When Illness Strikes

Illness can strike any us or our loved ones without warning and wreak life-altering havoc in our lives. So what guidance does the Bible give us in times such as these?

Let’s first look at James 5:14. “Is there any sick among you? 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.” Prayer and anointing may seem like simple steps, but they can have powerful effect on illness that even modern medicine can’t explain. I remember a time when a pastor was waiting with a member of his congregation who needed to see a doctor. This pastor noticed that while they were waiting the man’s eyes had turned yellow. The pastor approached the desk and impressed on the doctor’s staff how urgent it was that the man be seen. He was, in fact, very ill, was rushed to the hospital, and his wife was called to his bedside. All the usual tests were run. The pastor anointed him with oil and activated the prayer chains. About three or four that morning the man’s wife was told he would not live to see breakfast. Yet this same man who as a medical certainty was quickly dying, ate lunch in his own house the same day. He went on to live much longer!

If illness strikes and becomes serious do not hesitate to call upon your pastor and other elders of the church. They are available for that purpose. Don’t discount the value of a close friend who is a committed Christian, either. God puts a variety of people in our path in times of need. The greater the need, the more we need to pay attention, keeping on the lookout for His provision.

No matter if you are the one who is ill or the one who is ministering to a sick loved one, keeping your spirits up can be very important. So important, in fact, that many hospitals have chapels, chaplains and meditation gardens to aid in this aspect of recovery. Many of the newer, more modern hospitals have emotional support factored into their architecture. The Bible speaks of the importance of this in Proverbs 18:14 “ The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity: but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

I recall another case in my previous community. An older lady was in the hospital with what we now call COPD. She wasn’t dying during this particular trip to the hospital, but she would be dying soon, and everybody knew it! Taking care not to intrude, I asked the family if she would like me to pay her a visit. The most theologically difficult thing I did the whole visit was move the tissue box closer so she could reach it. We talked about her favorite subject, namely, her kids and grandkids. She repeatedly remarked how much she hated hospitals and complained that she could never sleep in a hospital. I knew it was time to take my leave when she fell asleep! Just my Christian presence and companionship was enough comfort to allow her to do the one thing she was complaining she couldn’t do.

I often hear pastors comment about the difficulties in getting congregation members to help make hospital visits. People are afraid they won’t know what to say. The truth is in most cases, what you say doesn’t matter nearly as much as your presence. Being there can be just the right medicine. Compassion doesn’t require an advanced degree in theology, just a caring heart !

Like all circumstances involving crisis, we can look to scripture for words of comfort. Take, for instance, the words of Romans 8:18. “For I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to the Glory which shall be revealed in us . . . ” The Bible promises us that our struggles are temporary. God will best them for us, either in this life or in the next everlasting one.

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