Where is God in Illness?
by Kathleen Clark
“When He heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory, so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
-John 11:4 NIV
Chronic illness has impacted my life in a myriad of ways. Living with chronic pain and health issues is often a frustrating, isolating, scary experience. I’m acutely aware of my limitations. I think a common question we ask God (or at least I do) is why? Why did this have to happen? Yet God can use all things for His glory. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
I remember a time when I was really struggling to understand why God allowed me to have these limitations. “I could do so much more for God if I didn’t have chronic pain,” I told my pastor at my church back in Illinois. “I’m frustrated because I feel like I spend so much time lying down and in doctors’ offices—time and energy I could otherwise be spending doing things for God.”
This pastor was no stranger to chronic illness. “When I have to spend time in doctors’ offices for my skin cancer,” he told me, “I ask myself why God wants me to be there. Is there someone in that office who needs a word or kindness? Why has God put me in that place at that time?” He also reminded me that God often calls us to be still and rest.
A few weeks after my meeting with the pastor I was back in my doctor’s office. As I was checking out, an older lady was checking in. They told her she could not see the doctor and receive her prescription because she had a past due balance. I sat down and asked her what was going on and what she owed on her bill. The amount was something I could swing so I went up to the front desk and told the surprised receptionist I’d like to pay the woman’s balance so that she could have her appointment. As soon as she realized what I was doing, the woman burst into tears. “Thank you so much! I drove two hours to get here, and I don’t get paid until Friday. I really need this appointment. Please, give me your information and I’ll repay you.”
I told her to pay it forward.
“God bless you,” she said.
I thought back to what the pastor had said. There was a reason for me to be at the doctor’s office at that exact time. As Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended it to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” God can use every circumstance for His glory, and we are His instruments.
Father God, We thank You for our physical and spiritual bodies. We thank You for our abilities. Please help us to see past our limitations to all that You can do in us and through us. You can use all things for good.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.