Being sick can work FOR your spiritual life

It's the time of the year when bugs of many kinds are hitting people -- flu, soar throat, cold, etc. Odds are, you are probably going to get sick before the winter is over. What do you do with your spiritual life when you are sick? You certainly pray and receive prayer for health. But what if you remain ill? Here are four ways being sick can actually work for your spiritual life.

1. Being sick is a way of pressing the "stop" button. Most of us live at too hectic a pace. It's one of the reasons we get sick in the first place. When we are sick, we have no choice but to stop all or most of our activity and simply rest. When we are stopped, it's a good time to simply be God's son or daughter.

2. Being sick reminds us of our weakness. Hand in hand with busy-ness is the illusion that we are more valuable to ourselves, the world,  and God when we are being productive and exerting control over our piece of the world. Laying on the couch because we don't feel well reminds us that God doesn't need our strength and productivity. It is a good time to talk to God about how his strength is needed not ours.

3. Being sick requires that we be more receptive to God and others. "I can handle this. I don't need your help." That's how we are trained to live in American culture. Being sick can punch a gaping hole through our shiny armor. Human beings were meant to give to one another and receive from one another. If we allow others to care for us when we are sick, we are being more truly human than we are when we attempt to be self-sufficient little gods.

4. Being sick can lead to surrender in prayer. There are stories of great prayer masters who suffered with long-term illnesses. 16th-century nun Teresa of Avila is the first person I think of. She learned to let God come to her in the midst of her illness, and some of her most powerful times with God were while she was ill. When we are sick, it's a time to let ourselves fall into the arms of God and receive whatever he gives us. We ask God for healing, but we don't blame him if our illness continues. We thank him for our next breath, even if that breath comes with a high fever. We simply let whatever is be what it is and let God, the great I AM, be who he is. We release everything and trust God in a state of vulnerability.

The reason I am writing about this is that I'm at a training class at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, and I have been under the weather both days of the training. It's nothing serious -- I'm not getting the flu. I'm just achy and tired and battling the chills. So this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. :-)

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