Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conformto the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasingand perfect will.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
During the fall term of my second year at college my attitude and view of psoriasis began to shift. I started seeing how God could utilize my lifelong battle with chronic illness to benefit others. A breakthrough came when I took the risk to share my psoriasis journey in front of a few hundred students at my college Christian fellowship large group meeting. To my surprise, fellow students supported and encouraged me for my transparency. A few even pulled me aside to share their own struggles. That evening God revealed to me how he can use my trials to empower others who feel weak or beaten down.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about offering themselves to God as a sacrifice. The language he uses harkens back to the Jewish temple sacrificial offerings of animals, as explained in passages like Hebrews 9:13-14. The priest offered the sacrifice to God as a way for the worshiper to draw close to God. Here the priest and the offering are one in the same—the believer. This offering, unlike those in animal sacrifices, remains alive to be repeatedly offered. To sacrifice the body symbolizes the entirety of a person offered to God to bring others closer to God. All this is done “in view of God’s mercy” as described in the earlier chapters of his letter.
Note: This is entry 10 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 IV: Fall: Caring for Others (September to November)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
Fall brings new opportunities to reach out and care for others. In 2014, I moved back to Davis, California where I had attended University of California, Davis as an undergraduate student. Davis is a quintessential college town in the Sacramento area. It’s a place where anticipation grows throughout the summer for new students to return for the fall quarter.
Some students seek assistance when settling into town and becoming acclimated to their new surroundings. The church in Davis where I pastored seeks to support college students, especially international students coming from abroad. As a campus minister, new student outreach during the fall is a wonderful time to offer hospitality to new students. The fall season is a time for those who enjoy strong friendships and community to care for those in need and transition.
I observe a similar dynamic in situations where a disparity of experience exists, including dealing with life challenges. The Apostle Paul, among many difficulties, wrote about a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Earlier in his second letter to the Corinthians he shared how the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1:3) comforted him. He then passed that comfort empathetically to others in their suffering. Indeed, his comfort empowered him to comfort others.
In this season, consider ways losses become meaningful in their ability to shape one’s maturity and capacity. Think about ways you can be a blessing to others as you draw from the spiritual friendships and community developed in previous seasons and months.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I carry scarred memories from when I sat for hours as a teenager covered in a treatment paste that burned my skin at the Psoriasis Research Institute. Back then I could not see anything good coming from what I considered was wasted time. I only wanted relief from my psoriasis symptoms. I longed to hang out with my friends without worrying about bystanders asking, “What’s the rash on your hand or arm?”
In time I came to understand that something good can come from my suffering. Suffering itself is not good—it stems from brokenness and the Fall in the Garden of Eden. But God can redeem it. One way is through developing a person’s inner character and compassion for others.
Psoriasis has taught me endurance in many areas of my life. My capacity to push through discomfort grew not only for skin flares, but also for other life difficulties and roadblocks. I became a more compassionate person in the process. When I see others with life difficulties, I empathize with them more than before. My desire to redeem an otherwise bewildering situation with my health led me to write a psoriasis blog for over a decade and get involved in patient advocacy on national and local levels.
God is about redemption. He can turn the harshest of experiences into meaningful ways to impact yours and others’ lives for the better.
Share one way you, or someone you know, has grown personally through an unforeseen difficulty. What were the circumstances and outcomes of the situation?
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ
Jesus established the family of God at the Cross where he brought his mother and the beloved disciple together for mutual care: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman,here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26f.). God’s family finds its basis in the mutual fellowship and support through Jesus’ last words. Paul points to this level of family love and care when he writes, “Be devoted to one another in love” where the word for “devoted” is a family-kind of love.
Making a connection with God during my freshman year at college led me to join a campus Christian fellowship. I made new friends there and even began to share my psoriasis story with them. One night I poured out my pain to a Bible study leader as I recounted a decade of struggles with skin inflammation. I truly experienced the power of being a member of Christ’s body as others suffered along with me. That evening revealed God’s presence and healing power through others to me.
Psalm 133 eloquently describes how God bestows his blessings on the community of faith. It’s where God sends the refreshing dew of Hermon and oil of Aaron that spreads from one person to another. As spiritual pilgrims journeyed together to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, they undoubtedly thought of how they needed God’s refreshment when they sang Psalm 133.
Mt. Hermon is about 10,000 ft. above sea level as the tallest peak in Israel. It is well known for its lush greenery even in hot, dry summer weather. Each morning the mountain waits expectantly for the next dousing of dew. The dew of Hermon would not fall on Zion, or Jerusalem, directly though. The distance between the two locations precluded it. But the psalmist sought to convey the idea that gathering in faith is like Hermon’s Dew falling among God’s people who gather there.