I’ve been ill the last few days. Whilst Sunday was a bit of a struggle, things have really kicked in now. It’s nothing serious – there’s no danger of imminent death or anything like that – but I’m unwell enough to know, even if I pushed myself, I’m not going to be getting much done. It’s quite frustrating because there’s a bunch of stuff I really wanted to get done that, if I’m being realistic, aren’t going to be done.
Illness is annoying, at best, and seriously debilitating at worst. But we have a sovereign God who ordains even our illnesses. So, here are three things to remember when you get sick.
God can manage perfectly well without you
We do often imagine that if we’re not there, things won’t get done. If I don’t do X, Y and Z, the church will fall apart. But here’s the reality, the Lord got on perfectly well before you turned up and he’ll get on just as well while you’re off sick. The moment you believe that the ministry stands or falls on you is the moment your ministry has ceased to be a gospel ministry.
I don’t like being ill, but it is a reminder that the Lord doesn’t need me to accomplish his purposes. If I believed that the ministry depended on me and my work, I would give up tomorrow because that is a weight I cannot bear. And I every so often, when I am tempted to believe it is so, the Lord strikes me down with some minor lurgy to remind me that even as I am laid on my bed of sickness achieving very little, his purposes are still being worked out nonetheless.
Your people have opportunity to grow
A much wiser man than me once said, ‘the way to increase your capacity is to take more on.’ I think that’s about right. I’m always amazed that the people who complain most about busyness and tiredness are frequently the people with least reason to be tired and appear, to the rest of us, as the least busy. The only way to encourage people to be a bit more active is to encourage them to take more on.
The same is essentially true for personal growth. Whilst my Christian growth to date is inevitably a combination of everything that has ever happened to me, I am convinced one of the ways I have grown most was through my service. And sometimes the opportunities to serve and grow are found in necessity. When some who should be running something becomes ill, it grants an opportunity for someone else to step into the breach, to grow through their service that has now become a necessity. When I am ill, I can remember that others will be able to serve and grow in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t and it is a means by which God may grow his church.
God remains sovereign (even when you’re ill)
Here’s the bottom line, you are ill only because the Lord has determined it would be so. Like it or not, your illness was brought about because the Lord decided – for the purposes of serving his glory in some way – that it would be so. Whilst it is not wrong to pray for the Lord to take it away, it is more important to pray that his will would be done. Rather than bemoaning the fact that we feel ill, we should ultimately be asking what does God intend to do through this.
Now, you may not have any clue about that. You may never discover the answer. At the very least, it might never seem obvious to you. But if we trust in God’s sovereignty at all, we must also trust that he has caused our illness for some purpose. There must be a means by which he will ultimately glorified through it – whether in healing you, by your godly reaction to it or in some future event the like of which you simply could not have foreseen. But if we believe in God’s sovereignty at all, we can believe that even as we feel ill the Lord is working out his sovereign purposes.