Growing Your Faith Through Illness
In part 2 of this series, we are looking at 5 practical things you can do to draw closer to God during your illness. In part 1, Where is God When I am Sick?, we talked about how God does not leave us in our time of need. If you have not read part 1, I encourage you to click on this link to do so.
Illness is a fact of life you can’t avoid. However, what you choose to do in your illness will make a world of difference in the quality of your life. You can choose to respond in a way that allows for growth and maturing or you can respond in the flesh which hinders your spiritual growth. Only you can choose how you will respond.
Suffering will derail many believers because they fall back on reacting in the flesh. I get it. It is hard to stand strong when we are in a prolonged battle. We begin to doubt ourselves and God. This is why illness is a favorite trick of the enemy. If he can get us to focus on our emotions and not on God’s truth, he will have us right where he wants us, downcast and stuck in bondage.
If you have been suffering from an illness and have found yourself reacting in the flesh, don’t throw up your hands in defeat. Keep reading to see how you can implement 5 key strategies to draw closer to God during your illness.
But First, Where Are Your Priorities?
You might not realize it but this is where it begins. Is your day dictated by your biblical priorities? If your priorities are messed up God will do what he needs to do to get your attention. It’s so easy to get things confused when we have demands coming at us from every direction. If this is you, I urge you to re-evaluate things. We need to approach our lifestyle and our illness biblically no matter how we feel.
No matter what you are going through, you are to always turn first to God allowing him to have your time and attention. Your time with God doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning, for a set period of time, or anything else so legalistic.
For me, first thing in the morning is best. For my husband, after work is best. Talk to God about your desire to spend time with him and don’t be surprised or angry when he provides what you ask for. You might suddenly find yourself waking up at 4:30 in the morning instead of 6:30. Or you might find your usual bedtime coming and going and you’re just not tired like you usually are. You’re not awake to watch another TV show. Crack open that Bible and use the time God has given you. If you ask, He will give you away.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
After God, you need to make your spouse a priority. When you got married, you became one with your spouse (Ephesians 5:31). During an illness, we tend to focus on everything else in our life figuring our spouse is an adult and he can take care of himself. But you know what? That isn’t God’s way. God holds your unity with your spouse as a precious priority and you need to do the same. It’s God first, then your spouse.
Next would be your children. When you are ill, especially if you have a chronic illness, it can be difficult not to fall into the trap of ignoring bad behavior, giving in out of guilt, or focusing all of your attention on your child.
For example, maybe you had a long-awaited date night planned but little Suzie doesn’t want you to go and has a full-blown meltdown. You know she has had plenty of attention and is fine but guilt is whispering pretty nasty condemnation in your ear. Do you cancel and spend the evening making little Suzie feel better? It’s possible you haven’t thought of it this way but if your answer to that question is yes then you have been putting your child ahead of your spouse and you’re wrong. It is God first, then your spouse, then your child.
Next is your extended family. Are you ignoring or neglecting their needs because you have gotten caught up in simply getting through your day? How much time you spend in this area is up to you but God says we are not to ignore our extended family. He doesn’t say we are to put our extended family before out immediate family. As much as you love them, your adult brothers or sisters needs shouldn’t be placed ahead of your spouse or children. It’s God first, your spouse next, your children next, then your extended family.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specifically for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
5 Practical Ways to Draw Closer to God during An Illness
1. Dig into the Word Deeper than ever before.
Spend more time in God’s Word than you do reading about your illness. It is smart to learn about your illness and your options but it should never come before your time with God. Why don’t you study healing in the Bible? Don’t focus on your illness as much as getting to know for yourself what God has to say about illness, suffering, and his healing. Let God speak to you as you read and study.
It is so critical that you know for yourself what God says in his book. Don’t ever rely on someone else’s interpretation, mine included. Check everything against the Bible. With this knowledge, you are able to fight the Evil One when he whispers his lies. Remember, he is an expert at taking God’s Word and slightly tweaking it to change its meaning. He won’t hesitate to use God’s Word against you so you must be able to pull out your sword of the Spirit. None of this is possible if you won’t take the time to study God’s truth (his Bible).
“Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
“You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet, you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life.” (This was Jesus speaking in John 5:39)
2. How is your prayer life?
You should be talking to God more than anyone, including your doctor and friends. Fix your thoughts on him. God wants you to draw closer to him in all things and that includes your illness. He sees you. He hears you. He knows how much you cry in your suffering. Go to him in prayer, repent of any sin, and seek comfort from the only one who can give true comfort (read John 5:39 again).
To take your prayers to the next level and use another of God’s mighty weapons, consider adding a time of biblical fasting to your prayers. Fasting is life changing. God welcomes everyone to take their prayers to his alter. If you have never fasted before, you can read my series about it by clicking the link here.
God will always answer a humble and contrite heart. He doesn’t give us spiritual fist bumps for fasting but he will turn and notice the humbling of our spirit when we fast. I don’t know how to explain it except to say that to me, prayer is like lighting a multi-wick, large candle in a very dark tunnel. When adding fasting to my prayers, it is like adding 100 of those candles in that same dark tunnel. When you approach prayer and fasting with a humble heart and focus on God instead of your physical desires, you become more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:12-13)
3. Change your mindset.
Unless you allow God to help you develop a biblical mindset about your health, you will think more in line with the world’s thinking; if it feels good it must be good and of God. If it feels bad, it must be of Satan and must be rebuked. That is wrong, sweet friend. You must line up your thinking with God’s.
I’m not talking positive thinking or mind over matter here. Both are worldly ways of thinking. I am talking lining up your thoughts (and your words) with what God says in the Bible. When you study what God has to say in his Bible about illness and healing, look for his promises, and think about the things you read. If God didn’t say it, refuse to allow your mind to go there. As you read, regularly ask yourself questions like; would what happened to King Hezekiah (or whomever) apply to me, God gives a list of 7 things he hates, am I doing any of those things and have not repented, could God be allowing my illness to get my attention or to test me?
“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
Renewing your mind requires that you focus your mind on God and his ways. That has to start with reading the Bible and praying about what you read. Quit worrying about the “why” and the “how” of your illness. Keep your focus on the “who”. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why we go through something or how God will fix it. Our job isn’t to get obsessed trying to figure it all out. Our job is to stay focused on our “who” (our Savior) and to trust him no matter the outcome.
“So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while these trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
As you study, you will see that not all suffering or illness is bad. God has his reasons for allowing it. Your promise here is that God will work out ALL things for the good. All things mean both good and bad things. We need to remember that it is adversity of any kind that produces godly character (fruit) in our lives, which is vital for all Christians. It’s the end of the journey (“well done, my good and faithful servant!”) we are to be focusing on, not our temporary problems.
Don’t get upset with me here. Temporary to us is not the same as it is to God because we see time differently. We might have been going through something for 22 years. To God, 22 years is the blink of an eye. That is why we must line our thoughts up with God’s thoughts and renew our thinking.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and wont last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we dont look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
4. Praise God regardless of how you feel.
Force yourself to search daily for the joy in your life then thank God for it. You think you can’t possibly find a single thing in your life to be joyful about? Just the fact that you are alive and breathing is enough. Go from there. You can walk…you can talk…you have those who love you…you have health care…etc. This will cultivate a heart that searches for his blessings, large and small.
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a change to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Praise him for who he is and all the amazing things he has done. Don’t praise him for what you might get. Time spent in praise and worship might or might not change your situation. That will happen at the will of our Father. But by the time you are done praising, your spirit WILL be changed. You are showering God with love and adoration, how can it not change you?
Some blessings you won’t see right away but others will be immediately apparent. It doesn’t matter though because you are praising him in faith. You don’t have to praise God out loud and you don’t have to sing to praise him. You can praise him in prayer, dancing, even quietly in your thoughts as you talk to him. Praise and adoration arise from your heart, not your head. When you are going through an illness, spend time praising God from the moment you get up until the moment you lie down.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dacing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)
5. Watch what you say.
Just as important as renewing your mind and guarding your thoughts is to guard your mouth. We know from the book of James that the tongue has incredible power; the power of life or death.
This is another example of God’s principle of reaping and sowing. Words sown into someone’s life can never be taken back once spoken. They can reap a healing of a hurting heart or reap destruction of an already delicate situation. Oddly enough, sometimes we will remember a harsh word spoken to us 30 years ago and it still has the power to hurt like it was said to us today. Words are POWERFUL!
Just as God created the world through his spoken word, he gives us the power to do the same. The thing is, God knows the power of the spoken word. We believe the lies of the enemy and say whatever enters our minds. When we repeat the words from the Deceiver, instead of the truth from our Savior, how could we expect God to bless what is said? He can’t because those lies are birthing death.
“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and keep my lips sealed.” (Psalm 141:3)
We help ourselves speak life and not death by filling our hearts and minds with the Holy Scriptures. We can allow that joy to overflow into our speech through praise and worship (especially when we REALLY don’t feel like thanking God or being very charitable) but our real help comes when we turn to the Holy Spirit and allow him to do his good work in us.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
If you have sowed a seed into God’s rich soil and gone to him about your illness, stop telling everyone how much your body hurts or that nothing has changed with your health. Allow your seed the ability to grow by speaking life (God’s very words) over your illness regardless of what your senses tell you. Maybe your body still hurts but it hurts less today then it did yesterday. Focus on that. Maybe you are still having seizures but maybe they are less intense and less often. Thank God for that.
Keep sowing your seeds by doing the 5 things listed above. Focus on your blessings and thank God for every one of them. Others may not see your blessing but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Keep your focus on God, speak life over your situation, and remember, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)