“How are you doing?” And the usual response is “fine,” but if you stop to really listen to someone then they will go on to tell you their physical condition. It seems that we are all dealing with our own aches and pains.
Just recently we found out that a good friend has been diagnosed with cancer. A lady from church came into the office and shared that there is a large mass in her stomach that they will be removing soon and testing for cancer. I ran into another member from church in the physical therapist’s office because we both have problems we’re working on through physical therapy. When I received our weekly Prayer Chain all but about a dozen miscellaneous requests dealt with sickness, surgery, tests, or hospital stays.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way! When Adam and Eve were created they were perfect and the world was without sickness or death. In Genesis it says that God’s creation was “very good” and that after they fall into sin death enters the world. Romans echoes that when it says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
In my morning devotion this story came up:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:25-34 NIV)
I know, I know, this is a really bright and cheery blog post. But here’s the question, and point of this post: what should our response be?
We could complain. There are those that when you ask them how they are doing you better have a while because they’re going to go into detail about all of their aches and pains. Maybe even tell you about their bowel movements. Can we just come to an agreement right now? If I don’t ask about your bowel movement, I don’t really want to know. Now I have to confess that I am wont to this option. My wife can confirm this. I even have my own theme song sung by King’s X. But honestly I don’t want to be that complaining old person that only talks about their illnesses.
We could pretend that it doesn’t really exist. There are those that teach that all you really need is more faith and it will all go away. It’s all coming up rainbows and unicorns! The Christian Scientist church (which I would classify as a cult) even teaches that illness and death are just figments of the imagination. Ironically, their founder died in 1910. No amount of positive thinking, or pretending that illness and death aren’t real is going to make them go away.
We could fight against the tide with every last ounce of strength that we have. This means we exercise and eat right, we trust in our doctors and the medical field, and fork over our money to stay young and healthy. The poor lady in our story lived with her illness for twelve years and it says that she spent everything she had but still didn’t get better. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do those healthy things above, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t look to those things to be our savior. It can be tempting to make these things our false idols.
Or we could pray. Like the old spiritual says, “if you’re sick and you wanna get well, tell him what you want.” James probably gives us the clearest answer:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20 ESV)
Every time we pray God answers! Now sometimes his answer is “yes” and sometimes it’s “no,” but sometimes it’s “wait.” I just know that God never answers “maybe.” Often God will use pain and suffering to make us into the people that he wants us to be. I also think in our prayers we will come to the realization that God is far more concerned with our salvation than he is about our comfort. Ultimately, He will remove all pain, suffering, sickness, and death.
So, how are you doing?