Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't Waste Your Arthritis (Part 1)

On February 15, 2006, John Piper wrote, on the eve of his surgery for prostate cancer, the marvelous article Don't Waste Your Cancer. This is a definite must-read for Christians, healthy or ill.

While I have neither the wisdom, godliness nor eloquence of Dr. Piper, I still wish to make my own tiny contribution. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis. Although it is not a fatal condition, like cancer can be, it is a progressive and chronic disease that comes with its own blessings and challenges.

Here are the first 4 of Dr. Piper's 10 points with arthritis substituted for cancer. My own comments follow each point:

1. You will waste your arthritis if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

What a glorious truth this is! Not just permitted by God, but designed, ordained by our loving Father. It's not because Satan is playing with us, or just by accident, or just "one of those things." The promise of our Sovereign is that "...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

2. You will waste your arthritis if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

A gift! A good gift! So, if I'm having a bad morning, or feeling stiff in the evening, or sick from the medication, all of those are purposeful events, good gifts, sent by my Father! Praise God!

Few things are more frustrating than purposeless suffering. But all of these times are full of purpose, full of significance, full of good!

3. You will waste your arthritis if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

An excellent point, and a somewhat subtle one. Taking comfort in odds is looking away from God. There are no "odds" for Christians. No "probability". No "likelihood".

Far better than that, we have the definitive actions of an omnipotent Sovereign, a loving Father who already paid the ultimate price (the life of his Son) to be able to bless us at all! And who will not hesitate to pour out on us all blessings according to his good will and wisdom.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
This point is double-edged: not only do we not seek hope in odds, but we also refuse despair that odds might bring. There are some depressing statistics for those with inflammatory arthritis. But those don't apply to the sons and daughters of God. For us, we will receive only what our Father has graciously granted us.

4. You will waste your arthritis if you refuse to think about death.

This point takes a slightly different cast in the light of a non-fatal but chronic condition. In addition to death, we are driven to think about the fact that our bodies are not built to last forever. But one day, they will be.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:20-21)

It's not easy to lose physical abilities, to grow weaker, to put up with more pain. But we can praise God that this is only for a season! Even aging is only for a season. Aging is temporary! One day, even our bodies will be restored, glorified, forever!
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor 15:51-53)
Don't waste your arthritis! Let it wean you from this world, and equip you with greater longing to that final resurrection day, when we shall be with God forever!