Thursday, February 24, 2011
Illness, Pastoral Comfort, And The Need For Rest
I’m not really sure where to start with what’s been going on for the past three weeks.
To sum up, without giving up too much information, Cynthia had a serious medical event. When I say serious, I mean serious. She’s resting well and we’re going to see a specialist on Friday. Thanks to those of you who have been praying for her.
It came out of the blue and has caused a lot of concern and stress.
It’s also caused a lot of reflection for both of us. To write about it will help me, but on the other hand, to reflect on it makes me wonder if too much theological, spiritual, or other type of reflection is really helpful.
I started blogging because it helped me release some of my deep issues. It did that and I was able to find solace in Christ. But with this latest problem we face, I just wonder if pontification on the issues of life on a blog isn’t just technological navel gazing.
Cynical? Maybe. But all my wondering and consideration won’t make Cynthia better.
Three weeks ago when she fell ill, I was scared. Scared she might not recover. Frightened that I might be alone in this world without her.
What would I have told myself if I had been my pastor? “All things work together for good . . .” Stop right there. Sure they do. But at that moment, looking into my beautiful wife’s eyes, I suddenly had no future. I was left asking, “What if I’m about to lose her?”
After we got a firm diagnosis of what had happened to her, Cynthia asked me, “Is this punishment for what we did?”
No, of course not. But we also discussed the fact that there are some who still judge us who will believe it is.
God has forgiven and wiped our slate clean. Our God has moved from judge to loving Father. If He wanted to judge me for everything I had ever done, I’d never make it out of bed in the morning. If He were to judge me for being an adulterous pastor, I’d have been struck dead a year ago in a gruesome, horrible accident, with an awful incurable disease, or some other unspeakable nightmare.
I don’t deserve His grace. But He has given it. And any who think I deserve judgment from Him are right. I do. We all do. But thanks be to Christ, any of us may receive grace.
So how do I deal with this event? How do I deal with this illness that has struck Cynthia?
Some would tell me that it is a terrible thing, but it will go to glorify God. To use it in the same way Paul used the thorn in his flesh – “My grace is sufficient for you.”
Some might tell us that without enough faith, it will never go away. To pray until it is healed.
Others might tell us, despite my belief, that it is God’s judgment upon our sin. That it is what we deserve. That we haven’t fully repented and that there is more to come.
Others will say it’s just fate. Bad things happen. Sickness is inevitable, that’s how life is and there are worse things in the world. You know, “it could be worse.”
In the back of my mind, I hear myself when I was a pastor. I hear all of the meaningless things I would have been telling people if it had been them or their spouse if they had been sick, “I’ll be praying for you.” “God is in control.” “We’re here for you.” “God is a God of miracles.” “We’ll put you on the prayer list.”
Those things are all true – so they are not entirely meaningless. But if they are not spoken in love or with conviction, they are meaningless. But they are meaningless sometimes because they are not the best thing to say.
When people are at their worst, as we are now, it is hard to find something to say. That’s why I now know that I only find comfort in the words of one man. The one I should have been quoting when I was attempting to comfort when pastoring.
The words I now find solace in.
“Come to me all you who are weary or heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”