Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…
– Mark 2:17
Everybody becomes ill sooner or later. And in the end everybody dies because of one malady or another.
Illness is a reality in which the person who is ill is called to listen; illness is a new point of view from which to look at life.
Read the book of Job. Illness unveils our view of reality. Illness lays life bare. Illness strips us of all of our social and personal embellishments. Illness reveals the rawness of life.
Illness alone is capable of telling us the truth…that we have no power over life…that life is not directly available to us…that suffering is the most fundamental question life holds before us.
People respond to illness in varied ways. Depression. Rebellion. Bitterness. Hopelessness.
Denial of this most fundamental reality – that we do not control life – has led to a rise in managerial models of wellness…social, municipal, corporate, medical, churchly. Across the board people have become wholesale anesthesia junkies. I know many who refuse to visit those who are ill or even attend a funeral. Doing so does not jive with the insentience they crave.
Everyone becomes ill sooner or later. Illness strips us down. This stripping down should create a crisis in our self-image. This crisis is a call to realistically evaluate our lives and to become honest with ourselves, one another, and God. The most serious human and spiritual issue that is emerging today regarding this most basic reality is reducing it to a technological problem. People not need a managerial pharmacy. We do not need a pseudo-chapel run by organizations. We need the church to be the church, which it has long forgotten how to be in regard to illness, the institution and its members having adapted to these managerial models centuries ago. Christians are called to suffer alongside those who suffer and in so doing learn to live honestly.
Christians are no different than others when facing illness…confronting the unknown. I have had a serious neurological-muscular illness manifest itself since 2000. Like when I first experienced God, this created a serious crisis in my perceived ability to control my life.
In spite of having been typically deserted by the problem-solving church in both my conversion and my illness, I am deeply thankful for the generation of both crises which drive us today as we seek to honestly live out our lives as we carry out the works of mercy…
I was sick and you cared for me.
– Matthew 25:36