I find myself humming an old hymn refrain quite often these days – “It is well . . . it is well. With my soul . . . with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.” It is, to put in liturgical terms, a “call and response.” For me, it is a questioning of how I am doing. I ask my self, “is my emotional/psychological conditional okay?” And I answer myself, “status quo, as good as it’s going to get. And then I consider the question from a spiritual perspective, “how is my spiritual condition?” And I can answer, “Spiritually, I am doing just fine.”
And that is saying a great deal. Since the beginning of the year my health has been declining. And when I became unemployed, it took a quicker nose dive. I have come to realize that or so long I was forcing myself, day in and day out, to get up and get going. I didn’t have to time be sick and so was forcing my body to perform. But when the lull came, my health fell further apart. That was hard to accept.It’s kind of sad, I think, not to realize how ill you are. Or more exactly, to not have enough insight into one’s self to realize you not well. For a person who tries to be insightful about myself, and about others, that is a painful admission.
And lately I have been re-visiting the question of Divine healing. Or more precisely, why I have not been “storming” heaven’s gates with prayers for myself for healing. Heaven knows, I have been praying for others. And I hear from others that they have been praying for me. And while I appreciate their thoughts and prayers, I have never “coveted” for myself Divine healing. Even way back, when I was diagnosed with diabetes and the first of a string of autoimmune diseases (Meniere’s) I didn’t ask the Lord for total healing. I would ask for strength for the event or occasion, asking the Lord to make me well enough to do this or that. I would ask and plead for enough health to get through certain times of my life. But I don’t ever remember asking for the Lord to take away my ailments. Because, gentle reader, getting sick never really shook my faith.
Sure, I asked why me, and how I was going to do what I felt I was called to do. How I was going to be able to cope with all that was in my life. I asked the Lord how I could get so sick when I felt there was so much I was called by God to do. And asking what I should do if the strength and ability to do certain tasks was not there. But my faith in the Lord was never shaken, but in fact deepened.
Lately I have tumbled that question around in my brain, and have thought on it for some time; and basically waiting for an answer. The answer came to me as I was giving solace to a friend who was also going with a rough time coping with her autoimmune issues. She too has some faith questions. As I replied to her, it clarified the question in my mind – why I have never in a deep and petitioning way asked for healing. It is because I can, actually, do more good for people when I am in the midst of my own health issues. And that is kind of revolutionary in a way. Let me explain.
One of the firm tenets of doing spiritual and faith counseling is that one has to be on firm ground. During my years at seminary I voluntary withdrew from a class because it had become clear I was not in a good and right place to do the practicum that the class required. So I withdrew and waited a year. It was good to wait, and when I took the class again I was much more ready to complete it. My professor actually commended me on my decision. The class was on spiritual direction; interestingly enough, a fellow seminary student asked me to counsel with her soon after I withdrew from the class; and so we did, and essentially I was doing with one person what I would have been doing with several people. The Lord opened up another door and give me a foothold for the year I waited to do the class and practicum. And the year of counseling depending just on the Lord’s guidance prepared me for taking the class the following year. But, I digress.
My point is, to do spiritual counseling you need to be in a “good” place in as far as your own condition. But here I am, speaking out of a very “shaky” place to people who are equally “shaky”. It is that exact “shaky” place of ill health and uncertainty, though, that makes me qualified to speak to others and support them in the journey I am also on. It may be contrary to the usual tenets of spiritual counseling; but when one is deathly ill, it is the voice of experience that comes through clearer than the well-meaning but “chirpy” voice of health.
So, I do not ask for healing on my behalf. In a way regaining the health I lose would be like turning away from the people who I have this disease in common with. Do I think that the Lord gave me this illness so that I could be a more relevant voice for other suffers? No, not at all. Do I think healing is being withheld from me by the Lord? Again, no, not at all. Would I forgo and turn down treatment? For a final time, no, I would not and have not. What I do believe and place my faith in is that from the consequences of this disease a ministry has formed for me. Where that ministry will go, I do not know. But I will continue on the path that is before me.
Jesus told Peter three times, “feed my sheep”, and Peter did so. The people I share this illness and disease with are not less the Lord’s sheep than anyone with full health. And so if I can share and commiserate with my fellow sufferers, I will do so, and willingly. Let me be numbered with them rather than with those who have good and firm health. I have a good idea what these “sheep” of the Lord’s need, and I am grateful and humble that I am called on to provide it.
From uncertainty to acceptance. From strength to weakness. The first is certainly the way of the Lord. The second is no less so. Shalom!