Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – October 3, 2020
I beg you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have never treated me wrongly, but you know that it was an illness that first gave me an opportunity to preach the Good News to you. Even though my condition was a trial for you, you did not despise nor reject me; instead, you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus! Galatians 4:13-14 (EOB)
There is a certain tension that exists within the Christian life as it relates to sickness and suffering. On the one hand, sickness and death is the very thing that our Lord came to destroy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is the source of our pain and grief in this world, and stands at odds with the life of the Kingdom of God. We therefore pray for healing, believing that the life of God breaks into our world in countless ways, giving us a taste of the life to come as he renews and restores our sin-sick souls. On the other hand, the Scriptures and Christian history are filled with examples of suffering being redeemed for the good purposes of God. As we see today in Galatians 4, there is always a Kingdom opportunity contained within our sickness and suffering.
Two groups of people are identified in this passage: St. Paul and the Galatian Church. As such, I believe there are two ways to read this text that give us two different perspectives on how to faithfully understand illness as Christians.
First, like Paul, you may be in a season of sustained illness and suffering. Your suffering may be physical, such as a multi-year battle with cancer or a handicap from birth that affects every aspect of your daily life. Your suffering may also be emotional and relational as you grieve the poor, self-destructive decisions of an adult child or the breakdown of a much-cherished friendship or intimate relationship. Whatever it may be, in these moments there are two ways we can respond: we either allow our suffering to swallow us or we see it as an invitation for Christ’s power to be displayed through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). In the mystery of God’s will, as we see with Paul, illness is an opportunity for others to hear and see the good news of Jesus embodied in your life of faithfulness. As such, do not waste your illness or miss the opportunity to invite others to know the joy and power of Christ.
You may not in this immediate season find yourself in a place of personal suffering and pain. Instead, like the ancient Galatians, you might be invited to share in the suffering of others as a way to receive them as you would receive Christ. Is it inconvenient, exhausting, and even painful? Of course! Paul knew his “condition was a trial” for this early church community, yet he also allowed them to bless him and sustain him as he knew it was not only for his good but for their growth into the life and likeness of Christ. The same invitation stands before each of us today. In fact, suffering is always an opportunity and an invitation to give your life away for the sake of others, just as our Lord Jesus did for us.
Father, whether in my own sickness or in my support of others in theirs, may I always live for the good of others and the growth of your Kingdom, I pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
How can you today choose to offer your suffering to God and allow his power to work in and through your pain?
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