Do you remember the day you got sick? Did your illness come on suddenly or was it a gradual occurrence? For me, it was sudden. Doctors were quick to determine I had an autoimmune disease, but two years passed before I had a name to go with the pain. For two years I put my life on hold, thinking that this would all quickly pass and I would be able to pick my life up where it left off.
Maybe I’m a little slow to grasp reality, but it was all of those two years and then some before I understood that I had a chronic illness. When that realization settled into my brain I felt suffocated. I felt like I was in the prison of my own sickly body with no way out. What about all the dreams I had? What about all the plans that were put on hold? What about all of the ways God was going to use me? Doggonit, I was going to do great things for the Lord!
Maybe you have felt these same emotions. There are no words to describe that kind of pain and life change. It’s the ultimate game of fruit basket upset – only, it’s not a game; it’s your life.
It’s been five years and nine and a half months since the sudden onslaught of sickness in my life. I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that trust in God is my greatest weapon against hopelessness, misery, and defeat. The truth is God does have a plan for each of our lives, and it’s a good plan. We need to trust that His plans cannot be stopped. He is sovereign and all powerful. His purposes will be accomplished in each of our lives.
As I think about what I’ve learned, I think about the Apostle Paul who wrote the Book of Ephesians. As he wraps up his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul reminds them to pray for each other. He also asks for prayer for himself. “And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out (Ephesians 6:19-20, MSG).”
Paul used to be known as Saul. He was known for persecuting Christians before his encounter with the living God and subsequent conversion to Christianity. He became one of the most influential leaders of the early church and his teachings still influence our lives today. He traveled the known world telling others about Jesus. He was especially called to tell Gentiles (non-Jews) about the mystery of Jesus and God’s plan to save humanity. Paul was beaten, threatened, and nearly died on more than one occasion. Yet he persevered! He continued to be obedient to Christ in the midst of great trials and suffering.
I wonder what went through Paul’s mind when he was imprisoned? Did he wonder why God didn’t rescue him? I don’t know. What I do know is that Paul continued to obey God. He didn’t let his present situation stop him from the call of God upon His life.
While in prison Paul wrote letters to the churches and individuals with whom he had built relationships. The Book of Ephesians is one of these letters. It is part of a group of Books known as “The Prison Epistles,” which also include Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Paul wasn’t in a prison but he was a prisoner under house arrest with a Roman soldier to guard him. “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:30-31, ESV).”
What a challenge! I’m not sure what God is calling you to today, but I do know that even as a sick person, you can have great impact for the Kingdom of God. Obedience to God – even in the small things – is a win for the Kingdom. Let’s pray that each of us will know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that we too, are responsible for getting out in spite of the prison of sickness we are in.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” -Matthew 6:34, The Message
© September 25, 2013