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Glorifying God Through Chronic Illness

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By: Megan Evans

I recently read that over 3 million people suffer from some sort of chronic illness or pain, me being one of those people.

I don’t think those that suffer from chronic illness have worse lives or that there are not greater sufferings in the world. However, I do think there is something unique about the battle of something that is chronic, or long-term.

People with chronic pain often feel isolated, embarrassed, judged, exhausted, frustrated, and scared. There isn’t a “normal” day, and it is often hard to accomplish a daily routine.

But God enters into all of those feelings and graciously renews our strength, even when the circumstances don’t change. Here are the truths I daily meditate on:

 

We share in Christ’s sufferings

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says that as we suffer in affliction, we are guaranteed comfort from Christ.

There is no promise that we will have just comfort without suffering in this life, but there is a promise of comfort in a way that only Christ can give.

There have been many nights that I have cried out to God, wanting him to take away the pain and bring comfort. There have been days that I want him to bring complete healing to my body. It is not wrong to desire this sort of healing and absence of pain, but I sometimes make this ultimate.

I want comfort now. I want a different way of living now.

I want a life other than the one God prepared for me. But how much would I miss if God decided to take it away when I wanted it? What would the need for God be if my life was easy?

This passage has been such a comfort for me because Christ suffered for my sake. He didn’t say “no” to the cross to bring himself comfort. We now get to say “Yes, Father, I will suffer like Christ did” so we make his name great, sharing the even greater sacrifice of Christ.

We suffer for others so that we can “comfort those who are in any affliction.” We suffer for Christ, we suffer for others, and we suffer to see our great need for him.

 

We are dependent on God

 

We will always be dependent on someone or something.

During the most intense period of my illness, I was presented with many options of dependence. I could have chosen dependence on control, wanting to find my way out of things, but ending up in a cycle of fear and worry. I could have depended on distractions or ways to numb my pain.

While I fought daily to do this, I chose dependence on Christ, even when this looked messy. I was honest with God, crying out to him even in anger and frustration (and repenting of doing so).

I got in the Word daily, even when I didn’t feel like doing so and even when my time in Scripture didn’t make me think anything different about my circumstances.

I prayed. I confessed. I talked to others.

Eventually, this became water to a very parched soul. I saw that the Lord was sustaining me, even if it was just enough to get me through the day. I saw that trusting in God, depending on him for every breath, looked more like resting, waiting, and being still.

I started to enjoy time with God even over being out of pain. The Lord wants this sort of dependence on him because he knows the best plan for us – even if that plan isn’t filled with the comfort, we so desire (Prov 3:5-6).

 

God has given us his Church

 

God didn’t let me suffer on my own, and he still doesn’t. During hospital stays, painful nights, and hard days, I have been surrounded by a body of believers that have sat and listened, provided meals, and prayed for me.

One of the great benefits of being a part of a church family is just that – we are a family.

The church is imperfect like a family, yes, but the church shouldn’t leave, abandon, or forsake its body, like a family. Hebrews 10:24-25 says that we are to watch out for one another, so we produce “love and good works” and that we encourage one another as we gather together.

This is the family God wants and calls us to be to everyone, not just those suffering from chronic illness. But the church regularly telling me that God is “making all things new,” (Rev 21:5) and meeting me where I am during my hardest days and moments, have made the long-term suffering feel like a battle that I can face confidently, knowing I am not alone.

Turning Up Grace And Obedience

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By: Megan Evans

I’ve often struggled with reconciling the relationship of grace and obedience.

I look at a particular sin in my life and flippantly think, “Oh, God’s grace covers that!” Or I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “I bet God is proud of this!”

Within minutes of those exact thoughts, though, I look at that specific sin and think, “There is not enough grace in the world to cover this.” I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “This can never be enough.”

When does this dissonance end? The better question to ask is, “In whom does this dissonance end?” Jesus Christ.

In Union with Christ, Wilbourne explains that we need to hear both grace and demand at full volume.

We need to hear Ephesians 2:8-9, that we have been saved by grace and not works. We need to remind ourselves of this daily. Hourly.

No sin can take us too far gone for God to love us. And there is nothing on earth we can do that could ever take away our need for dependence on him. Wilbourne says,

“Therefore, the remedy to our deepest wound and the antidote to Satan’s most venomous lie is a sure and certain confidence in the goodness of God toward us. Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.”

Where does this obedience part fit? “Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.” But I thought it was just grace alone that gave me faith? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Wilbourne contends,

“…because we are prone to excuse ourselves with the consolations of grace, and because we are awash in a sea of consumerism that leads us to define the gospel mainly in terms of the practical benefits it brings us, and because we can be given to sloth – we need to hear these voices that turn the call to follow Christ all the way up to full volume. Undiluted. The only way to know God is to follow him.”

Receiving grace and the benefits of sins washed clean requires faith. I have to believe that I am a sinner saved by grace. But because I believe in Christ, I believe that he is still making me new and that I still need him to turn from sin.

I can’t do this without obedience. I can’t worship a God because I am thankful for what he did for me in the past. No, I worship him by obeying because I am grateful for what he is continuing to do in my life.  

We can’t do both on our own, though. We can’t live up to the standards of obedience God calls us to. We can’t give ourselves enough grace to cover our sins.

The joining of 100% grace and 100% obedience is met in the person of Jesus Christ. And because of Christ living, dying, resurrecting for us, and sending his Spirit, we now are in union with him.

Union with Christ means “the work of Christ for us cannot be separated from the person of Christ in us (Wilbourne). He didn’t die an arbitrary death; he died so that he could be working in us with us.

Because of our union with Christ, obedience no longer feels like something we can’t reach. Grace no longer feels like something we can’t obtain. We can turn toward him, run to him, and be a part of what he has done and is doing.

Our sins are fully paid for by grace. We have all the power we need in Christ to continue to turn from sins toward Godliness: obedience. We have Christ dwelling in us.

“Our union with Christ is real but invisible. We must use “the eyes of [our] hearts” (Eph 1:18) to look not at what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18). When temptation comes, you can say, “That’s not who I am anymore. I’m in Christ and Christ is in me. Christ, help me to be the person I am in you – by grace” (Wilbourne).

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