The Use of Being Sick

I don’t get sick very often. When I do, I act a little bit like a baby. I’ll whine a bit, I’ll waffle about whether to go to work or not. More than anything, I have trouble thinking about anything other than the fact that I’m sick, and how icky I feel.

Well, I’m sick today. Low-grade fever, sniffles, sore throat, lack of appetite, and inability to focus my energy on anything useful or enjoyable. It’s a head cold, and this will all be over soon, but meanwhile I’m feeling quite sulky. I limped through work and came home early. Napped through most of the afternoon and still not feeling much improvement. Not interested in chatting with my roommates, or reading, or buying groceries or doing laundry, or being with the Lord, or doing much of anything. Yeah, bored and morose is what I am.

But one thing is useful here, in the midst of this little sickness. Suffering.

In the course of my fairly-ordinary middle class American life, I suffer very little. I’m also single, healthy, living below my means, and supported by a wide network of friends and fellow believers. I am probably near the bullseye for suffering least in this world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not interested in self-flagellation. The experience of pain and hardship isn’t necessarily good as an end in itself. But suffering is good if it’s encountered in the process of doing something worthwhile. Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him” and all that — and we are invited into that with Him, as believers. The apostles were invited into that, as they were abused and betrayed, beaten and eventually killed, as they propagated the Gospel across the ancient world. And I’ve looked at those stories with wonder, wanting somehow to share in the bond of those sufferings, but knowing that my present existence is characterized by so little occasions for hardship.

But tonight, I have a small opportunity. I’m sick, and therefore don’t feel any instinctive kind of joy or excitement. Not about God or anything else. But tonight we’re gathering together this nascent Argosy community in my home, and my roommate is cooking dinner, and we’re going to pray and listen and talk together about how this collective of ours can gain some direction, some mission together, as we journey forward. It’s an occasion that should fill me with anticipation, but since I’m under the weather, I would rather just limp through the evening in a monotone, and speak only as much as is necessary.

And so instead of letting this hardship rule me, I will choose to choose joy, tonight, and remember that it is a gift to praise our God amidst our own weakness. Tonight I am weak, but God, you are strong.

 

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