After the Lord rescued her from addiction, she shared the gospel with everyone she met. She knew God had seen her emaciated in the grimed alleyways, trembling as she crouched over a syringe, and yet still loved her. She reflected upon her once harrowing life adrift in the city, and amid the brokenness she discerned his grace.
When she recovered from her addiction, her renewed life unfolded as a canvas for his work. Love for the Lord radiated from her, a lamp to shine upon everyone who crossed her path (Matthew 5:14–16).
Then her body failed her. At first, she responded to every setback with praise, reassuring friends of God’s goodness. Yet as her residence in the hospital became seemingly permanent, and as the simple stuff of life — walking, cleaning herself, conversing without gasping for breath — impossible to complete, the sinews of her faith started to fray. She would open her Bible, only to have her eyes, bleary from illness, wander chaotically across the page. She would pray, but the words were difficult, and as days passed and the pain continued, she wondered if God heard.
One day she sat in the corner of the hospital room, another pile of syringes beneath her, shadows rimming her eyes, and lamented, “I don’t even know if God’s with me anymore.”
When We Cannot Read
While all afflictions aggrieve us, we learn throughout life to lean into the Lord during hardship by delving into his word, and praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We learn to seek him all the more fervently when calamity strikes.
Few trials, however, challenge our faith like severe illness. During my decade in clinical medicine, I repeatedly witnessed how disease cuts us off from the very disciplines we rely upon to work through our faith. Reading Scripture is arduous when unrelenting pain and exhaustion grip us, and downright impossible when medications cloud our thinking. Prayer dissolves to single words amid the fog of illness. Wrenched from the home, people, and activities we cherish, we struggle for meaning amid the alarms and the batteries of tests, continually asking, “Why, Lord?” When answers do not come quickly, our faith dwindles, giving way to despair.
Those of us struggling in the hospital need assurance of God’s goodness and steadfast love more than ever. But a hospital stay, or any ordeal with debilitating illness, doesn’t permit elaborate exegesis. We need verses to which we can cling when the waves of pain seize us and hope shrinks away. We need the power of God’s word to uplift our souls, in doses our disease-crippled minds can retain.
Ten Passages for Severe Illness
Here are ten passages exemplifying God’s love for us through Christ, to buoy you through the tempest of severe illness. Guard them in your heart.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
2 Corinthians 4:16–18
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
1 Peter 1:3–5
“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
“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, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”