On Sickness and Loss

“…the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up…” – James 5:15

Often, devotionals are to provide inspiration and encouragement. They can function as a type of spiritual or emotional pick-me-up.

But occasionally, all that comes from the depths is a lament. Today's devo falls in that category.

There are a few experiences that are common to almost all people. Each of us understands the feeling of hunger. Most of us know how love or rejection feels. The exhilaration of a win, the anxiety from difficulty—these are all near-universal understandings.

One such common experience is the tragedy of losing a loved one. Taking the time to briefly discuss such a thing in a 300-400 word devotional might seem a weak offering considering how some people process such grief and loss for the duration of their lives. But it is because the experience is so common that the more discussion to be had, the better.

This week, I lost a cousin who battled with cancer. The previous month, I lost two dear friends within a day of each other. The month before that, I said goodbye to a different cousin. It’s safe to say that this devo comes at a time when I have had to endure a more than average amount of grief and sorrow in such a short timeframe.

And yet, I am stable. While, sad, I am not compromised. While hurting, I am not disabled. I consider those who were closest to the ones who passed, and their grief far surpasses my own. Some will be significantly impacted from these deaths for many years to come.

And there are so many responses to the loss of loved ones. Some celebrate the end of physical pain. Some ask why some people are taken from us too early. Others seek God for healing sick loved ones only to have those prayers unanswered. Some are angry, some are confused, a few are relieved, most are sad.

And all of this flies through my mind as I try to process the gravity of my cousin’s passing. As one who has devoted himself to following Jesus—a man who healed so many and who commanded us to pray for it—there are still many questions in my mind that remain unanswered. James 5:14-16 sounds like a recipe for healing amongst believers. Considering the number of times such prayers are offered up and do not produce the results seemingly promised, one wonders why such text was given to us in the first place.

But we all know that it is appointed once for each person to die. As believers, we know that sickness remains in a fallen world. We also know that everyone that Jesus healed on this earth eventually died.

So, how we deal with praying for healing has to be tempered in some way with the knowledge that everyone dies. And while I don’t understand why God would command me to pray for my cousin’s healing only to take her from this earth a week later, I do know with certainty that I worship an all-powerful and all-good God. I might not understand it all, but it is in the best of hands.

Pastor Scott