Psalm 31:14-15a, But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand…
Trusting God isn’t always easy, especially when we’re in ill health. When a loved one is suffering from cancer, it is easy to recite this psalm to them, but it’s not as easy for them to believe in those words. We often identify with David’s distress and sorrow in the psalms, but we hardly ever identify with the faith and trust he had in his God, who is the same God today. With him, we say, “For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away” (Psalm 31:10). But we seldom say with him in light of our suffering:
“Oh, how abundant is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind! …Love the LORD, all you His saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 31:19, 23-24)
When affliction turns on us or our loved ones, let us not wallow in our sorrow and despair. God promises deliverance for those who take refuge in Him. This does not mean He will absolutely heal our illness or magically make our depression go away, although He can choose to work in those ways, but it does mean we can find comfort and solace in Him. The heretic Joel Osteen would say to “declare your victory” and “proclaim positivity over your life.” What he fails to acknowledge is the reality of suffering not only as a result of the Fall of Man, but especially as the result of being a Christian. Jesus, for example, guaranteed we would have tribulation, but gives us encouragement that He has overcome the world, encouraging us even further to look forward to the final resurrection (see John 16:33). Suffering is a normal—and arguably necessary—part of the Christian life.
Even if we are deathly ill, we can still find refuge in God and trust Him with our lives because He has redeemed us in Jesus Christ our Lord. When we have Jesus, we have nothing to fear. We know this because of Jesus’ words: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28-30). This is one place where Jesus testifies to His unity with God while also maintaining His distinction from the Father, and He says no one can snatch us out of His hands. Yes, it is okay to be distraught when we are ill and fear for our life, but may our faith and trust in Jesus overshadow our distress.
In his suffering, Paul said he boasts in his weaknesses because Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When we are weak, it is an opportunity for Christ’s power to be shown. This doesn’t mean a miracle is guaranteed to happen just by simply thinking positively about it, as Christian Scientists would purport. Christ can certainly do those things, but He often chooses to show His power through feeble, physical means, such as medicine. (Most especially, He shows His power of forgiveness in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and His power of regeneration in the waters and word of Baptism.) When I am sick, for example, I trust in the ability that God has given our doctors to cure me through medicine. God is ever active and present in His creation, in which He uses both people and His creation to care for His people. One of these ways is doctors in hospitals, and chemists who have developed safe medicine.
Jesus is with us in this life and He promises to bring us into the next. Because of His faithfulness to sacrifice Himself on the Cross, He has redeemed us. Faithful to this promise, we can commend our spirits to Him, for He will also remain faithful to the promise of eternal life. We are in God’s hands, and not a single thing we suffer can snatch us out of His security.