This is a devotional I wrote that was published on the Rest Ministries website (http://restministries.com).
“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).
I live in Pennsylvania and by mid-August, the hot, humid summers give us ripe, red, juicy tomatoes. The kind that you take off the vine and bite into, with the juice dripping down your chin.
But not this year. It’s mid-August as I write this and our tomatoes are still green. Others who planted tomatoes are having the same problem because we haven’t had a hot, steamy summer, like we usually do. In fact, we’ve had only nine days at 90 degrees or above.
As a person who is not fond of hot, humid weather, I’m not complaining. However, our green tomatoes are proof that they only thrive in these conditions. This summer, the plants craved as much sun as their little solar-collecting leaves could gather.
Chronic illness can be like these tomato plants. We yearn for days when we have less pain, more mental clarity, and are more productive. Yet, our ministry to others is most “ripe” because we’ve experienced the discomfort of blistering heat, and the distress of oppressing humidity.
Our ministry is most “ripe” because we are totally dependent on God for our next breath, or our next hour.
We can only understand others’ suffering if we walk that same road. I empathize with women who have endometriosis because I’ve had it for 25 years and had it recur after a hysterectomy.
Our family helps others navigate Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis because three family members have these diseases. I understand the mental and physical pain that comes with depression because I’ve “been there.”
Though none of us chooses the path of illness, God can use it to comfort others in their pain, loneliness, and suffering. As we rely on God for our strength and perseverance in the “heat” of our illness, He is ripening us to minister to others.
When you can’t take another day of the “heat and humidity” of your illness, know that God is preparing someone to come and pluck you from His vine and to enjoy the juicy morsels of godly wisdom and comfort that only your experience can provide.
Prayer: Lord, it’s hard for us to reach out to others when the “heat” of our illness saps all of our energy. When we have better days or go into remission, help us to look for people in our lives who have chronic illness and share our experiences to minister to their hearts. Amen.
What have you discovered in your journey with chronic illness that could be helpful to someone else?