17 01 How to be a Sick Christian
How to be a Sick Christian
Sickness challenges our faith. We may be tempted to self-pity, despair and self-absorption. How can we be faithful when we’re sick? Here’s some things to consider:
Your pastor doesn’t have ESP. Your prayer coordinators at church don’t have ESP either. If information about your sickness hasn’t been given to us, we don’t know about it.
Get yourself on the prayer list. Request the laying on of hands, anointing with oil after the manner of the scriptures (James 5:14) We have a beautiful—and mostly unused—service of healing prayer in our United Methodist book of worship. I’d be honored to bring this experience to anyone who is suffering. Have other people pray with you. Sickness should always be met with prayerfulness. This is not the time to clam up, suffer in silence and withdraw from God and others.
Some people are offended by prayers for healing as if it was selfish or even presumptuous. Remember it is God who invites us to pray and it is God who has the power to heal. To pray for mercy is an act of faith in the Word of God. Jesus once asked a paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?” The truth is that some people are not healed because they don’t ask to be healed. These poor souls don’t pray because they really don’t believe in the God who answers.
You can also request Holy Communion. Each communion Sunday we bless the bread and the cup and make them available to be delivered to the sick and home bound by the Pastor or lay visitors. Communion reminds us to live for God in all circumstances.
Sickness can serve to sanctify us. It reminds us of our dependence upon God. Sickness humbles us before him. We may need others to bathe us, change our clothes, stand us up or pay our bills. This is not to be received as a loss of human dignity but a gaining of humble awareness that we depend upon God’s grace for everything in life. In faith we learn to receive that grace with joy and gratitude not stubborn resentment.
Many sick Christians discover that the most important things in life are not their abilities to work and excel in their pursuits. They discover that the really important things are their relationships like marriage, family, and church.
Not every medical treatment has to be taken. God has given us stewardship over our bodies. If there is a reasonable chance that we can survive, we must be brave and suffer whatever therapy our doctors suggest. And yet there is also a time for us to accept that our bodies are dying and prepare ourselves accordingly. This doesn’t contradict our prayers for healing. Even after we’ve judged a medical intervention as futile we can continue to pray for a miracle. In this way we mirror Jesus’ prayer, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Sickness is an excellent time for self-examination. Is there un-resolved conflict in our lives? Is there unconfessed sin? This can be an opportune time to confess and repent of our sins.
Don’t stop praying! Sick time is not wasted or useless. Pray for the church, for the world, and for all those on our prayer list. This is the most important work of the Christian life. As Paul put it: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
In Hope and Confidence,
Pastor Tom Anderson