June 6, 2017 1 Chronicles 14,15; Psalm 132; Galatians 4:8-31

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Fruitful BECAUSE of Illness | Tara Wiley

S~ As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Galatians 4:13

O~ Paul is recounting how he and the Galatians developed such a special relationship: his illness caused him to stay with them, share Christ with them, and walk them into newfound freedom. In the next set of verses, he bemoans that they lost their way – after he became well and left! God used his season of physical weakness to bring spiritual strength. Paradoxically, Paul’s season of physical strength (and, for the Galatians, relief from caring for someone who was ill), became the place of temptation for the Galatians’ spiritual apathy.

A~ I’ve been frustrated today by this recent flare with my health – the icky weight gain in my face and waist, the brain fog, the weariness and irritability. Just when I feel like I have my autoimmune stuff under control, life happens (stress can be such a trigger), and I get hit again. I don’t like it! But God, You have taught me much in my battle with chronic illness, and You use my weakness for Your glory.

Years ago, You prepared me for this journey. As I hobbled across a college campus, my joints so inflamed, I heard You ask me, “Are you willing to be broken for me? Will you accept this road, this way, this ministry?” I said yes, and You haven’t failed me yet. I still ask for healing, and I am thrilled with the levels of healing You HAVE brought to my body in recent years! But I know, that just like all Your creation, I will not be completely healed and whole until I enter Your kingdom. I believe You to be able to reverse even what is medically irreversible, but I also trust Your perfect plan in my body and my life. I know the boundaries that chronic illness brings into my world are often for my good – it serves an important role as a balancer when I tend to overdo. I also know that my relationship with You is sweeter because of the fellowship of suffering I share with You.

I am supremely grateful for the ministry opportunities I have because of all I have been through! Just today, I was able to sit with and encourage a new friend who deals with autoimmune disease and had to have emergency surgery over the weekend because of it. I couldn’t have offered empathetic and practical support if I hadn’t experienced half a dozen surgeries in the past several years. I can sit with hospice patients and be okay with the quiet, with the pain, with the inescapable reality of brokenness, because You have made me so tender through my own suffering.

P~ So why do I kick against You when I face these minor setbacks? This is nothing new. This is not the end of the world. It could be SO much worse. I can be so confident in asserting that my body image is not wrapped up in the way I look, or that my confidence doesn’t lie in the way I feel. But then these moments arrive when I have to go to the store on the first hot day of summer because none of my summer pants or shorts fit anymore, and I am angry and frustrated and sad. I get infuriated and embarrassed when I have repeated mental blocks because my brain just isn’t functioning the way it should. I want to lash out at my husband when I know that the real problem isn’t that he suddenly changed overnight – it’s that my hormones are feeding me emotional lies. So here I am, once again, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, because I cannot trust the way I feel, or the way I look. None of that is truth-determining, and none of it should have bearing on whether or not this is a spiritually fruitful season! Oh, yes. I can grow in You in this season, and be used by You to grow Your kingdom. In fact, I know that it is, in many ways, easier to grow in You during these seasons. There’s that paradox! But Jesus, regardless, help me be like Paul. Let me be a beacon of light declaring Your FREEDOM even when I feel enslaved by my body. Thank You for the gift of illness. Thank You for including examples in Your word of people who were used by You even during their illnesses. I will look forward to what You are going to teach me and do through me this summer as I wait on the next season of healing to come.

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