14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
I looked down at this verse as we studied the last chapter of James in Bible study and as I looked at verse 14 and 15, underlined many years ago, the words “13 years” echoed in my head. It’s been 13 years that I have been chronically ill. 13 years and I would be lying to say I had never wrestled with this verse.
Where could I even begin, with such a verse that held so much in it. As I sat there and once again examined this verse, the temptation that is always there, that nagging Satan wants all of us to give into, that belief that God doesn’t hear our prayers or see our tears, was right there in front of me, waiting for me to take hold of that lie. But just as it would have been a lie to say I’d never wrestled with that verse, it would have been just as much a lie to say that God hadn’t heard the multitude of prayers that have been prayed fervently every year for my health.
Because the truth is, yes, I’m still sick and my body fails me daily. I go to bed at night and wake up every morning unsure my body can handle even the simplest daily tasks, but that isn’t the end of my story. You see, daily God is present in my life. Daily, I must rely on Him to see me through simple things so many people take for granted. Things I have the privilege to be unable to take for granted.
Just previously, in chapter 4, James says:
13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’
Daily, God has allowed me to be in a place where I can’t “boast” about tomorrow, as most days I don’t even know if I will have the next 60 minutes or if my blood pressure will drop and I will have to go to bed so I don’t faint. In my imperfection, I grumble, I’m fearful and I’m often less than joyful about this, but the truth is, God has me just where He wants me and is holding me in His hand every minute of the day, just as He is holding you.
Because of this sickness, my body is unwell. Because of this sickness, my spirit and soul are healthy and thriving, having been witness for the past 13 years to the mercy and strength God has given me and my family, through this illness. It’s been 13 years and although I haven’t seen full healing of my body, through the years tiny steps have turned into big strides. While I could look on and be discouraged that I am still sick and that in the middle of those 13 years my twin sister also got sick, I’ve chosen to be joyful and in my joy I see God’s fingerprints all over my life and that of my family, often not in spite of my illness, but because of it.
All the way back in chapter 1, James gets it right when he says
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
While the trial of sickness is unpleasant and often very painful, when we refuse to believe Satan’s lies, God can use it to bring about so much fullness in our lives, as He molds us when we are at our weakest. Perhaps all we can see is sickness, yet all the while God is taking us in His hands, turning our hearts towards His and making our unwell souls, well in Him.
My body still fails me, but in my faith I have a hope rooted in a mighty God who has promised me in His word that I will be healed. I may not know the day or the year, but as I persevere, I find joy in my sickness and draw nearer to God because of it. I know God has great plans for me and that He will use this trial of mine in great ways and when He’s done using it in my life and the life of others, I will be free and able to run and not grow weary.
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.