...they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them"
I purposefully titled this "In Sickness or in Health" because I believe it reminds us of a vow that had been made to us when God made a covenant with humanity.
It's not a fancy phrase, and in fact it's quite common. These five simple words were part of a larger promised my wife and I made to each other on our wedding day. While we haven't abused the privilege of what these words stand for, we have put them to good use, knowing and believing that we would be there for each other in good times as well as bad.
At the end of last year I came down with a mild case of flu. And for three days I could barely manage to get out of bed. The worst part was it hit me the day before her birthday. (Thankfully I had the presents wrapped and three wonderful kids to pick up the slack in my absence.)
While I was knocked out, she made me soup, made sure I had plenty of water, and apparently checked in from time to time to make sure I was still breathing. Thankfully I was. And eventually I came through the other side, weak but alive.
About five days later she gets sick. And, to make a long story short, she receives the standard protocol of soup, water, sleep. And from there the viral strain made it's way down the family tree. Each flu a little less severe than the infected person before them. This went on for about a month.
I'm embarrassed to admit, I don't recall praying for relief. One might think it would be the first thing a minister might do. But for some reason it wasn't. And in looking back I continue to wonder why? Did I believe my sickness was not good enough for God to care for? Did I need to pray, or could I take care it myself, with the help and care of my spouse? Does the flu or a fever need God's divine intervention? Did I doubt God would even listen to my request for something so small as a fever and some chills?
Then I read Mark's gospel story for this week's sermon. It's about Jesus healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law. She has a fever, and was so weak that she couldn't get out of bed or do anything. Okay, I'm not a doctor but sounds like the flu. It might not warrant much concern to my wife, but to the disciples it was a pretty big deal.
One doesn't have to be a doctor to know that catching the lightest strain of influenza in first century Palestine was much more lethal than today the stains that we are fighting today. It seems Jesus agrees. He goes into her bedroom and touches her with his hand. With no great dramatic monologue or thematic music or fanfare to mark this as a special occasion, this nameless woman rises up and immediately the fever leaves her. The power of Jesus; in sickness or in health.
There is so much to this story that I love. The simplest one is the Disciples did not think twice about asking Jesus to heal this woman. They did not seem to think that a problem was too small or insignificant for God’s attention. And yet, praying for myself seemed to be the last thing on my mind. After all, my prayer list is already long enough.
Why should I bother God with something trivial when there are kids dying from malnutrition or dehydration? Certainly God has something better to do then to enter into my sickness to heal me. Isn't that why we Theraflu? Certainly there are bigger things in life that need God’s attention and my little problem isn’t one of them!
Have you ever felt that your problem is just not worthy of God’s great power?
The gospels record story after story that clearly demonstrate that Jesus believes there are no problems "too small" or "too big" for God to handle. And for good reason. The simplest problems, if not taken care of, can become major headaches. God knows this, and sent Jesus to us to heal us of ALL our infirmities; diseases, demons, addictions, anxieties, fears, worries, etc.
Whether we are healthy or sick Jesus is there for us, ready to meet us where we are, to carry our burdens, and to heal our wounds, no matter how big or small. All we have to do is "ask and it shall be given unto you" (Mt. 7:7). Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mk. 11:24). His love is a one-size fits all problems kind of love. One dose of it, and you're good to go!
I'm not sure everyone will see this as "faith" healing, but in healing our pains and sufferings, Jesus is also healing and restoring our faith. And that is important because when our faith is healthy, we are able to get up and put it to work, serving others as Peter's mother-in-law taught us to do.
It's hard to answer our call if we can't get out of bed to do it.
Whatever is stopping you from doing the will of God, pray to God for strength and relief. Whatever is ailing you, possessing you, scaring you, or terrorizing you, pray to God for help that you will overcome the difficulties, pain and suffering. Whatever is keeping you from being an answered prayer in the world for someone, remember the words of Jesus who said:
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." - John 15:7