The Gift of Health: A Perspective in Empathy
In a recent Sunday morning Bible study, our pastor led a study of Job. Within the man who bears the name of this biblical book, there were so many difficulties, lots of blame, and many unanswered questions as to why God would allow such suffering in this godly man’s life. For Job himself, there is steadfastness amidst the incredible suffering he endured. For seven days he sat in ashes and dust, this act customary to outwardly show the emotions of grief. One can only imagine the complete turmoil Job must have experienced—in great pain and unable to “make things better” of his own accord.
The Bible is clear that his health experience was open and was visible by every person who passed by this ash heap. Perhaps we, His people, have ways to outwardly show grief, uncomfortableness, pain, or discouragement that are noticeable to others. Such “wearing on one’s sleeve” is real life for most people. But these moments are not fun and are often uncomfortable both for the person experiencing pain as well as those who know him/her. Within the world of church work, should one be willing to be so open as to cry out for assistance? Wouldn’t such actions prompt others to pursue ways to minister in much-needed circumstances?
It seemed almost unfair how God allowed Satan to intervene in Job’s life in such devastating ways, for both him and to his family. But God already knew both the outcome and Job’s faithfulness. In chapter 19:23–29, he prophesies about the Redeemer and the resurrection of the body. Here he beautifully points forward to Jesus of Nazareth! We as His people can learn from Job’s challenges and experiences, and receive important perspective. Job clings to his belief that through all the trials of his life, the not understanding, the inability to explain, the pain—that God is still his Redeemer. He understood that something greater was at work between God and humanity. He repents and receives the Lord’s redemption.
When Satan asks permission to attack Job’s health, God’s only instruction was to spare his life. When studying this together with God’s people, it makes one think about our own lives. When we have health issues, they can greatly affect us not only physically but also mentally and beyond. Discouragement can and often does creep in. Helplessness can become the norm. Relying on other Christians may become a need, a must. Examples of major health issues include a diagnosis of cancer, food allergies, broken bones, heart disease, a stroke, or even shingles, an ulcer, or kidney stones. Despair can ensue. When bodily ailments, illnesses, quality of life, confinement to a wheelchair or a hospital bed become reality for perhaps the first time in a church worker’s life—there is a new perspective. Discouragement. Despair. Mobility issues. The missing of work. Struggles with a lack of normalcy. Our sinful human nature tends to take over and can be life changing.
Let us remember: Our bodies are a miracle of our Creator God. We are the crown of His creation. We are all different. But such differences are part of the beauty of how He made us. Through His grace alone, we are holy. St. Paul very succinctly states:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
And from the writer of James:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:14-15 ESV
An outpouring of prayer, support, and encouragement will be empowering in such situations. One should be open to sharing maladies so that intervention, based on the goodness of God’s people—can have influence. Some examples of such Christian caring and love include:
• Find others who have suffered in a comparable situation, and speak to them to receive wisdom and counsel.
• Be open enough so that the congregation, school families, and friends from all circles are aware of the need for support.
• Allow your pastor to be an intimate partner in prayer and in powerful spiritual support.
• Allow someone else to lead, when you cannot (teacher, administrator, pastor, DCE, aide, etc.).
• Be open to having meals provided.
• Cry out to the Lord!
It may not take a health crisis to move someone to think differently or to change his life significantly. Perhaps Job, in the end, had a new appreciation for family and life in general. Maybe a cancer survivor will never take another health issue for granted. Those who have the empathy to stand side-by-side with someone in need can be that support person. Or a lifestyle change can be prompted—a better diet, more exercise, drinking water more often—can all lead to a life lived that the Creator would encourage. The gift of health. Perspective. Empathy. Take heart from the promises from 2 Corinthians 1:3–7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
Author’s note: Tom was diagnosed with cancer, stage 2, on the 23rd of November 2022. Every part of his life has changed, through perspective and now empathy. He is already learning ever more than ever before, to cherish God’s gift of life!