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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Sickness Undermines Certainties

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day."

2 Corinthians 4:16

This week I had the opportunity to share time with some experienced servants. Beyond the reason we were seeing each other, we had the joy of encouraging each other as we considered the physical difficulties and health problems that are seriously limiting the service of some. Unfortunately, as the years go by and beyond, we find ourselves reckoning with ailments and the "perishing" of the tent that houses our souls. The very ones who find themselves comforting and praying for those who rely on their humble care do not turn out to be unscathed by illness, nor do they hide it. We all clothe a body of flesh, in need of care as long as it will contain us. And that is why this brief reflection, which follows on the heels of last week's reflection around the unresponsive God, was born.

One way or another, through one's own experience or that of a relative, sooner or later life confronts us with some tough battles. You thus find yourself coming to terms with the diagnosis of a rare disease or one of a certain severity, during which you put all your faith into invoking a miracle. As time passes, the progress of the disease undermines your certainties and you begin to ask why God does not work, even though you know that His will is sovereign and He works as He wills. The dilemma remains as to why sometimes the Lord heals and sometimes He does not. This is a difficult question, which can /and must) be answered by an honest faith capable of recognizing that He is God beyond the fulfillment of our prayers. As long as we have the chance, we pray and believe that God can, and we do it to the end. But when "nothing" happens (according to our desires) we remain serene that He knows what is best. However, how can we not turn a thought to those who are spending themselves by the side of a disabled, paralyzed relative ... or to those who have already seen a child, spouse, friend pass away and cannot accept it yet.

Surely it will affect our belief and how much we have been imparted in terms of faith will condition for better or worse our actions as well as our reactions. I cannot fail to take into consideration the fact that the absolute abandonment to God's possibilities capable of guaranteeing miraculous healings has led toward rather questionable and in some cases deleterious forms of extremism: think of the aversion to any medical cure in the treatment of illness or for the misplaced insistence of the search for miraculous healing at all costs. The landscape of faith is teeming with self-styled preachers who claim that there is always a spiritual reality behind every ailment, denying with a ham over their eyes that although some infirmities originate in sinful situations (think of infirmities resulting from abuse and various addictions), others are daughters of our wicked actions. By reflex there are then those who see illness as a form of divine curse or chastisement, ignoring the sufferings of those who have from the beginning preceded us in the journey of faith.

It may seem cruel, but I admit that God does not always heal. Yes, I believe in miracles, the promises of the Bible, but I am objective. God does indeed hear our prayers (always!), but sometimes He uses the stove of affliction to refine us beyond our comprehension. He is God, however. Well encouraged the apostle Paul not to lose heart. The truth is that we struggle to realize that our goal is Heaven and to experience detachment from the body. We declare that Jesus went ahead to prepare a place to receive us, that He shed His blood so that we would receive eternal life, but then we want in every way to prolong our living in an earthly body. Here it is that if the exterior goes to ruin, we must be sure of the interior that is being renewed and prepared for the great day. If you are knowing the fire of affliction, I advise you not to look for why or how. Perhaps we need to learn from Paul that some times His Grace is enough for us. I sincerely hope that I never harbor illusions, and that I always have the strength to accompany those who are walking in the valley of the shadow of death or illness, because those who are in suffering need accompaniment in seeking divine intervention or in accepting illness.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 16

April 15, 1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 13:23-35

April 16, 2 Samuel 1-2; Luke 14:1-24

April 17, 2 Samuel 3-5; Luke 14:25-35

April 18, 2 Samuel 6-8; Luke 15:1-10

April 19, 2 Samuel 9-11; Luke 15:11-32

April 20, 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

April 21, 2 Samuel 14-15; Luke 17:1-19


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