While we are on this earth, and before we die, we can never say a final farewell to sickness. Within the community of God’s people there is probably a wide spectrum of views on the subject of healing – and Annie and I have encountered a number of those views in recent weeks and months – but no matter where you are on that spectrum, the plain and simple fact is, we all get sick from time to time. Sickness is par for the course this side of the grave.
When Jesus was on this earth, He dealt with physical sickness. During His three year ministry on this earth Jesus encountered and cured fevers, deafness, blindness, mutism, paralysis, physical deformities, leprosy, chronic blood loss and going by what His close friend and follower John wrote (John 21:25) there was possibly even more.
Now I am not writing this to peddle my particular view of the subject, but a number of things strike me as blatantly obvious, two in particular.
Firstly, when Jesus healed it was very evident that they were supernaturally healed. I don’t ever recall there being a 24 week recovery plan for anyone that Jesus healed. When Peter’s mother-in-law was healed from the fever, she is so obviously well that she is fit to serve Him. And it’s just a little detail, but I love how when Jesus heals the paralysed man lowered in from the roof-top, He doesn’t ask one of the man’s four friends to pick up the mat on which he was lowered, He tells the man to pick up his own mat and walk! What a contrast to what a person looks like today immediately after major restoring surgery! I’ve spent enough time at hospitals to see what those folks look like as they leave; they’re the ones tenderly shuffling towards the car park, sometimes in a wheelchair, flanked by relatives carrying all the stuff they accumulated during their stay. Not so with those Jesus healed!
Secondly, all those people that Jesus physically healed eventually succumbed to the grave. It would be speculation to say that those folks never got some sickness ever again. Certainly, there would have been something that their bodies could not ultimately deal with which would eventually lead to their death. Even Lazarus eventually died again.
The Apostle Paul described our bodies, this side of the grave, as tents.
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. – 2 Corinthians 5:1
Those of you that know me well enough, know that I absolutely loathe camping! And on the summit of the mountain of my abhorrence precariously sits the common tent.
The whole idea of spending any amount of time in those canvass carcasses baffles and stresses me. Having spent a dreadful night separated from the elements by only 2mm of floppy nylon and then having to feel the shock of its cold, dewey slap on your naked contorted back as you try to escape it in the morning, immediately brings to mind one of my favourite words in the holiday vocabulary: ‘Travelodge’.
That’s the picture I get when the Apostle Paul likens our bodies to tents. In between ministry we know that Paul made tents (Acts 18:2-3) to earn a crust. He knew that no matter how well you built them, they were just temporary. They were no comparison to stone and brick. Tents leak. Tents fall down. Tents flap around in the wind and rain. Tents. Eurgh! And so it is with these bodies of ours since sin entered this world. They squeak and leak and make us eek! We are longing for something better, something permanent.
On Friday, when we thought we had said goodbye to nausea, it came back for the day. Annie spent another day throwing up and feeling woozy. She did deal with it a lot better this time round and was nowhere near as wiped out as she was in the recent bout of nausea. She hasn’t stopped taking the pills so we have no idea why they didn’t continue being effective.
Usually, the order in which sickness works is that you are either getting better or getting worse until you start to get better; or you’re better for a good amount of time until you start to get sick again. It’s hard when you just don’t know how you or someone you love is going to feel each day, each hour. I hope that those of you who call us up sometimes to see about visiting understand that it’s not easy to predict how each day will be. We love having visitors, but we can never say how things will be day-to-day or promise that Annie will be well enough.
At this time, Annie and I can’t rest our hope on the probability of things getting better, or worse until they start to get better. Instead, we ultimately rest our hope on God’s promises. At a time when Annie’s health fluctuates unpredictably, one wonderful word comes to mind: ‘Heaven’.
For those of us that entrust our lives into the hands of Jesus, one day we will dwell with Him in what the bible calls our resurrection bodies. There will be a new order to things from that day. One day we will leave these mortal tents behind for our permanent, eternal, immortal dwelling. There will be a time and a place when we can finally say goodbye to sickness, to nausea, to pain, to cancer, to sorrow, to suffering of every kind. I don’t know what language we will speak in heaven, but I know there will be no words for ‘sickness’. ‘suffering’, ‘sin’, ‘death’ or ‘cancer’. I don’t know what the mansions will look like in heaven, but I know there will be no hospitals.
And you know, God doesn’t say it will be a day or a place this side of the grave. But just as sure as the promised day would arrive when Jesus would first come to this earth, He will come again and bring about that new order of things in heaven.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
Not yet home,
To know and love Jesus, is there any better way to spend our days. Oh Lord, let us be filled with you day by day. Praying for you.
… The joy of God is your strength.
I read with a sense of awe how the Lord strengthens and empowers you both to cry, “VICTORY” in the face of everything you endure. There is a ministry for missionary housing whose mission statement is “Watch God Work”. That sums you both up; in the good and in the bad, God is working. I received Annie’s lovely note to my students…I can’t wait until they have a chance to read it. I will keep you posted on their responses. We are prayer warriors with you,
In love, Mark and Margaret
Dear Ryan n Annie,
What a hope we have!
The suffering endured by God’s children is no less real, its impact on our plans hardly less disruptive, but what a difference faith makes, to be able to rest in this thought, ‘that EVERYTHING has a point to it & comes to us filtered through the hands and heart of our Great High Priest.’
All our love, Ben, Rosey & family.
Ps I share your loathing of camping, as far as I’m concerned, any holiday that doesn’t have a squashy sofa, and a nice warm bed featuring prominently, isn’t worthy of the name, ….(too many wash-outs in Cornwall!!).
Don’t know if you know this song but your last 3 words reminded me of it!
Love to you both x