As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust… 1 Cor. 15:48a
I am but dust. This morning, I had not been awake five minutes when that familiar burning pain began again somewhere in my stomach area. Almost in the middle, but slightly to the left. “Please, stop. I’m so tired of this,” I muttered to the guilty internal organs as I laid back down to (hopefully) help it stop. The pain eventually subsided, but that didn’t keep me from getting sick with everything I ate. When I finally made it to the afternoon, I was not enduring well. Drained and starting to hurt again, I had sworn at least once that I was never eating food again.
I know I’m not alone in this. I don’t have to look far to find friends, family, and strangers that have worse physical pain and debilitating illnesses. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Krohn’s, Colitis, MS, Rheumatoid arthritis. Some illnesses are visible; some invisible, hiding behind smiles and efforts to live normally.
In the midst of these struggles is the need for assurance and joy. There are many recommendations for finding them:
That means you let go for just a minute of the idea that disease is bad. For that minute just see your disease as neutral. It is not destroying you, it is not healing you, it is just a benign blob in the corner of the room. Now, I want you to look at the blob, and ask it very seriously what gifts it has for you. Ask it what gifts it plans to give you. It may be a staring contest, but smile and be patient while you hold your turf and see what it has to say. Why Autoimmune Disease is Joy in Disguise, aiplifestyle.com
Do this, the author continues, and you can begin to make peace with your disease and see the good that can come from it.
This seems like a good exercise, but then, I wonder, what if the “blob” doesn’t answer back? What if the “blob” itself remains an unknown or becomes an unsolvable known? Where’s the hope in elimination diets and endless questions?
Enter the hope of Easter.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Cor. 15: 42-49
God, who cannot die, took on human flesh, then came to earth and entered human time as fully God and fully man. After a life-time of bearing human weakness, he died, bearing my sin and judgment. But, then, still human, he rose again. Because he physically rose, I will physically live again. What was weak will be made whole; what perished will become imperishable. The Creator of my body is not indifferent to it. He has promised to raise it. His resurrection assures mine.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. The same man, Paul, who wrote this meditation on Christ’s resurrection also wrote about his “thorn” in his flesh, a thorn he pleaded for God to take away. God did not take it away, but showed Paul how to endure:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9
Even with his weakness and in his human frailty, Paul ended his meditation on Christ’s resurrection with this call to hope:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 15:58
So, while I wait the day when my Creator erases all trace of illness, pain, and fatigue from my body, I can rest in his Sovereign will that made Easter possible. I can find joy in His mercy that brought me to true life in Him. I can rest in the strength of the love my Savior’s prayers the night before he died. I can ask the Giver of good and perfect gifts for the grace to see Him working all things for my good. I can rest in the certainty that He is at work and will continue His work until it is complete.
The grave was not and will not be the end. Jesus lives, and so shall I.