On 8th January, I tested positive on COVID PCR test. I was a week out from getting my booster. Family and friends prayed for a quick recovery. I believe being vaccinated prevented it from getting to my lungs. But I kept feeling more unwell until day nine. For five days, the throat pain and headaches were more intense than any other time I can remember. On a phone consultation with a doctor, I almost begged for codeine and felt a bit like a desperate drug addict.
During my illness, people repeatedly asked if I was feeling or getting better. I know they meant well and expressed their love and concerns. But I felt the weight of their expectations. As if I was failing them and didn’t have enough faith to bounce back.
I believe God can and does heal miraculously, but I didn’t sense that God wanted me to pray for a quick recovery or minimal pain. During the distress, these feelings and questions came up.
- Where do we get the idea that Christians should be sick less often, less severe and heal more quickly?
- Why do Christians pray for a speedy recovery or quick healing?
- Would such healing be a sign that God loves us more, that we are special and have stronger faith?
Perhaps our beliefs about suffering and healing are influenced more by middle-class values than the New Testament?
Prominent middle-class values include independence, control, comfort and happiness. Having money deludes us to think we are in control and can buy happiness and health. We hold a sense of entitlement – we’ve worked hard and deserve the best or at least to be comfortable. Middle-class values influencing our relationship with God may lead us to think that because we’ve obeyed the Bible, worked and prayed hard, exercised faith, sacrificed and served faithfully (every denomination has its formula), we deserve God’s blessings instead of misery.
But how do we define blessings?
Can God turn hardships and trials into blessings?
When I face adversity and trials, I am comforted by Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” We are tempted to substitute ‘happiness’ for ‘good’. As if God will somehow make a way and in the end, it will work out for our happiness. Many people who memorise verse 28 don’t memorise verse 29 which defines the ‘good’, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son …”
The ‘good’ is to become like Jesus. More about our holiness rather than happiness.
When swallowing sips of water caused spasms and excruciating pain and I could not sleep, I cried, “How long, oh Lord?” I was reminded there are so many people suffering from severe COVID, cancer, injustice, persecution and poverty. I cried, “How long, oh Lord” on their behalf. Feeling my frailty reminded me I am not in control. I can’t heal myself. I surrendered.
When suffering from COVID (or facing any adversity), success according to Jesus is not related to how quickly I recover or being better than average. What if I were suffering from a far more serious disease, like the cancer of greed or worldly success? A speedy recovery may not facilitate the needed heart surgery to help me depend more on God as His child. Success is more about surrendering to His deeper work on my character and values to conform me to be more like Jesus. Trusting God as a good Father may mean to resist asking the self-focused, ‘Why me?’, but instead to pray for others and His Kingdom concerns. As we receive God’s presence, comfort and help, giving generously means we pray for and pass that comfort to others.
Surrendering to God’s deeper work will strengthen our character and foundation. Then we can be more like Jesus and be resilient through any adversity.
You may want to read ‘The benefits of being dependent on God’ in Chapter 8 Jesus Redefining Worldly Failure.
Listen to a profound song Blessings by Laura Story
For RDSAJ paperback or e-Book purchases, videos and other resources, visit our website – redefiningsuccess.com.au
We praise God that Karura Community Church in Nairobi, Kenya, started their Spiritual Emphasis Campaign. For eight weeks in February and March, their entire community of faith – children, youth, young adults, community life groups and preaching – will explore and apply Redefining Success according to Jesus. They printed 1,000 copies for their church. An additional 1,000 copies will be distributed and sold by RDSAJ Ministry. Soon it will be available in bookshops and other churches in Kenya.
Watch Rev. Ngari Kariithi’s passionate preaching – Wordly Success // Sermon – Rev. Ngari Kariithi – YouTube
True blessings to you,