Scriptural Comfort for Battles with Illness

One of the benefits of memorizing extended portions of Scripture comes when a verse you’ve read a million times before somehow stands out in a unique way during a process of diligent review. I experienced this one day while going over First Timothy 5 in my mind. Verse 23 jumped out at me. 

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (emphasis added).

It struck me. Timothy, a pastor and highly regarded servant of Christ (see Phil. 2:19-24), battled illness. A lot. He had stomach problems and he had not just occasional, but frequent ailments. So much so Paul had to prescribe a little sanctified wine drinking for his health. 

And he’s not alone in the record of the New Testament. Epaproditus was sick and nearly died while visiting Paul in prison (Phil. 2:27). Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20). Paul reminded the Galatians of his illness that somehow occasioned his preaching of the gospel among them (Gal. 4:13). Some think his thorn in the flesh in 2 Cor. 12:7 involved a physical malady like blindness.

Texts like this are a great mercy to me, given my personal experience. Through much of my adult life I struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It would sideline me from ministry sick in bed for weeks when it hit me with its worst. I lost my first church over the prolonged nature of the illness.

This year I passed the sixteen year mark since finishing treatment for head and neck cancer. The year 2005 saw me get sick nearly to the point of death. But as with Epaphroditus, God had mercy on me and spared me. Ten years after that brush with the grave, my jaw failed—a consequence of radiation therapy. Reconstruction of my mandible required multiple surgeries in a Miami hospital with lengthy recovery time over two years.

Sometimes when you fight disease or sickness chronically you tend to wear down with fears of having too little faith and discouraging thoughts of somehow being out of sync with God. It is true that disobedience can bring sickness (see 1 Cor. 11:30).  But the examples above give me comfort. Saints in the Bible were no strangers to sickness. And I haven’t even touched on the Old Testament examples.

Take courage, ye saints of the weaker constitution. God has His purposes in your unique design. The best of God’s servants have battled illness. Remember at all times His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).