It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71
A recent bout with pneumonia “clothes-lined” me and then side-lined me. I have been blessed with great health all my life. Rarely have I contracted a sickness that lasted more than a day or two. Rarely have I missed more than a day of work because of illness. But this illness has knocked me down for a week.
Compared to some of the things that many people have dealt with, it is still a small thing. Lots of people have had life-threatening diseases, or still struggle with chronic problems that require daily attention. The last thing I want to do is sound like a light-weight whiner by making any illegitimate comparisons. That is not my aim.
But, though my bout with illness is small in comparison with many, it has still been a time of learning for me. The Psalmist said something that sounds so strange to our ears – it was good for me to be afflicted…It doesn’t seem natural for us to look upon affliction as something good. But the truth is that some of our biggest steps forward in spiritual growth take place during times of affliction, including sickness.
Puritan Thomas Watson said, The sharp frosts of affliction bring on the spring flowers of grace. Sickness does several things to promote the growth of those flowers of grace in our lives. Let me share a few things that I have been reminded of recently.
I am weak, vulnerable, and dependent. Sickness is a reminder of our creaturely status. We are not invincible. We are dependent on God for our very breath. We are also dependent on others around us like doctors who give us medicine to promote healing, family members who care for us in our sickness, and coworkers who take up the slack when we cannot fulfill our duties. Sickness reminds us to lean hard on Christ with a humble heart.
I am a sinner who needs to examine myself. Sickness is not always a discipline from God but it can be. I have been trying to search my heart and life and check myself spiritually to see if God is disciplining me. I want to be teachable.
I am thankful. I am thankful to be surrounded by people who love me and assist me in such times. My wife has cared for me and served me. My coworkers have stepped in and covered for me. My church family has encouraged me with their prayers and words of love. I am thankful for medicine that is helping my body mend.
I am longing. I long for the day when my body will be transformed to be like Jesus’ glorious body. Then sickness will be done forever. Pain will be gone. The effects of sin will be totally reversed. I will be with my Savior along with all who know Him. Sickness makes us long to be with Christ.
I pray that the flowers of His grace will continue to bloom in my life. We must not forget that He will sometimes use affliction to cultivate these graces in us. Let’s learn to say with David, it was good that I was afflicted.