If you are living with a chronic illness or are caring for someone with a chronic illness, you are accustomed to suffering. You are familiar with the physical suffering due to the disease, as well as the emotional suffering of lost hopes and dreams, broken relationships, lack of understanding, hours of solitude, etc…. We each have a mental list of ways that we have suffered due to the illness(es) afflicting us. Some things on our list affect us more than others, but they all change us.
I find myself, again, questioning God and the way He works. I think it is a question that we all have. “God, why are you choosing to use chronic illness as the tool to conform us into the likeness of Your Son?” I don’t know that we will ever have an answer to that question. I’m not sure we even have the right to ask it. Who are we to question God and the way He works? Jesus didn’t question God when He told Him that He would be suffering the cruelest of deaths for sins that He didn’t commit. In John 17:1-5 we get to eavesdrop on a conversation Jesus is having with the Father. He says, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”
I don’t know about you, but when I read that I’m reminded of my sin. How can we complain about how God is using us and the method He is using to change us when we remember what Christ did for us? He glorified the Father in absolute obedience, even to the point of death, so that we could have eternal life. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:7-10, ESV).”
In Christ, because of Christ, we have redemption through His blood. Redemption is the act of releasing a captive by the payment of a price. We’re the captive; we’re captives of sin and the death that sin brings. The price is Jesus. His death purchased our freedom. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23, ESV).” We are forgiven, made as white as a beautiful new snowfall that covers up all the dirt and mud of our past sin. We now live under the grace of God that He has lavished upon us. We find hope and joy and eternal life in Christ! The mystery that Paul talks about in Ephesians isn’t a mystery any longer, it’s the gospel, it is God’s beautiful plan to redeem and save us from ourselves and the sin that consumed us.
We live in a broken world. We may feel like our bodies and our lives are crushed and broken and torn and good for nothing, but that’s not true - our lives are good for something. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to redeem us. If we receive Jesus and what He has done for us, our suffering is not in vain. We join Christ in His sufferings so that others may know Him. There is no greater purpose on this earth than to glorify God and share the good news of the gospel of Christ Jesus.
Do you know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent? Will you accept what Christ has done for you? Will you accept His forgiveness and live in His grace? Will you glorify Him and share the mystery of the gospel with others so that they can be united with Christ and receive the free gift of eternal life? Will you live with the hope of eternity ever before you?
“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive His poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others." –Elisabeth Elliot
© October 16, 2012