As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at our response when we encounter disease and disillusionment. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).
The Discipline of Disease
Sometimes we take our health for granted. We fail to be grateful, and then when disease strikes, we do not know how to handle it. But if we properly prepare, then when we come to the discipline of disease, we may face it with greater faith and strength that will sustain us. But even then, we may be perplexed, asking is this illness the result of my sin because ….
Sickness May Be the Result of One’s Own Sin
As a case in point, the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda was told by Jesus “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Also, we find that Miriam became leprous because she criticized Moses for marrying a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1, 10). A third example from Scripture is Gehazi and his sin of deceit in receiving Naaman’s reward, that had already been declined my his master, Elisha (2Kings 5:27). The punishment for that deceit was spelled out by Elisha, “Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.”
Today we see this when one who has been an alcoholic most of his life, dies from liver disease. Or perhaps we know of those who have lived an immoral life and the die of aids, or some other sexually transmitted disease.
Not Necessarily, However Is Our Sickness the Result of Our Sin – It May Be “For the Glory of God”
Much injustice and grief has been caused “because of wrong judgment on the part of the friends or critics of the sick” (Edman, p. 191). The disciples were guilty of such improper judgment of the man born blind. When they asked Jesus, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus responded, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:2-3). Jesus’ dealings with Lazarus is another example. “But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea” (John 11:4-7).
The Sickness We Suffer May Be from the Enemy
Job’s suffering was hard for him to understand and sometimes it’s hard for us to understand God allowing him to be tried by Satan (Job 2:6). And Satan began immediately, and so intense was his suffering that even his 3 friends sat speechless. “So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot…. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” Job 2:7, 13)
The Demon-Possessed Man in the region of the Gerasenes was troubled by many evil spirits taking over his body and forcing him to be “homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town” (Luke 8:26-39). The woman that Jesus encountered in the Synagogue on the Sabbath: “One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight” (Luke 13:20-11). Notice also His justification for healing her on the Sabbath, “But the Lord replied, ‘You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?’” (Luke 13:15-16)
And now let us turn our attention to …
The Discipline of Disillusionment (Luke 24:19-21)
The account in Luke 24 is interesting as it relates to our second point. Notice the disillusionment expressed by the words, “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”
We Had No Assurance That the Results of Our Obedience Would be Happy – Nor Did the Disciples
“They had left fishing net and counting table, father and mother, household and goods to follow One Who had called with ineffable tenderness, Who spoke as none other with authority and yet with gentleness, Who fed the hungry and stilled the sea, Who announced a kingdom and its principles, Who provided for every need…. But now He was dead, dead, and buried, three days ago! Their Messiah, dead; of course they were disillusioned” (Edman, pp. 197-198).
And we were not promised that all would be perfect after becoming a Christian. Some have felt the personal experience of the possibility mentioned by Jesus when He said, “I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:35-36).
Disillusioned With Jesus. Perhaps we have even become disillusioned with Jesus. When we expected Him to be there for us, we did not feel His presence. He let us down. “It seemed that He had failed us, forsaken us forever. Our hears said mutely, ‘We trusted it had been He’” (Edman, p. 198)
Disillusioned With Others. We sometimes become disillusioned with others. We were attracted to form friendships with them because of their love, laughter, devotion, thoughtfulness. We found protection and comfort and peace in their presence. But then things changed. “Then came the forgetting, the failure, the forsaking….. Because they were human they were subject to frailty, even with the best of intentions; and because we are human, we suffered because of their failure. Without them life had neither meaning nor motivation, love nor laughter. We were disillusioned” (Edman, pp. 198-199)
The First Phase of Disillusionment. Edman says, “To face fully the fearful fact of utter loss is the first phase of the discipline of disillusionment” (p. 199).
Abraham learned this discipline on the slopes and summit of Moriah (Genesis 22:2)
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
Ruth learned it in the land of Moab (Ruth 1:16)
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
The disciples learned it at the Mount called Calvary (Luke 24:19-21).
“We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.”
The Second Phase of Disillusionment. Edman says, “To find that God’s hard word is not His last word, that ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psalms 30:5) is the second phase of the discipline of disillusionment” (Edman, p. 200).
For Abraham on Moriah there was not only the restoration of Isaac, but also the promise (Genesis 22:16-18)
”Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
“For Ruth there was not only Boaz, little Obed, and a home in Bethlehem, but also beyond them, David and the Bethlehem Bab, the Saviour Himself after His humanity” (Edman, p.200).
“For the disciples there was not only the exposition of the Word on the way to Emmaus so that their hearts burned with them (Luke 24:27, 32), there was also the opening of their eyes to see in reality it was the Lord Himself that walked with them, and broke bread in their home” (Edman, p. 201).
“And for us, in our despair and disillusionment, what provision does He make? Restoration of lost hope and love ones like Isaac, with larger promises and deeper acquaintance with Jehovah-jireh, the Lord Who provides; perhaps new blessings, undreamed in our night of sorrow, like Boaz and Obed and the Babe of Bethlehem; perhaps the burning of heart because His Word and the breaking of bread with day by day in life’s pilgrimage” (Edman, p. 201)
“Disease is indeed a hard disciplinarian; and only those under its dominion can know the depths of its discipline. The frailty and futility of it all , the weariness and painfulness, the tears and testings, the long days and longer nights, can cast us into deep gloom, or the can cause us to know the word of the Lord, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2Corinthians 12:9) (Edman, p. 194).
“Disillusionment, designed by the Most High for our good, leads to delight, indescribable and enduring. It is a searching discipline of the soul. It leads to sorrow, suffering, silence and solitude, to the apparently utter loss of the Cross; but beyond that Cross it leads to everlasting gain and good, in time and in eternity. Therefore, let us follow Him fearlessly, obediently, trustingly, until disillusionment is dissolved by delight” (Edman, p. 201).
Disease and Disillusionment … two important disciplines for the child of God to be prepared for, if and when the situation calls for.
Thanks for reading.
(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 189 – 201)