New Testament Saturday #2

Hello Writer Kat readers! I’ve missed you! If you wonder where I’ve been, I’ve actually been busy writing at my new blog, Kat Writes About Family Ministry. But don’t worry, I plan to keep writing about chronic illness, day to day life, and, of course, my personal spiritual practices here on this blog. I would love if you could follow both. 

I’ve been chugging along, reading Matthew: I love having my awesome Discipleship Program to keep me accountable! I am currently on Matthew 11, but today will be writing about Matthew 8:1-17. You can read those verses here, and it would be helpful for you to do so before returning to my post. These verses are all about healing: Jesus doing many miracles of healing. 

I’m going to lay it all out on the table here: I am not an expert on these verses. If someone is, and they are reading this, please, your expertise would be very much appreciated. 

What I am is a minister and Christian who has been chronically ill most of her life. So, because of who I am, and these thorns in my side that are chronic illness, I am very challenged and admittedly a bit disheartened when I read scriptures about Jesus healing. It’s even more challenging when I read devotionals like mine on the Matthew 8 day from the iKan study I’ve been following along with, “God Is…Through Matthew”:

“God is…healer. 

Notice how God heals every pain and disease. He is fully capable of healing any and all illnesses in your life or the life of those you love. God does not keep blessings from his children. Psalm 84:11 promises that God doesn’t hold back good things from those who live in a  right relationship with Him. Trust in the Lord today when it comes to your physical health.”

Those are incredibly nice, affirming sentiments, and I fully believe that the wonderful people who run iKan and created this devotional meant no harm in writing them. But as someone who is chronically ill, these statements, and others I have read, heard from pulpits, or internalised many, many times, can be extremely discouraging. 

“Why am I not fully healed yet?” I think. “Is my faith not strong enough? Am I not in a right relationship with God?” I know I am not the only one who feels these things. Just as many Christians get chronic illnesses, or terminal illnesses, or life-ending 

I am not disagreeing that God is a great healer. I also fully believe that our pain is temporary on Earth:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

So, I fully believe, when God calls us home, or when the fullness of God’s kingdom here on Earth is realised, there will be no more pain or suffering. I also fully believe my illnesses are not from God–I believe God is perfect, and I do believe all things given to us by God are good. I believe an all-good God would never put pain or suffering on any of us. But I believe that when Adam and Eve sinned, human choice allowed non-human evil–natural disasters, illnesses of all kinds–to enter the world. But when the creation is restored and it becomes as heaven on earth, I believe all of this suffering will end. 

Those are deep theological beliefs that require a lot of unpacking–something I don’t have space to do here in a blog post, but if you would like to talk to me and for me to explain them or us to dialogue about them further, please do reach out (Facebook messaging my blog page would be the best way to do so). 

So I believe that my chronic illness is not a punishment from God for anything. I also do believe in God’s ability to heal–but that maybe it is not God’s will to heal me right now. I can’t explain that. I can’t explain why it isn’t. 

But I do know, that even during Jesus’ ministry, not everyone who was sick was healed. There are absolutely no promises in scripture that following Jesus will lead to an easy life. In fact, if you go just a little bit farther, it promises the complete opposite:

““Disciples aren’t greater than their teacher, and slaves aren’t greater than their master. It’s enough for disciples to be like their teacher and slaves like their master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, it’s certain that they will call the members of his household by even worse names.” (Matthew 10:24‭-‬25 CEB)

This is about human evil, but I believe that when Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow him, it means we’re all going to encounter a great deal of suffering (though it likely won’t be anything close to the suffering Jesus and his disciples encountered: I don’t see myself being executed by the government any time in the near future!). 

Even Paul, who wrote a great majority of the letters in the New Testament, writes of an unknown thorn in his body: 

“I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:7 CEB)

We all have thorns in our side, and we all have crosses to carry. Chronic illness is mine. 

However, the good side of that is, no matter what we suffer: God will be with us. God loves and knows all of us. I may be suffering from chronic illness, but I never, ever have to suffer alone. And while I don’t believe God is the reason we are sick, I do believe God has the power to use everything for God’s good, and I try to partner that good by pushing through my chronic illnesses and wrestling blessings out of them. 

If you are chronically ill and struggle with the fact you continue to go through the many burdens of your illness and no end to your disease is in sight: I fully believe God sees you and knows you. Your illness is not your fault, it is not a punishment from God, and you are not still sick because you don’t have enough faith. God loves you, knows you, and in God you can find rest. 

I may always be chronically ill during my mortal life here on earth, but I fully believe that my God is stronger than my chronic illnesses and will give me the power to wrestle blessings and encourage others through this thorn in my side. 

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