Terminally Ill

“In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill…Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed…Hezekiah wept bitterly…[the LORD] heard [his] prayer [and saw] his tears…[the LORD added fifteen years to his life]…Lord, I am oppressed; support me” (Isaiah 38.1-14, selected).

Death lost its sting when Jesus died and rose from the grave. When I was very sick, I welcomed death and the prospect of Heaven along with my final rescue from sin. But before the onslaught of my illness and the effects of treatment, a deep inner fear settled in and for a season, I was in anguish. I was hard-pressed. What could I do but pray, “Lord, I am oppressed; support me!” 

Hezekiah was still young enough that he wanted additional years to bring reformation and revival to Judah. He loved the LORD and wanted to lead His people. The LORD restored his health and let the king live. God’s love delivered him from the grave. God’s mercy put the king’s sins away so that he could praise God and hope in His faithfulness. Only the living are able to thank God for His faithfulness and make that faithfulness known to others. To reflect God’s character and work in our lives is our great and high purpose for continuing to live. 

I live. I am healthy. But for what reason? For what purpose? Is my greatest concern to be healthy and prosperous in this life? This was the driving concern of the evil generation that lived in Noah’s day. It is the driving concern of most in the world today. God has taken away my sin through the death of Christ. God has given me an eternal quality of life thanks to the resurrection of Christ. My greatest need is not health or prosperity. My greatest need is a right standing before my Creator. I have this and so much more. I have privileges and a position as a firstborn son before the Father. I must live life reflecting such a standing. 

When I faced the prospect of terminal illness, it was an affliction God used to produce endurance, character, and finally hope. This hope does not disappoint because God’s love was poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit given to me. While God has cast my sins behind His back, those sins are always before me. I remember what I have done and the inward shame and guilt it caused. Every time I disappoint God with what seems to be a fruitless day, He never disappoints me. It is because of this that I all the more value God’s mercy and seek to humble myself before Him. The grace and mercy of God are exceedingly abundant in my life. I realize this to a greater degree the longer I live.

Father, help me to live for the benefit of others and the glory of Your name. Revive within me that deep desire to reflect your conduct and character to the world around me. May I never lose sight of how destructive my sin has been. At the same time, send hope. Strengthen me to live life for the glory of Your name rather than to consume years You give me for my own temporally grounded desires. All of us are terminally ill. Some of us know it. Others don’t. My sin is always before me. I give it to You once again. Cleanse me. Make me clean. Radiate hope through me so that others might be eternally secure.

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