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Season of Sickness, Episode 3: Hope Amidst an Unfortunate Truth

The season of sickness has no end.

A few nights ago I strangely awoke far before my alarm. (That is, my external alarm; apparently my internal alarm was working just fine). After my little immune system workers ran an internal scan of my body, they discovered the “Keep Out” sign had been vandalized. 

An unwanted guest had entered.

Feeling a sickness poking at my bowels, I tried laying still, hoping that it would simply go away. Instead, it decided to manifest its presence more strongly by furthering its poison through my digestive tract, rather forcefully in fact. So much so that its effects appeared right before my very eyes in a most distasteful form.

Knowing full well what to do in a condition recognizable as this, I ran to my dear friend with whom I’ve become well acquainted this year- charcoal. After I chugged a glass of charcoal I returned to my bed hoping I had seen the last of my infirmities. Unfortunately, the sickness was not through with me yet.
Overwhelmed by its discomfort, I found myself hastening unwillingly to bend over the little white throne again and again only to see my trusty natural remedy rejected. Steadfast in preemptive action, I continued to run for one glass of charcoal after another, but none were able to hold their ground, and I was faced with a question we all may have asked a time or two: when will it all end?!

Finally, after the fourth round of this noxious roller coaster, the career missionary’s mother (sleeping right next door) overheard my affliction and offered me some activated charcoal tablets. After successfully consuming the tablets, the career missionary just down the hall (providentially for me, a skilled nurse, and faithful mother) evaluated my condition and determined it best for me to rest and wait it out before administering any kind of medication.

So rest I did
All morning long
Till friends would come
With cheer and song
And cheer they brought
With sympathy
For sore was I
And quite sickly

After this poem formulated itself in my mind, my dear partner in ministry returned home to continue to care for me, bringing bottled water, bananas, and good tidings of great joy (not to mention an uncontainable yet quite potent dose humor).

When the evening came around I found myself growing more eager and willing to move again and determined that my immune system would be clean and orderly by bedtime. Except when that time came, rather than going to bed, I decided I had had enough isolation for a day and the best thing for me would be to have some social interaction, for many a missionary had just arrived for a gathering downstairs. So, I marched confidently down the steps in rebellion against the lingering symptoms and invited myself into a pleasantly nauseating conversation with one of the other missionaries who was giving vivid descriptions of combating disease in the field. And it was in that conversation that I realized something strangely significant.

People will always get sick. Especially those living in foreign countries like Cambodia.

The water is toxic. Habitual sanitation is scarce. Medical treatment is questionable. Animals and insects are not always safe. And human beings are vulnerable.

Now, what I realized wasn’t simply that everyone gets sick (anyone who has lived within the last 6,000 years is fully aware of our mortal condition). But I realized that because that is the unfortunate reality everyone faces, I shouldn’t be surprised when it comes around. I really ought to be surprised when I am not sick! Our planet is subject to sickness and death, why should I expect anything different?

Unless of course there is another reality in the mix. And indeed there must be, for at the same time we are subject to calamity, we are also the objects of a myriad of blessings. This coexistent reality must be contrary to the natural way of the world. It must be unnatural. Unwarranted. It must be grace. And it is because of grace that we can move forward each day with confidence, for the grace we receive today is evidence and assurance that there is something better now and for eternity.

Or, to put it another way,

“The sufferings we are going through now are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us in the future. The creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed; for the creation was made subject to frustration because of the one who subjected it. But it was given a reliable hope that it too would be set free from its bondage to decay and would enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God’s children will have— that is, to have our whole bodies redeemed and set free. (Rom 8).

Each blessing received is evidence that God is working out His plan to redeem and restore us, and it gives me hope and energy to move forward each day knowing that God will soon finish His great and mysterious work of salvation and end this season of sickness once and for all.

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