Note: This is entry 4 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part II: Spring (March to May)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Renewal arrives in springtime. Each spring I enjoy watching the shrubs and rose bushes in the front yard that appeared dead during the winter come to life. At the first sign of spring, they emerge from their slumber to reveal a vast array of colors and creativity. Their outer barrenness gives way to a blossoming inner strength of beauty.
The psalmist on his difficult pilgrimage to Jerusalem and exclaimed, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). Help is just beyond the horizon. One only needs to look up, the psalmist might say, when staring down at the ground in despair.
Spring represents redemption, hope, and healing. The potential burgeoning of faith and hope exists beneath the painful external circumstances that those undergoing trial and illness endure. The darkness of winter makes the light of spring appear that much brighter. The journey to emotional and spiritual wholeness begins by looking up to the Healer.
March: Sufficient Grace
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I began to look up to God during those six weeks I spent at the Psoriasis Research Institute in Palo Alto, California as a high school graduate. Amid seeking God for answers, I asked if he would heal my psoriasis.
Some during that time would say “yes”—with a caveat. In the late eighties a false theology, dubbed the “health and wealth gospel,” spread to some Christian circles. Champions of the health and wealth movement argued that Jesus promised healing for those expressing truth faith in him. They also taught a manifold financial return for those who sowed a right seed—typically marked by giving money to their ministries.
I wanted to believe their claims, but no amount of faith healed my psoriasis. I imagined a conversation with a faith healer where he told me that I did not have enough faith. Then, at the Psoriasis Research Institute, I read about Paul’s thorn in his flesh. He describes to the church at Corinth how he prayed three times for God to remove it. Scholars do not know exactly what the thorn was, but some suggest he had an eye condition or some other physical ailment.
God’s response revealed that the thorn served a greater purpose in keeping Paul humble and dependent on God. Indeed, the greatest purpose in suffering is not to remove or relieve the suffering. Rather, it is to find hope and meaning within it. In a show of sovereignty and commitment to higher purposes, God chose not to heal Paul—a man of great faith and leadership.
Paul received grace sufficient to handle whatever came his way. We can discover that same faith each day.
Think of a difficult time when your perspective changed from negativity and pessimism to faith and hope. What helped you come out of that dark mood?
- What do you find most compelling about springtime? How might spring reflect the healing force of God in our lives?
- How does Paul’s experience with the thorn in his flesh influence your way of seeing the role and purpose of suffering? How might a long-term illness or condition shape a person for the better or worse?
For Further Thought
The letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus as the high priest who not only served as the go-between God and man, but also suffered the greatest intensity of temptation and physical pain. In doing so he revealed how much God identifies with the hardships humanity faces on earth.
Read Hebrews 4:15-16 on approaching God for help before discussing the following questions:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
- How does knowing that Jesus, both fully God and fully man, suffered to bring hope and renewal help you in your suffering or chronic illness?
- Why might someone not feel confident to approach “the throne of grace” to receive God’s mercy and help?
- Some might argue that God is cruel to let people suffer so he can get more glory. Does knowing there is a greater purpose to suffering and chronic illness help you persevere, or cause you more hurt?
Close in Prayer
In silent prayer share with God your burdens, weaknesses, temptations, and pain. Petition him to bring just what’s needed during this trying time.