Some Things to Remember When You're Sick

As I pen these words, I’m sitting in a hospital with my eldest son Ezekiel. He’s six years old – in fact, just three days shy of turning seven. The reason we’re here is because Ezekiel caught a cold. Now normally, you don’t go to the hospital for a cold, but in Ezekiel’s case, a coughing fit produced a pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum. In layman’s terms, air from inside his lungs came outside of his lungs into his chest which caused a lung to partially collapse. When we brought him to the hospital, Ezekiel couldn’t keep any food or water down and had no energy; it’s no wonder when his blood oxygen levels were nearly 20% lower than what they should have been. This is now his fourth day in the hospital; if he can get through the night without supplemental oxygen, he may get to go home tomorrow.

Why do we get sick? I can’t pretend to have all the answers to this question; in fact, I actually seem to have fewer answers whenever I have to watch one of my children get sick. There are some things though that I know God wants us all to remember when we’re sick. I shared the following list of things from John 11 with Ezekiel the other night here in the hospital, and I’ll share them now with you.

First, we need to remember that we’re not sick because God doesn’t love us. John 11 features an account of the sickness of a man named Lazarus. John points out three times that Jesus loved Lazarus: once through the words of Lazarus’ sisters (John 11:3), once by giving us direct insight into Jesus’ heart (John 11:5), and once through the words of the Jews (John 11:36). Even if a sickness we experience has something to do with some sinful decision we’ve made, we need to know that God still loves us (cf. Romans 5:8).

Second, we need to remember that God can use sickness for a greater good. Jesus tells His disciples after they say that Lazarus is sick, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). I told Ezekiel that sickness and things like it give people an opportunity to experience the blessing of giving (Acts 20:35), a blessing which in part is the experience of learning to be more like a God who gives to everyone always (James 1:17). At the point we had this devotional, we had had several visitors and gifts, so I was able to tell my son the names of all the people he helped to be more like God by being sick.

Third, we need to remember that God is greater than our sickness. Even though Jesus says that Lazarus’ “sickness is not unto death,” He later acknowledges the truth: “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:4, 14). On the surface this might seem like a contradiction or a time when Jesus’ knowledge failed, but believe me, Jesus didn’t make a mistake. Lazarus was sick and had died, but his death was not unto death. It was always Jesus’ intention to raise Lazarus from the dead and by doing so prove that He had power over death (John 11:25-26). Put differently, Lazarus died to live again. As I told Ezekiel, let me tell you: Jesus wants to give everyone life and make it possible so that even if they die, they can live forever with Him in heaven (cf. John 10:10).

I don’t know if Ezekiel noticed it or not, but this talk made my eyes do something my wife calls “misting.” I hate seeing my son suffer. I hate seeing anyone suffer. However, I’m teaching my son and myself to trust that God loves us, that our sicknesses have a purpose, and that God will carry us through any sickness into eternal glory. I hope you can learn this lesson too.
-Patrick Swayne