“But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you, and though my physical condition put you to the test, you did not despise or reject me.”
Weakness. Despised by our culture and not something to be proud of. Yet it was physical infirmity that first propelled Paul to share the Gospel with the Galatians. Paul’s weakness is not known – perhaps the recent stoning he was subjected to, or a sickness of some sort. Either way, it was an uncomfortable distraction that God used. God had chosen to use weak vessels before. He even came as an infant Himself – the most fragile state of humanity, in a crude rustic dwelling. Why? It does not make sense to our sophisticated culture or ways that God, Who is Almighty God and Creator, would allow Himself to be taken care of by weak humans.
But the wisdom of God confounds our supposed insight and ways. It seems to me that Paul could have done even more for the kingdom of God if he were physically well, but then sometimes when we operate in our own strength we do not see our need of God and take for granted the health we do have. Sickness humbles you and that is a gift in disguise. Oh, I know, I sound so pious saying it is a gift – surely I cannot mean it. But it is, in fact, in the midst of some of the most humbling health challenges that I have felt the closest to God. Now that makes it all worth it. Add to that being able to help another soul struggling along because you have been there – incomparable to having a perfect pain-free life.
Oh, sure, it hurts, and sometimes I wonder why. But the struggle is part of living – the highs and lows, the joys, triumphs and sorrows. Where would I know the comfort of God if it were not for those precious moments of deep pain? Oh, I could wish that I would not have to feel the throbbing sting of impertinent diseases, but I trust my Savior’s hand, and I know that I know He will never let a trial or a pain go unused for my good and His glory. I find myself in a similar situation as Paul. God still births songs and devotions in my heart to share with people, and simultaneously I am battling physical battles, as well. I am not sure if autoimmune diseases were around in Paul’s time, but whatever affliction Paul had, it was significant and it affected him. His illness made sharing the Gospel harder, but it was also a catalyst for his mission and the growth of the church in Galatia.
Why does God allow in sickness, hardship, things which are a stigma in our culture? The rain falls on the good and the bad. Now, I am not calling myself good – God calls righteous those who are covered by the blood of His Son. If unbelievers see the rain falling on Christians, who turn around and praise God while it is raining, doesn’t that provide a beautiful display of God’s grace in the fire? So it’s raining right now, and I am choosing to sing in the rain. My body hurts and it makes it harder to do normal things, but I will praise His Name and look for His deliverance! If you feel like you cannot keep going on, lean harder on Jesus and know that He is able to grant you strength beyond what you could ever imagine. You never know, you might even find yourself doing something crazy like thanking Him for the very thing you despised.
Jehovah Rapha, I thank You that You are my Healer. You have healed me before and I look to You again as my Healer – spiritually and physically. I thank you for this thorn in my flesh and pray that You are honored and glorified in it. Please help those who are hurting and doubting Your goodness when life is challenging. Give them Your hope and joy.