He wasn’t going to give up on His creation and He never will. Through Jesus, God’s Master Plan, everyone person living on this planet can find out about God’s wonders, plans and deeds. If they want to. The choice is theirs. The choice is yours.

Mud and Clay

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭40:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Imagine the scene. You have wandered over some fields and come to a bank, down which you accidentally slip. You find yourself stuck in a bog, mud up to your knees and you are starting to sink further. Your cries for help are unheeded because of the remoteness of the place and very quickly the enormity of your predicament floods over you leaving an acute feeling of fear and despair. So you cry out to God for help, waiting with patience for Him to answer, full of assurance that He will do just that. And then, out of nowhere, a rope falls in front of you. You grab it and find a stranger at the other end who manages to pull you out, back up the bank, to a place of firm ground. God hears your cries and prayers for help and sends someone to rescue you.

Imagine the scene. After several days of heavy rain, the local river has burst its banks and your house is being flooded. The ground floor is now under water but you have managed to get onto the roof. You look anxiously around at the water-filled devastation, watching trees, rubbish, even cars, float past. Despair and fear increase. There is no-one to help. But God hears your prayers and sends a rescue helicopter, that quickly lifts you to a place of safety where you can wait for the flood waters to recede.

Imagine the scene. You realise that you are heading for a lost eternity because of your many sins. You are filled with fear and despair. Your situation appears to be hopeless because you realise you can’t save yourself. You cry out to God for help. But God has a plan. He loves you so much that He sends His Son, Jesus, to rescue you. But it’s a costly exercise – to rescue you Jesus has to become a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other way. And through His death on a cross, Jesus takes upon Himself all your sins, leaving you without guilt and shame, in right standing before God and able to say with confidence that your future with God in Heaven is secure. You have found a place of security. Solid ground on which to stand. Paul wrote in his Roman epistle, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Three scenarios. Two of physical danger, one of spiritual danger. But all three a potential “pit of despair”. But after rescue what do you feel? Elation? Relief? Most probably an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for His rescue. A song you have never sung before comes from deep within you, as you sing grateful praises to God. A song that tells of God’s amazing works. A song that brings others into a trusting relationship with God too.

Far-fetched scenarios that don’t apply in real life today? God may, or may not, rescue us from all occasions of physical danger. It wouldn’t be danger if He always did. But we can have an assurance that God will always rescue a repentant sinner from spending eternity in that place Jesus called hell. How do I know? The Son of God, Jesus, told me. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

Righteousness

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry;
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Psalms‬ ‭34:15, 17, 19-20‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Who or what is a righteous person? Does such a person exist? And why does he or she have troubles? These are questions that aren’t easy to answer, especially in a short blog post. From a Christian perspective, people are made righteous through their faith in Jesus. We believe that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, both human and divine, and that He came to this earth with one mission – to manifest God’s love for mankind by saving them from the consequences of their repented sins, by His sacrificial death on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary. Jesus took onto Himself our sins and in return gave us His righteousness. The faith that we hold, through a continuing trusting relationship with God, in our righteous state, brings us to a place where we can cry out to God and He will answer us. The verses before us today don’t say that we won’t have troubles. But it does say that God will deliver us from them. Sometimes, this deliverance happens quickly. But at other times it will only come after we die. But the faith and trust that we have in God will sustain us through all our troubles.

In the news this morning is yet another story of a person with Motor Neurone disease who wants to end his life through assisted suicide. A person without hope for the future. A person without a belief in God. A person who thinks that only blackness awaits him after death. But a person who will find that there is a worse place to be than this life here on earth. God has compassion and love for all mankind and it must break His heart to see such a person in such a hopeless state, rejecting the very One who will deliver him from his troubles. As Christians we must pass on God’s love to everyone we meet, not just those in such dire needs, in the hope that they too will embrace our wonderful Saviour and find that His righteousness is available to everyone

The Sins of Youth

“Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and unfailing love, which You have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of Your unfailing love, for You are merciful, O Lord. Psalms‬ ‭25:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Oh dear! Those difficult days in my teen years, when I wore the badge of being a “youth”. When I said things that I shouldn’t. When I did things that hurt others. Those rebellious sins committed when I knew no better. The difficulties I encountered in those days seemed endless. But thanks to our Saviour Jesus, and His death on a cross outside Jerusalem, my youthful sins have been forgiven. But, sadly, the memories remain. Embarrassing. Uncomfortable. But why should they, because God no longer remembers them. As it says in Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” His grace, love and compassion is endless. So if I pray for forgiveness for a previously-confessed sin, God replies, “What sin? I can’t remember it.” God has forgotten it, because Jesus exchanged it for His righteousness at Calvary. Amazing. Humbling. There are not enough thankful words to describe the eternal consequences of His grace. I praise and thank You today for Your grace, love and mercy, Lord.

If you, the reader, are struggling with the weight of your sins today, reach out to our loving Heavenly Father for His forgiveness. And assure yourself a future with Him for eternity.