I am merely one person in the multitudinous droves these days who concern themselves with the topic of "health and wellness." With the uncontrolled spreading of a new worldwide virus, our attention is shifted to this topic's greatest antagonist:
Sickness can be scary. When a young child is severely ill in the middle of the night, with no clear reason or hope for relief, panic sets in. When we’re fever-ridden in bed, unable to function, the thoughts can assail us: “Will this ever go away?”
Sickness comes with symptoms, and they can be painful. We do everything we can to alleviate them. It’s fascinating to me that the pain and symptoms of sickness can actually be the most beneficial tools we have to get us back on the path to health.
I’m amazed, as I read the Gospel of John, at the ways Jesus interacts with hurting people. People with severe illnesses would come to Him for help. Continuously He would stop, talk to them (without a mask!), touch them, minister to them, and even heal them. He seemed to embrace these difficult circumstances as opportunities to share His healing words that were “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, 17)
I’ve noticed a timely theme John seems to take up throughout his Gospel account: Jesus came to earth to bring LIFE and HEALTH to the world.
About Jesus, John explains, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being... in Him was life.” (John 1:2-4)
LIFE (in its healthiest form) was created by and is sustained by Jesus – it’s found IN HIM. What’s amazing to me is that this LIFE that’s in Christ is not simply physical life. There’s a deeper realm of “life” that Jesus, through many conversations with his followers, tries to explain; a different kind of health that most people can readily admit they are concerned about... soul-health!
You know what I’m talking about, right?
... our internal struggle to be “OK”
... our desperate longing to be significant or loved
... our disparity in dealing with our own failures and inconsistencies
... our frustration with other people's selfishness
... our emptiness felt even after realizing our deepest desires
Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
If you have a runny nose, headache, cough, or fever, you will probably come to the conclusion that you’re physically sick. If you’re depressed, chronically self-centered, lacking joy, stuck in addiction, or loaded down with emotional burdens, it would only make sense to investigate whether or not you’re spiritually sick.
In fact, I’d guess that some of these spiritual “symptoms,” common to us all, cause us to read blogs and listen to podcasts in hopes to find some relief. It was these same "inner symptoms" that brought many people to Jesus, sometimes even questioning and accusing Him, but always hopeful to find in Him some glimpse of a cure to their inability to do life right or live up to their own or other’s expectations.
The discomfort of these “inner-symptoms” are the very things that cause us to look for the Almighty God; seeking help, answers, and truth!
Right now, across the globe, people are scrambling to get their hands on one of the newly created vaccines for the Corona Virus. (I know what some of you are thinking, but we can discuss our opinions about the wisdom in taking, or not taking, this vaccine later!)
Vaccines are, in general, a great gift from the field of medicine to combat terrible sicknesses that used to claim the lives of many. But what if the life being claimed is your spiritual life?
What if your symptoms are those of spiritual unhealthiness?
How can we find relief from those?
Society says that the vaccine to heal our lack of peace and joy is to get married and to have a couple kids... or to be successful in our careers so we can live comfortably for the rest of our days... or to keep our houses tidy while at the same time cooking a tasty AND healthy meal for our families every evening.
A popular opinion in churches today is that the cure to our struggle with sin is to dedicate a certain amount of time to daily prayer... or to read our Bibles every day... or to surround ourselves with the right kind of people... or to get ourselves in a good support group.
Don’t get me wrong - these practices are oftentimes beneficial, but somehow very difficult to keep doing consistently. Thankfully, the Gospel of John explains a spiritual vaccine and the means by which to obtain it, very differently than abiding by a set of principles and their corresponding practices.
Instead, Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Through HIM (not our own efforts) we are able to experience true LIFE... not life ONE DAY, but spiritual Life and soul-health TODAY.
You see, Jesus Himself is the vaccine; His life infused into ours, His perfection covering our imperfections, and His spiritual health replacing our fallen flesh. He came to earth to give Himself for us, that we might be saved from a soul-sickness that has no cure.
So, how is this “vaccine” administered? How do we fully accept Christ’s life?
Here’s what John says:
“whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:15)
“he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life.” (John 5:24)
“he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
“By believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
The vaccine we need most (the life of Christ!) is “taken” by trusting in Him as the only One who can help us! Since we could never earn it, or obtain it ourselves, God asks one thing in exchange for this spiritual vaccine – that we would BELIEVE that it’s ours.
I have a friend named Michelle who works in an Emergency Room in Racine, Wisconsin. She recollects...
“November was the worst. There was one shift I worked where we had almost more people in the ER waiting room than we did in ER beds. Nurses were out sick with Covid and we were short staffed. No lunch breaks and working well past our shifts. Nearly every single patient in the ER had a chief complaint of "difficulty breathing" or "shortness of breath." As the triage nurse, it was my job to sort who was the sickest and needed to come back next. I remember thinking “How long can I keep this up without physically and mentally collapsing?”.
It was about one week later from this tipping point when I found out us nurses were going to be offered the vaccine! I immediately went from despair to elation. I couldn’t stop smiling. There was an end date to this pain and suffering! The vaccine brought hope, relief, and elation. A new day had finally dawned and there was a cure for this invisible disease.
When I walked into work my first shift knowing I had reached immunity, I no longer felt fear of the disease. Covid was not going to win. Since the vaccine, not one of our staff has caught Covid. We are no longer short staffed. We can get lunches again. We can leave at the end of our scheduled shifts. We don’t worry about bringing the virus home. Visitors are back at the bedsides of their loved ones.”
Michelle daily believes the vaccine she was given will successfully keep her safe from this illness that could otherwise be easily contracted from the patients she attends to every day; minimally jeopardizing weeks of work and potentially putting her own life and the lives of her family members at risk.
Her BELIEF in this cure gives her freedom to love people, to do her job, and to help others find healing with a newfound peace and security she didn’t have before getting vaccinated.
Without Christ’s life, we’re stuck in our sin patterns, shame, failures, and the anxiety that comes with wondering what else we will mess up.
But WITH Christ’s life, we’re freed from those terrible symptoms as we learn to BELIEVE, and then daily to KEEP ON BELIEVING.
Practically, I’ve found there are four things I need to think about as I find myself struggling to believe:
- TO BELIEVE looks like behaving in every situation as if GOD IS who He says He is: loving, sovereign, and good. (even when you don’t understand how or why that could be)
- TO BELIEVE looks like behaving in every situation as if YOU ARE who God says you are: beloved, cherished, and valued. (even when you don’t understand how or why that could be)
- TO BELIEVE looks like behaving in every situation as if JESUS’ DEATH on the cross was sufficient to cover and forgive your sin; yes, even THAT sin! (even when you don’t understand how or why that could be)
- TO BELIEVE looks like behaving in every situation as if JESUS’ LIFE, through His indwelling Spirit, provides power, peace, and purpose for you. (even when you don’t understand how or why that could be)
Are we willing to set aside our pride and surety about the things we think we know, or the strength we think we have, to instead believe that God has a plan for our souls to thrive in spiritual health and in the fullness of His Life?
Christ’s Life is the vaccine we take by belief – once to enter into new Life, but then dose after dose after dose for the rest of our lives as we grow into truly healthy people.
There are still a lot of questions out there regarding the new Corona Virus vaccines – time will tell of their safety and effectiveness... but the vaccine that’s available to us for our Spiritual health is time-tested, approved, and effective! God will remain true to His character and His plan – we can depend on it and REST, even in the midst of our Spiritual pandemic.
And when one day we feel an uncomfortable symptom again that reminds us of our need to rely on HIM for spiritual health, the cure is always available:
Believe God is who He says He is.
Believe you are who God says you are.
Believe His sacrifice covers your sin.
Believe His resurrected life is YOURS to live in the fullness of.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m so thankful for our unlimited access to this vaccination!
So, I write with John what is resonating in my heart: “these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)