Where Rest & Suffering Collide

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I’ve been very sick.

These days, you can probably relate: weeks that seem eternal. Lying down, hoping for relief, only to find the symptoms follow you to bed. Working up your courage to swallow your next dose of medication. Giving yourself a pep talk before getting off the couch to refill your glass of juice. Dreading tasks you once found easy, like driving in your own car. Cancelling non-refundable plans. Once again, telling someone no. For some people with chronic illnesses, this description covers all of life. For me, 10 weeks.

In my experience, physical limitations reveal your true friends. Freshman year of college, I sprained my ankle during a group event at a trampoline park. The flesh swelled to the size of a grapefruit. You can still see the lumpy scar tissue underneath the skin, 11 years later. Two girls from my stairwell stopped jumping to sit beside me while bags of ice soothed my purple foot. I knew, even then: friend material. Sure enough, both girls became dorm-mates in subsequent years, one a lifelong friend.

Physical limitations reveal your true friends.

This time, people at work surprised me the most. Aunties driving hours to carry food from the fridge to the couch, I appreciated but could have anticipated. I’ve known about their generosity for a while. Coworkers who take over my responsibilities so I can go home early; bosses who encourage me to work remotely even when my productivity suffers; those I didn’t foresee. Thanks to their kindness, I continued to earn a full-time salary while taking naps during the workday.

Daniel Swanson Photography

During illness, the world shrinks.

Small concerns, like how long you kept down your last dose of antibiotics, fill your brain. Your own body requires so much attention that other matters, like social engagements or chores around the house, fade into the background. For me, unloading the dishwasher and feeding the dog became causes for celebration. Problems that once consumed my thoughts, like relational conflicts or unmet goals, seemed less important in the face another trip to the bathroom. For once, the present moment took precedence.

Small gestures mattered more, too. My coworker leaving a care package with mouthwash and ginger cookies on my desk. My husband bringing a cold washcloth for my hot forehead. I remember Jesus telling His followers that caring for people’s most basic needs — visiting them in jail, providing food or clothing — came closest to His heart. He took those sacrifices personally. I hope this experience stays fresh enough in my memory that I remember to return some of the favors so generously offered to me.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40, NIV

Sometimes, a period of weakness reconnects us with reality. Even for a person with chronic anxiety, the immediate needs of the present can temporarily push aside any worries about the future or stressors from the past. Under ordinary circumstances, I spend very little emotional energy on the here-and-now, instead recalling old troubles or imagining new ones. With no other option but to rest, I found myself following Jesus’s advice for the first time: sufficient for today is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34, ESV).

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34, ESV

Our Father never intended for us to live most of our lives inside the confines of our thoughts and feelings. He wanted Adam and Eve to worship Him with their hands, tending His garden. He asked Noah to spend forty days in an enclosed space with wild animals. He expected Mary to grow a wiggling human in her abdomen for nine months. God’s people live in the real world. As much as I’ve hated these past ten weeks, I’m hoping I can carry a little of that new perspective with me. Notice what’s happening now!


The Reluctant Bride

Daniel Swanson Photography

4 Replies to “Where Rest & Suffering Collide”

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