Hope and serious illness

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The diagnosis of a serious illness and the coming of death can bring feelings of hopelessness. We have some measure of control in our lives, but we have absolutely no control over the illness or over the grave. Suddenly we are at the mercy of the doctors, nurses, and other care-givers.

Jesus met a woman in a similar situation. She had been at the mercy of doctors for twelve years and none were able to cure her. However, this woman trusted in Jesus’ authority over her body’s illness. She knew that even a simple touch of His cloak could bring her the relief that twelve years of doctors could not. Her faith saved her. (Luke 8:43-48)

This unnamed woman was given a miracle. That illness was cured, but her body still eventually saw death. Her healing was temporary.

In Jesus, we all share in this woman’s hope – each of us, in a personal way. In baptism, we are washed in Jesus’ Living Water and cured of sin. Our earthly body will still decay and die, but our soul – that which we and our loved ones know personally – lives on eternally with the Lord. In the Resurrection, our earthly bodies will be raised again as well.

We mistakenly convince ourselves that physical healing in this life means that we have favor in God’s sight. But even Jesus suffered physical hurt and death – yet remained God’s Son throughout it all! Certainly we can pray to God for healing; it is by no means wrong to do so. However, if we are not healed, that does not mean God has abandoned us.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’” (Lamentations 3:19-24, ESV)

Suffering and death are not easy; even Jesus cried out in lament. (Mark 15:34, 37) But they are not the end. Our hope is that we are not abandoned by God, but rather that He is with us even in these, the toughest of times. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that our heavenly Father would “deliver us from evil.” In some cases, this means healing our earthly illness. In many more lives, this prayer for deliverance is answered in death – where eternal peace can then be found in heaven. Through our faith in Christ we can say with the Psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 43:5, ESV) He is our salvation from disease and, ultimately, from eternal death.