I just came back from visiting an old friend in hospital. He is in a coma. Six years my senior, I first met him when I was 15. He was an advisor in the church youth fellowship. He was always smiling, friendly, and approachable. Whenever I had difficulties I would seek him out. He would listen and pray and give good advice. I always felt better after talking to him.
I met him after church service a few months ago. We chatted briefly but with the ease of friends who had known each other for more than 4 decades. It came as a shock when his daughter messaged a few weeks ago to ask for prayer because her dad was very ill. You hear the words — septicaemia, diarrhoea, underlying diabetes, kidney failure, stroke, coma — and they all added up to bad news.
This has been a tough week where sickness and friends are concerned. I received news that a pastor, a good friend, had Stage 2 nose cancer. Than I got an email from one of my past students — he had prostate cancer and asked for prayer. Then there was the news that the son of a pastor friend had passed away after a brave battle against cancer. It was that kind of week.
What should be our response in the face of illness? We must pray for healing of course. We are commanded to do so (James 5:14–15) with the promise of God’s intervention. And we have all witnessed miracles. But we know that God does not always intervene in ways we understand and some succumb to their illness.
I believe that the Lord wants to heal us in every area of our lives. But I also believe that in God’s timetable, complete healing will only be experienced in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then will “There . . .be no more death or mourning or crying or pain . . .” (Revelation 21:4 NIV). In the meantime, we experience foretastes, first fruits and samples of God’s eventual and complete healing. Together with a fallen creation we wait patiently for that complete renewal (Romans 8:18–25).
In the face of sickness we are to pray for healing. Miracles only God can do. But we can trust. And we can care. And we will. At the hospital, I talked to my friend, read Psalm 121, and prayed for him. I don’t know if he heard. I know God did.