Nobody likes to be sick. But for some people, and some illnesses, it is way more than just a temporary inconvenience. Some illnesses or injuries are life-threatening; some are incurable; and some are both. Dealing with something like cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS, diabetes, blindness, paralysis, chronic pain, mental illness, or other ailments is really hard. It can be painful, expensive, and inconvenient, preventing you from doing things you want to do. It can cause anxiety; you worry about what the outcome might be, or you know what the outcome will be, and you’re not looking forward to it.
So, how do you stay faithful when dealing with the trials of illness?
Have an Eternal Perspective
Whenever anything in life goes wrong, it’s common to ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” It’s also referred to as “The Problem of Evil,” and you can find in-depth answers for it in Watermark messages like “Why There Is Evil” and “Does God Care Anymore?”
The short answer is that we live in a fallen world, broken by sin (Romans 5:12). Even without illness or injury, every body will break down with age; perfect health is just the slowest path to a certain death.
The reason why we can have hope in the midst of illness or aging is because this life is not all there is. Through His Son’s own suffering and death, God has made a way for us to be pardoned from the sin that causes pain in this world (1 Peter 2:24). He freely offers us eternal life (Romans 6:23) with new bodies that will not be broken (Philippians 3:20-21). God will cure all illness and eliminate death itself (Revelation 21:4). He, in His kindness and patience, hasn’t done so yet (2 Peter 3:9), because He wants everyone to hear the gospel (Matthew 24:14).
If you have trusted in Christ, then this illness is just a temporary affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). If you have not, but you want to learn more about taking that step, please contact us.
Don't Blame Yourself
Sometimes, people can struggle with blaming themselves for their illness. In some cases, an injury or illness can directly be the result of an action you took or a decision you made. In other cases, you’ve done nothing to cause the illness, but you might be tempted to think that it is God’s way of punishing you for sin.
It’s true that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that sin does lead to death (Romans 5:12). But God desires for people to be saved from sin (1 Timothy 2:4), not punished for it. We can trust in His loving nature, knowing that He chose to send His own Son to die on a cross so that we could freely receive forgiveness for our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9). People still have physical ailments as one consequence of living in a broken world, but that does not mean that you are being punished (John 9:1-3).
If you are suffering from an injury that is the result of a decision you made, know that you are not condemned (Romans 8:1). There may be earthly consequences for those decisions, which is one reason why God encourages us to live wisely (Ephesians 5:15-17). But those consequences are limited to this life, if you accept Christ’s forgiveness.
Seek Help from Community
It is not always easy to ask for, or receive, help. However, as believers, we are called to carry each other’s loads (Galatians 6:2). We are to serve each other as one body. All parts of a body have essential roles to play, and “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26). When you’re someone who is used to serving others, it can be hard to receive help from friends. But remember that allowing friends to help with your needs is an opportunity for others to live out the love of Christ (Galatians 6:10).
Remember that, even if you don’t need physical assistance, you can still ask others to help by praying for you (James 5:13-14).
Seek to Help Others
Just because you might need help doesn’t mean that you can no longer help others. In fact, your experience can make you uniquely equipped to serve or comfort people going through similar trials (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Ephesians 2:10). This might be the indispensable role you play in the body of Christ.
God sometimes uses illness or injury to give you a platform. People will observe how you respond to hardship and will want to know why you still have hope (1 Peter 3:14-15). Joni Eareckson Tada, for example, has been able to do far more for God’s kingdom as a quadriplegic than would have been possible if she had full use of her arms and legs.
During the difficulties of illness, it’s helpful to remind yourself of things you can be thankful for. Every good thing comes from God (James 1:17), and we are literally surrounded by good things that we tend to take for granted. God encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), including illness. It is easy and natural to focus on the negative aspects of your situation, but it is healthier to turn your attention to the blessings in your life (Proverbs 17:22).
James 1:2-4 says to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” That’s a really big ask. Being thankful in the face of illness can be incredibly hard. But, as James explains, you can be joyful in a trial when you know it “produces steadfastness.” In other words, it trains you be faithful, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Illness is always difficult, and we long for the day when it will no longer exist. In the meantime, we all strive to live faithfully in our present condition, trusting that our afflictions are temporary and God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
If you are battling chronic illness, or serve as a caregiver for a loved one, we invite you to join us for our Refuge ministry. Register for upcoming virtual meetings and see other resources.