People are sick.
In just my circle of friends, there is celiac disease, diverticulitis, diabetes, heart conditions, thyroid disease, or stage 4 cancer.
Almost every disease story begins with symptoms, but my friends remind me that symptoms aren’t symptoms until you know.
Diabetes is I’m just really thirsty.
Diverticulitis is It was something I ate.
Heart palpitations must be Simply a patch of anxiety.
And cancer is I must have the flu.
Until we know.
My friend had cancer before he knew it. One day, we were talking and laughing about health and life and work and our families. Then 24 hours later, it was all about diagnoses and doctors and treatment plans and chemo.
In between those two days was a strange pain. A weird sensation. A new limitation.
I hear it’s all about catching it early. Call your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms….
Recently, my diabetic friend and I talked about how we are so slow to recognize the warnings our own bodies give. We talked longer about how we’re often totally blind when it comes to our own spiritual wellness.
Saul of Tarsus is the perfect teaching case.
On the road to Damascus, Saul met Jesus who dramatically opened his eyes to the symptoms of his soul. Jesus gave Saul new vision to see his proud and murderous heart. And like any newly diagnosed person, he was rocked to the core. He had no idea about the Disease.
One day, Saul was about standing tall and teaching scripture and defending his religion. He seemed strong, righteous, and well, … well. Just 24 hours later, his life became about darkness, dependence, faith, and humble learning.
Accounts like this in the Bible help me assess my own spiritual health. I need that kind of grace. I’ve been hateful, too. Do I also trust in my own goodness? Am I that proud?
The more I read God’s word, the better I get at recognizing tell-tale signs:
A critical spirit is I need a little appreciation around here.
Lack of gratitude is I just need another vacation.
Indifference towards the poor is Aren’t there programs for those people?
Pride is What will they do without me?
Some people are physically ill and/or spiritually dead. But we’re all sick.
“…he (Jesus) said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” -Mark 2:17
We were sick long before we knew it. From the garden, we inherited a bent toward self-sufficiency and pride, hatred and fear, lying, stealing, and murder. Unfortunately, this Disease is in our bloodline and no one’s immune. It’s often silent, always deadly, and self-care only makes it worse.
We’re blind. Maybe I simply need to try harder. I’m sure I can be good. It’s probably fatigue.
Then we meet Jesus and we see. Maybe I’ll call for help.
The one treatment plan is to live out our salvation over and over again: Discover a blind spot. Eyes opened. Repent. Receive. Go. Repeat.
“The church is a hospital for sinners (where triage happens) not a museum for saints.” – Tim Keller
Saul went on to take a new name and a new posture, but his story didn’t end there. God worked on him for the rest of his life and gave him many opportunities to participate in dramatic Kingdom-building work. Not because Saul-now-Paul was the picture of health, but because God is good.
Just like Paul, we’re saved and technically cured, but we’ll remain wildly symptomatic this side of heaven. Until then, God walks alongside and invites us to build with him.
Because our health is never meant for our wellness alone. Receive. Go.
And what about my friends? Well, they’re sick, but they’ll live forever because each is walking with Jesus. It’s a privilege to watch how God uses them and their illnesses to accomplish all his holy will.
Tirelessly. Patiently. Lovingly. Beautifully. Over and over again. Because God is good.
By grace alone, I’ll live forever. But I’m also sick as a dog. Prone to wander. In intensive care.
They say it’s all about catching it early.
Lord, meet me on the road today and tell me I’m well. Or do whatever it takes. Repeat.
And come, Lord Jesus. People are sick.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4