‘As long as we have our health…’

24 July 2021

One of the cause of fear in each era- perhaps the greatest?- is sickness. Even though it’s considered a given that it’ll visit us at some time in our life (and not only once) and even though it’s understood to be the result of the corruption of sin, we’re still unhappy when it comes. It produces turmoil and, not infrequently, panic. The first wish you hear from people, whether it’s timely or untimely, is ‘As long as we have our health. That’s all that really matters…’.

Christ came to abolish the corruption of sin and, therefore, sickness, but it won’t be finally eliminated until after his second coming. Until then it exists and will continue to do so. Indeed, it’s viewed by the faithful as a something to be exploited spiritually as a means of promoting our faith and patience. It’s among the trials we’re subjected to in our life and, with the vision of faith, those Christians who have advanced most, the saints, sometimes reach the point of rejoicing at its existence. ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds’ (James 1, 2). This is because, if you remove trials, no-one will be saved. Trials lead to spiritual perfection.

Saint Paul underwent such a trial in the furnace of sickness. His pain and travail were such that this great apostle couldn’t stand it and turned to Christ. He said that he asked the Lord three times to release him from his ordeal. And the Lord answered: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. Because my strength is perfected in weakness’. As if the eyes of God’s servant had been opened, he declared: ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.’ And then he comes to the following conclusion, strange and absurd though it is for people in the world; ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’.