Lessons from Illness

by Jefferson David Tant

Some years ago, while recuperating from two emergency room admissions and two subsequent surgeries, there was been plenty of time to think and reflect on some lessons that such experiences can teach us.

Lesson #1 – Life Is Uncertain

We all have plans for great things we are going to do — tomorrow. We have plenty of time, and today’s distractions often take precedence. My own brush with the uncertainties of life came totally out of the blue. Starting with an uneasy feeling in my abdomen on a Wednesday afternoon, the pain progressed to become unrelenting and sharp by the evening. Various upset stomach remedies gave no relief, and I finally consented to go to the hospital. This experience reminded me of the preciousness of time, and the need to use it wisely. “Take great care, then, how you live — not unwisely but wisely, Making the most of every opportunity; for these are evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16 TCNT). Not too many years ago, my life probably would have ended from the complications I experienced.

Lesson #2 – Pain Is Debilitating

In the hours of testing before any relief was given, I was often asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, how would you describe your pain.” At times I would reply, “I would give this a 12.” That was usually when I had broken out in a cold sweat. When the pain subsided, there was relief but also great weakness — the inability to do much of anything for some time. I thought of how this must relate to the emotional pain that sin causes. I have seen those who were so burdened by sin that life seemed hopeless. They seemed unable to do anything to lift themselves from the depths of despair and depression. “I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psalms 38:8 NKJV) We do not know the cause of David’s despair in the psalm, but whatever it was, it had taken its toll on him. But how thankful that our Lord tells us to “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Lesson #3 – Pain Gives Understanding

I have suffered from pain before — fingers nearly cut off, back pain, shingles, etc. — but never anything like this. Now I am able to be more sympathetic with those who suffer from unceasing pain. The prophet Ezekiel came to appreciate the suffering of his people when he joined them as they sat mourning in the land of Babylon where they had been taken captive. “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river Chebar, and to where they dwelt; and I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days” (Ezekiel 3:15). I can sympathize with those who have lost family members to death, for I have been there. I can sympathize with those who have lost loved ones to the world, for I have been there. And now I can better appreciate the suffering of those who live with pain.

Lesson #4 – Pain Teaches Patience

When you lie in bed with pain ravaging your body hour after hour, you pray for deliverance and wonder when the pain will end. Yet you endure, for you have no choice. But how could I compare my situation with that of Job? Not only did he suffer great emotional pain in the loss of his children and the support of his wife and friends, but his body was covered with sore boils from his head to his feet. He was in such agony that he took a piece of pottery to scrape his skin. His wife told him to curse God and die, but Job remained constant. “In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:7-10). His name is synonymous with patience.

Lesson #5 – Prospects for the Gospel Are Everywhere

Hospitals are full of people — doctors, nurses, techs, cleaners, office workers. They all have souls. Among the questions I asked of those who took care of me was “What do you do when you have Sunday off?” At least one has agreed to a Bible study, while others have expressed an interest in visiting our services. Remember, we live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). To whom have you talked lately? Have others seen your light?

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