I'm in my easy chair, where I've spent most of the past five days with a run of vertigo, likely due to a bug. Because this dizziness is mostly what's on my mind, I've been seeking God's grace to find ways to sanctify this slight suffering. Here are some lessons He's teaching me.
- We are fearfully and wonderfully made. I am blessed to have a Christian doctor who took the time to explain to me the intricate workings of the inner ear and how balance works and how our brains synchronize so many things all at once. Of course it's easy to be frustrated when it doesn't work well (and I am frustrated!), but the doctor's words were a needed reminder of a bigger picture.
- The church doesn't need me as much as I think they do. As I sat in my bedroom while two worship services proceeded without me and my sermons, I had to admit that I wasn't as needed as I often think. God raised up gifted leaders and teachers to take my place on a minute's notice, the congregations were well-fed and encouraged, and I was reminded that being a pastor is a great privilege but one that should entitle me to more humility than pride.
- My sympathy should be deeper. A friend in our congregation had vertigo a little while ago. His was far worse than mine. In thinking back to my interactions with him, I found myself saddened by how little depth my concern and empathy had. I'm sure he wouldn't say that, but I will. I try to be a good pastor and give comfort and sympathy to the hurting. But my sympathy could be, should be, deeper than it is. And I shouldn't have to physically suffer something to feel deeply for those physically suffering. But God gives grace to the suffering and the comforter.
- Our pastoral care for caregivers may need deepening as well. To be present yet unhelpful while my wife manages the home, teaches the kids, and cares for a sick husband is a hard blessing. It's hard because it makes me regret illness all the more. Yet it's a blessing as a reminder of her servant heart and skillful care for those in her little flock. In most congregations there's at least one person who is in the position of being a full-time caregiver to an ailing or elderly relative. Because this incredibly difficult calling often seems interminable, we can forget to care for those caregivers, forgetting to lift their hands in prayer and service.
- Weakness, not strength, is far more qualifying in God's plan and providence. Sunday morning, I landed on this sermon from Jared Wilson on 1 Peter 5:10-11 and how suffering drives us, especially pastors, to find our comfort, justification and hope in Christ alone. God's plan, Wilson emphasizes, includes much suffering while ours rarely does. In God's economy, a sick week or two out of the office doesn't disqualify me from ministry, but probably makes me more qualified and able to minister God's grace to others.
That's all I've got. For now.