By Bill Fix
I’m not sure the average age where one starts seeing longtime friends and old classmates deal with major health issues, but I’ve recently begun to notice (at age 42). It used to be that when I heard of a peer dying the cause was a suicide or accident, but getting older seems to be changing that. This past week, I saw that an elementary classmate passed away after a six-year battle with cancer. Over the last year, I’ve lost two cousins, and I know of several classmates presently dealing with heart attacks, early onset Parkinson’s, and various other major medical issues.
You may also have friends and family members struggling with health issues that threaten their mortality or have recently lost someone you hold dear. How should we feel, or what can we do when someone we know is in pain?
First, Jesus showed emotion in John 11 when Lazarus had died. He wept, more likely at seeing Mary’s reaction to her brother’s death (11:33-36), and it is certainly meaningful and helpful to grieve with family members and help them through tough times. It doesn’t take special training or great expense to be a friend and show compassion to people. Most of us are not healthcare providers who can diagnose or treat serious illnesses, and none of us today are miracle workers who can remove one’s disability like Peter did. “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). But what did Peter do?
As the lame man then began “walking, leaping, and praising God” (3:8), Peter used that opportunity to teach the gospel to the crowd that gathered and, apparently, to the man who was healed. While the text doesn’t specify much else about the lame man, don’t you believe that he responded to the gospel that day? Don’t you believe that he rejoiced in being able to walk AND in having remission of his sins? I believe illnesses and accidents are opportunities for people to act on their faith—whether in obedience to the gospel or in strengthening an already obedient faith. Either for the one who’s sick or the family and friends who may be present. Let’s seek opportunities in tough times, whether comforting people or sharing the gospel. “Whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another…” (1 Ths. 5:10-11).