Having a chronic illness isn’t fun, but it sure helps me to understand the breadth and depth of work that my lifelong sinfulness requires.
You see, before I had a chronic illness, I had this idea that I was “generally healthy.” I realize looking back that it was a lot like the “once saved, always saved,” mentality that can lull a Christian into complacency about their walk with God. If you’re healthy, and you’ve never had the experience of profound illness (or given much thought to it), you may not be paying a great deal of attention to your own health. I sure wasn’t being that observant–that is, until I got sick.
And I don’t look sick, like so many others who suffer from invisible illnesses. I’m very lucky to be in some level of remission at the moment, but there’s never a guarantee that something won’t trigger a massive flare and send me back to my sickbed.
“You don’t look sick, you look great!” is meant to be reassuring, but it just reveals to me how deceived we can be about our own health and the health of others. Looking back, perhaps I was too confident in my own health. I looked okay, so that must have meant I was okay.
But that’s not true for me, or for any of us, really, because we all suffer from chronic sin. My life can look perfectly “okay,” to someone on the outside, but my walk with God can be halfhearted or weak in resolution. Sometimes, as with chronic physical illness, the sin isn’t obvious to others.
I find it helpful for me to think of my own sins as a form of chronic illness–something that requires my full attention to deal with, something invisible, subtle, and , something that not everyone may understand is a struggle for me. Thinking about sin in this way teaches me how to be watchful for it, to be careful when I start to feel complacent, and to do all the things I’ve learned are necessary to avoid it.
And as with chronic illness, intense watchfulness doesn’t always mean I can avoid a “flare,”–I will fail, or fall ill in some way, so it’s important to have a plan for when that happens–a plan for healing, and a plan for repentance.