Any affliction that brings us down to our knees before God is a blessing.
Children are the glory of marriage. Then there is the glory of the first-born and the glory of the last-born. The first-born is given pre-eminence in all things. He gets the best and the biggest portions. He goes out without being chaperoned. He is treated with great respect by his siblings.
The last-born, on the other hand, gets all the attention. What he wants, he gets and he gets it when he wants it. When he cries, his parents pay attention and he knows it. He is likely to be preferred over the other children and is more likely to be spoilt.
Root of bitterness
I was the last-born in a family of five children, nevertheless, I was neglected. I was the last-born, but my brother, Kola, who was two years older than me, got all the attention. He did because he was sickly. At a very early age, he was diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia. Therefore, I discovered to my great annoyance that the glory of being sickly exceeded the glory of being the last-born.
There were times when I wished I was the one who was sickly. There were times when I wished I would fall terribly sick, just to get my parents really worried and upset. I wished I would fall down and die, so they would regret all the time they had failed to give me the attention I craved.
But I did not die. It was my brother who died. At the age of fourteen, Kola died. After he died, the attention then shifted to me. But I was no longer interested. I sulked for years and rebuffed all entreaties.
Jesus says: “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost” (John 6:12). From these fragments of my embittered childhood, I learnt an invaluable lesson about the glory of infirmities. God is the God of the sick. The Father sent Jesus expressly for the healing of the sick. Jesus says: “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).
Therefore, if we are not “sick,” we are of less interest to the Great Physician. The glory of the doctor is in the healing of the sick. Therefore, Christians should not be overwhelmed by sickness or sin. We should recognise that the glory of God comes from the infirmities of man. Jesus said concerning Lazarus: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Have you ever been at a church-service where someone boasts he has not been sick for years? What kind of testimony can that be? Surely, not falling sick does not make a believer a man of faith. What validates our faith is falling sick and getting healed. At no time does God promise us immunity from sickness. On the contrary, he declares: “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
God says he created us for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). A testimony that we never fall sick is not to God’s glory but to ours. Jesus declares: “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
That means sickness is not a curse since it attracts God’s tender-loving care. Jesus says: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). Therefore, our boast should not be that we have no need for God to heal us. Indeed, any affliction that brings us down to our knees before God is a blessing.
Many who claim Jesus as Saviour fail to recognise him as healer. But the psalmist says it is the same Lord who forgives our iniquities who heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3). Indeed, if we do not believe Jesus heals, how can we believe he saves?
Some thirty years after Kola’s death, the Lord told me to call out a girl called Waikini during a Redeemed Church fellowship in Muyiwa Dada’s house. He told me in confidence she had sickle-cell anaemia. He asked her to sing any praise-song of her choice. After she did, he said I should inform her that he had changed her blood. She was no longer a “sickler.” He said: “Tell her to do a blood-test for confirmation.”
The irony was not lost on me. The same sickness that killed my brother at the tender age of fourteen was healed unceremoniously through a praise-song to the Lord thirty years later. Why did our pastors back then not tell us Jesus heals?
In the lamentation of Isaiah: “we were a people without understanding; so our Maker had no compassion on us, and our Creator showed us no favour” (Isaiah 27:11).