(photo credit: Jason Porter)
Rest is the best medicine
I once heard someone say, "be sure to take the Sabbath or the Sabbath will take you." He then went on to describe how we burn ourselves out by filling our weekends, our times off, with being busy. We call sports tournaments and kids' activities as "recreation", but neither allow us much rest. We fill our Sundays with church meetings, classes, and even more busyness and then wonder why we're so tired Monday morning when we return to the grind.
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)
I approached being sick the same way. I could tell I was coming down with something when I started feeling lethargic. Once it got to the point it was affecting my work, I decided to take a day off. I slept in, and then made myself busy the rest of the day catching up on errands around town and chores around the house. I shouldn't have been surprised when less than a week later, I was laid up in bed, only getting up to help my kids get ready for school. I was restless and felt like I needed to do something, but staying in bed all day is what I needed most.
Treat the disease, not the symptom
I finally went in to the doctor when I started struggling to breathe. I don't like going to the doctor because treating whatever ails is a crapshoot. Last week about half of my vanpool missed work. We all showed the same symptoms yet we each received different diagnoses and different prescriptions. Mine was for high-powered cough syrup (aka Codeine) and after taking it the first day my cough went away but my stuffy head and sore throat got worse.
The same is true in life and spirituality. We try and fight off a particular sin but neglect the root cause behind it. We confess being irritable with our spouse but deny just how stressed out we are at work (to take my most common example). We read self-help books, watch Oprah, and fill our heads with means of treating symptoms but we can only find healing when we hand over our disease to the Great Physician, Jesus.
"[T]he power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick... When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven... Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.'" (Luke 5:17b,20,23-24)
Feed a cold, but don't starve spiritually
While I was sick I didn't go online, I didn't read, I seldom prayed (beyond the regular "please, God, make this go away!"). I was starving myself spiritually. But I did get out to church and my church's Super Bowl party. Just that brief fellowship renewed my [spiritual] strength enough to bring me back to my relationship with God. I didn't read entire books; and I regretted that the whole time, "I have all this time, I should knock out a couple books!" But I fed just on just enough of the Word to sustain me.
Once I was feeling well enough to be up and about I was starving! I dug into my Bible, I caught up on blogs, I caught up on several books. I almost had to be pried away from my study- it felt so good and it had been so long! And that hunger extended to my prayers, I have prayed like I haven't in a long time ever since I got better.
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)
Follow the Doctor's orders
Although medicine may not be an exact science, the general advice of a doctor is still worth following. When he or she says to rest, I need to listen and rest. But this advice extends beyond this particular episode of being sick. Do we heed doctor's warnings about our diet and encouragement to exercise? Are we willing to make the lifestyle changes necessary to stay healthy?
Again, this applies spiritually as well. We have our doctor's orders summed up in a single big book. Do we read it? Do we do what it says? Self-diagnose yourself about your sin. How do you treat it? Do you run from it? Do you confess it? Do you cut off what leads you to it? Are you following the doctor's orders?
"So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, 'Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.' But Naaman went away angry and said, 'I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?' So he turned and went off in a rage." (2 Kings 5:9-12)
Get well so you can take care of others
Illness is often contagious so naturally, as soon as I started to feel better my son started to come down with the same thing. It is hitting him harder however, requiring both my wife and I to remain as healthy as we can be so that we can take care of him. In fact last night I was up with him four different times. If I was too sick to get up, what then?
Spiritually-speaking, how can we expect to serve others when we are either so sick with sin ourselves or if we are starving from spiritual malnourishment?
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1)
Our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. So it follows that lessons from physical ailments can be applied to our spiritual condition as well. We need to seek out the Great Physician and listen to his advice. We need regular checkups. And we need to know when we are so sick we need a stronger dose of medicine. I'm not perfectly healthy- I won't be, I can't be, until I receive a new body. So I need to take care of it the best I can.