"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

This blog has been moved to www.fallenpastor.com.

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.”


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your wife's illness. One of my best friends lost her husband to cancer 4 years ago - he was 37. She was left with 4 children under the age of 16 to raise. It was painful and hard and I felt helpless to watch. There was nothing to say - all the old cliches seemed very empty indeed. I listened WAY more than I talked about it for sure. Sometimes that is what a person going through something painful needs - just someone to listen.
    I think those that would judge you need to look at their own life - we all have issues and none of us is without sin. We have the grace and mercy of Jesus - that is all. Remember though, you are never alone - even when you feel it is true. And painful things have a way of putting a spotlight on what's really important - our love for God and each other. Hugs and love to both of you in this time - I pray peace and blessing to you both as you are in this new season - that God will reveal Himself to you in a very real way - bringing refreshing and perspective. Remember - you are never alone as long as you have people who understand and share your faith.

  2. Cindy,

    Thanks for the kind words. Listening is very important, but it's not something many people know how to do well either.

    A lot of people want to fill the air with their own thoughts instead of just listen. I'm not sure why we do that.

    Cynthia will be fine, I think, after we see the neurologist tomorrow. Praying for a good prognosis. Thankful for the many prayers.


  3. Perhaps you two will understand this/feel a little less alone in your very real pain. I want you to know that I accept "the shape of your grief and pain." I hope you can, too.


  4. Thank you Cheryl, for reaching out. It was a beautiful blog post.

    We went to the neurologist today and got some excellent news. Not as bad as the previous doctor thought, but more tests ahead.

    You made some excellent and honest points in your blog. Thank you for sharing them.