What do I do when I am knocked down by illness?
My body decays, and along with chronic illnesses I have, I am ageing, wearing out. As challenging and painful as this is, how can I accept the lost days, be gentle with myself?
I reach out for comfort, for consolation, for help, for mercy. I find the frailty of my body sometimes leads to despair.
Do not lose heart
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NASB) says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
How do I remind myself of this? How do I balance an eternal perspective against the needs of today? Let go of all that I had hoped to accomplish?
It is an imposing task. Lost days often mean letting someone down, either my family and my household, or my friends and, my faith-community to whom I have made commitments to serve in various capacities.
Experience has taught me that real understanding and compassion can be scarce; and that misunderstanding, impatience and disbelief are common. At the same time, I am so grateful for those who do give their kindness and care.
So, this is something that I need to accept. And, I have to let go of the longing for approval or understanding. It is something I have been working on for a long time. I must remind myself, it is a journey; progress not perfection. This is where surrender comes in, where I lean hard on the One who created me. Jesus, holds my life and reputation in His Sovereign hands. Perspective plays out here too, I do as He gives me health and energy. And I do or not do, not to impress others, but for Him. He, the Audience of One. But, oh, to remember this!
The Good Shepherd
Here too, I can remind myself again not to lose heart. That consolation comes from Him, from His Word to me through His Holy Spirit. That my Good Shepherd carries me even when I cannot limp through another day. I can lay my head upon His breast and breathe in His grace, for this moment and then the next and then the one after that. Reach out and ask Him to bring to mind His loving, tenderhearted care for me.
I can ask Him to diffuse the anger, the frustration, the self-doubt that comes when faced again with lost time. These negative feelings are potent and diminish perspective. I need His viewpoint, His words, His comfort.
A helpful thought, too, is to measure out my days – not to over-task myself. To use my time wisely, and this would include, not cramming too much in on my good days. It includes things like not staying up reading into the wee small hours; and that can be difficult for a book-lover. But, I need rest; it is imperative.
The Westminster Catechism
I turn all my plans over to Jesus. What does He want? What is His purpose? I think of the Catechism. The Westminster Catechism says, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Now this is eternal perspective…
So, I narrow down my prayer and my plea, distill it to this: how do I glorify You in my every day. My walking, working, playing, studying and being with others? How do I enjoy You, at this moment? (This enjoyment of God is something to explore.) But still, this purpose echoes truth, reverberates in my heart, potent and powerful, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Your words are spirit and life
And these words – life and breath, sustenance to me: All Scriptures quoted below from the Catechism regarding our purpose to glorify God:
This is one of my favourite Psalms: Psalm 86:
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Psalm 86 continued…
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
All glory to Him
Isaiah 60:21. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31. For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s…. Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
He is Worthy
Revelation 4:11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created.
So, my friends, in the aching, hurting times, when the days seem interminably long, do not lose heart. We walk this road together. And He will sustain us and hold us.
To Him be the glory, forever and ever.