Thankfully, We Never Let a Good Illness go to Waste!
By Sam Nadler
In God’s Word we are taught, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Messiah Yeshua” (1 Thess. 5:18). Though many situations in life do not seem to be worthy of our thanks, our perspective changes as the grace of God and His Good News are applied. God is short-handed until Yeshua returns, and He will use anyone at any time to share His message… even when the circumstances may not seem ideal, just as Paul discovered:
“but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the Good News to you the first time” (Gal. 4:13)
There’s never a second chance to make a first impression, and though we may want others to see us at our best, God is more concerned with what will give the Good News its best impression. Paul experienced this during his first visit to Galatia when he was compelled by sickness to remain longer than expected. Yet, rather than feel sorry for himself, Paul preached Good News during his enforced sojourn.
Looking back, Paul reminds the Galatians that his physical problems were not merely a visual trial for them (4:14), they were also their spiritual opportunity. In and of itself, an illness is not a help to anyone; however, it often provides the opportunity to share that which can really help all people: the Good News of Messiah! This Good News is not dependent on our strengths nor hindered by our weaknesses (13-15). You may be too strong for God to use, but you can never be too weak! In fact, it is in weakness that God’s strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9).
Following Paul’s example, I often exhort others to thank God for every ministry opportunity, including the “unprayed-for hospital ministries” He brings our way. Recently, God gave me such an opportunity, though it came disguised as an importunity. After battling a persistent cough and fever for over a month, I went to the ER on my doctor’s recommendation, hoping to be able to see a lung specialist there.
While there, I prayed for those around me, and for an “open door” to share with them (1 Cor. 16:9). God granted this request, and I was soon able to share with Christina*, one of the nurses on duty. Christina told me that she used to be part of a Bible study, but explained that she has turned away from God for a “higher power.” I prayerfully shared with her about the Lord’s highest power, and how He loves her and longs for her to return to Him.
God also brought John*, Anna*, Esther*, Richard*, Maureen*, and Laurie* across my path during the day at the hospital. I shared the hope I have in Messiah with each of them, seeking to encourage those who were already believers and exhorting those who have not yet accepted Messiah to come to Him. Though I would never have chosen the circumstances, I thank God for this “disguised opportunity” to share Messiah’s love with those I may otherwise never have met.
Though some suppose others may think less of the Good News when it is brought through weakness, your weakness can actually be your passport into the lives of unbelievers around you. One couple I know, the Friedmans, had real family problems but figured I could never identify with their distressing issues. However, years ago, when I was experiencing terrible cluster headaches, they saw that I knew misery as well, and felt that I could in fact identify with them without despising them. My afflictions and frailty became my opportunity to share Messiah.
Though this may seem backwards, remember, it was through the wretched cross of our Messiah that all Good News came to us. He suffered for our sins. So therefore the very cross we bear –health problems, relationship crises, or financial disasters – can also be God’s instrument of grace to share His message of life with others – if we will faithfully trust God through it all!
Though there are many different spiritual purposes for problems (Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75, etc.), sharing salvation, hope and comfort in Messiah has to be at the top of the list. In a sense, through his weakness, Paul was saying to the Galatians: My life is not about my health (evidently) but about the new life I have in the Good News of Messiah. Everything else you may learn about me will be in context to that of which my life consists: the message of Messiah.
Likewise, our lives are not about doctors who fouled up the works, insurance companies that won’t pay off, diseases that humiliate and debilitate… but about our relationship with God through Messiah. God is the One in charge of our lives, and His open doors may sometimes seem pretty yucky. However, when life isn’t working out according to your own will, remember that as you trust the Lord, it is still working out His will for you in Messiah!
Our importunities are God’s opportunities: By faith, you’re not a victim but a victor in Yeshua!
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals