On The Proper Use of Sickness (Pascal)

The Harvard Classics, vol. 48: Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works In a written prayer called “To Ask God the Proper Use of Sickness,” Blaise Pascal (d. 1662) reflected on health and sickness in the Christian life.  More specifically, Pascal confessed that when he was healthy, he didn’t thank God for it and use his health to serve Him.  When he became ill, Pascal prayed that God would use the illness to help strengthen his faith.  While I don’t agree with every aspect of this prayer, parts of it are quite good and edifying.  Here are a few sections I appreciate:

Thou gavest me health to serve thee, and I made a profane use of it. Thou sendest me sickness now to correct me; suffer not that I use it to irritate thee by my impatience. I made a bad use of my health, and thou hast justly punished me for it. Suffer not that I make a bad use of my punishment.

To whom shall I cry, O Lord, to whom shall I have recourse, if not to thee? Nothing that is less than God can fulfil my expectation. It is God himself that I ask and seek; and it is to thee alone, my God, that I address myself to obtain thee, Open my heart, O Lord; enter into the rebellious place which has been occupied by vices. They hold it subject. Enter into it as into the strong man’s house; but first bind the strong and powerful enemy that has possession of it, and then take the treasures which are there. Lord, take my affections, which the world had stolen; take this treasure thyself, or rather retake it, since it belongs to thee as a tribute that I owe thee, since thy image is imprinted in it

…Grant me the favor, Lord, to join thy consolations to my sufferings, that I may suffer like a Christian. …But I ask, Lord, to feel at the same time both the sorrows of nature for my sins, and the consolations of thy spirit through thy grace; for this is the true condition of Christianity. Let me not feel sorrow without consolation; but let me feel sorrow and consolation together, that I may come at last to feel thy consolation without any sorrow.

…Thou alone knowest what is most expedient for me: thou art the sovereign master, do what thou wilt. Give to me, take from me; but conform my will to thine; and grant that in humble and perfect submission and in holy confidence, I may be disposed to receive the orders of thy eternal providence, and that I may adore alike all that comes to me from thee.

Blaise Pascal, The Harvard Classics 48: Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works, ed. Charles W. Eliot, trans. W. F. Trotter, M. L. Booth, and O. W. Wight (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1910), 369-377.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Poem for the Ill (Toplady)

 Here are a few verses from a poem Augustus Toplady wrote for those suffering with sickness:

Jesus, since I with thee am one;
Confirm my soul in thee,
And still continue to tread down
The man of sin in me.

Let not the subtle foe prevail
In this my feeble hour
Frustrate all the hopes of hell
Redeem from Satan’s power

Arm me O Lord from head to foot
With righteousness divine;
My soul in Jesus firmly root,
and seal the Savior mine.

Proportioned to my pains below,
O let my joys increase,
And mercy to my spirit flow
In healing streams of peace.

In life and death be thou my God,
And I am more than safe;
Chastised by thy paternal rod,
Support me with thy staff.

Lay on me Savior what thou wilt,
But give me strength to bear;
Thy gracious hand this cross hath dealt,
Which cannot be severe.*

As gold refined may I come out,
In sorrow’s furnace tried;
Preserved from faithlessness and doubt,
And fully purified.

*(“Severe” here means “unnecessarily extreme” or “harsh in an unloving way.”)

There are other verses; these are just a few.  The entire poem can be found in the Works of Augustus Toplady, volume six.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

 

Disability and God’s Sovereignty

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace One of the biggest frustrations about living in this fallen world is the fact that there is disability.  To be sure, all humans are disabled to some extent because we’re sinful creatures and neither our minds nor our hearts nor our bodies are free from the effects of sin.  But it often brings tears to our eyes to think of (or face) worse forms of disability; this is why the stories of Jesus healing disabled people (lame, blind, deaf, blood disordered, crippled, etc.) are such a big part of the Good News.  There is hope in Jesus for sure, and his people can thankfully look forward to a Day where they will be fully and finally healed.

But what about disability and God’s sovereignty here and now?  How do these two relate?  I like how Michael Beates (who has a family member with a severe disability) answered this question in an appendix of his book, Disability and the Gospel.  Here are his summarized points (from pages 161-166):

1) First, as previously noted, God creates some people with genetic anomalies simply for the sake of his glory.  Scripture teaches that all things are made by him (John 1:13) and for his glory (Is. 48:10-11; Rom. 11:33).  [This is] a hard teaching, but in it there is great comfort, and by our very affirmation of it, we further glorify our awesome sovereign God. The comfort is that when we embrace the truth that God will glorify himself through everything that happens, we know that in the providence of God nothing is lost or in vain.  Nothing we experience is meaningless; everything is significant, the bitter and the sweet.  We may not see the sweet side of it in this life….  However, we can rest absolutely certain that such things are not mistakes nor do they happen by chance.  We can also be certain that even such awful things [as death] will glorify God because he has said so, and he keeps his promise.

2) Second, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for the sake of his own glory but also to show us our own brokenness and our need of his grace.  The disabled among us, whether genetically disabled or otherwise, remind us of our own inherent disabilities.  When we see them with their limitations, we can begin to see ourselves in a new, more honest manner as broken men and women before God in need of redemption – body and soul.

3) Third, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for his own glory and to show us our own brokenness, but also because such disabled people present the church with the gift of allowing followers of Christ to serve them unconditionally – with no expectation of receiving back.  In this way they help us to mirror God and to experience giving grace to another as God does to us.

4) Fourth, God creates some people with genetic anomalies to increase our desire for heaven.  Revelation 21:3-4 says, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore….’ In that final state God promises to redeem all things, making all things new and perfect.  Things like genetic anomalies serve as signposts, reminding us that we are on a journey and that this world is not our home.”

As I mentioned in an earlier review (HERE), Disability and the Gospel is a helpful book – I recommend it, and I recommend reading the entire section I edited above.  If you are disabled to any extent, or if it affects you in some way, please press on in the faith, try to set a good Christian example for others, and be greatly encouraged that since Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and promised to come back and make all things new, you will one day receive a glorious body like his (Phil. 3:21).  It won’t be long now!

shane lems
hammond, wi