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Reflections During Illness

Avoid overconfidence

Last year, just before the National Holiday, I went to the hospital for my regular medicine. On that day, I had a companion with me and we decided to take the escalator instead of waiting for the lift. As we were riding the escalator between the fourth and fifth floors, I lost my balance and fell. The situation turned perilous because the escalator continued moving upwards. Thankfully, a strong and young individual behind me came to lift me to safety, and my friend managed to get herself up at the same time. We made it safely to the fifth floor, but the person who gave us a hand disappeared into the crowd before I could properly express my gratitude. Looking back, its chilling to think of what could have happened without this young person, who was like an angel of God saving us from danger at a critical moment.

Photo by Robert Bagramov on Unsplash

It is a well-known fact that the aging people often fear falling. But many accidents occur due to overconfidence. We tend to believe that what have been done many times without any issues will continue to be just as safe as it used to be. Unfortunately, an easily neglected fact is our environment and personal circumstances are constantly changing. Past experiences cannot guarantee safety in the present.

A verse from the Bible comes to my mind, If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you dont fall(cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12). The Apostle Paul as the author referred to not fall spiritually, while the principle applies to our daily lives as well. Senior people may be set in their ways and resistant to change. It is necessary to remind ourselves not to be overconfident and to stay open-minded to changes.

Since that incident, I began to opt for waiting for the lift rather than taking the escalator.

Woe or weal, I accept them all

Just on the third day following that incident when I was grateful for Gods blessing, I suddenly felt pain in my hip, causing mobility issues. Both sides of my collum femoris had experienced fractures. I have stainless steel nails in the left side since 30 years ago, and I underwent right hip arthroplasty surgery eight years ago. My past experiences prompted me to go for a X-ray test, which showed no new fractures, but the pain remained. A few days later, I was hospitalized after an emergency treatment for gastroenteritis. My worsening condition led to complete bedrest. To make it even worse, I contracted pneumonia later.

Despite my physical weakness and the severe pain caused by any movement, my mind remained active. I had no idea why God my savior allowed me to endure such pain. Although feeling wore out, I could not conceal my grief before God. As David lamented, But you, Lord, do not be far from me.(cf. Psalms 22:19) Another verse also came to my mind, coming from Job who tried to enlighten his wife amidst suffering: Shall we not accept good from God, not trouble?(cf. Job 2:10) God never makes the promise of eliminating all hardships for His followers. So my most pressing need at that time was to strengthen my faith in God.

As I have approached the age of 90, I considered myself a steadfast believer, prepared to return to heaven and meet the Lord. Therefore, I told my fellow workers via WeChat that medical treatment may not be necessarily needed, as I desired only for Gods will to be done. In fact, I genuinely admire those who could peacefully leave this world in their sleep, without pain or sickness. But the Lord also reminded me of His words to Peter when Peter inquired about Johns last days: ...what is that to you? You must follow me. (cf. John 21:22) It becomes evident that Gods guidance varies from person to person. Truly saying, May His will be done, means to obediently follow Gods guidance.

Only the Word of God can empower us to conquer ourselves during times of physical and mental trials. The author of Psalms gave abundant praises even in the face of sufferings: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (cf. Psalms 23:4) Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (cf. Psalms 42:5) Keeping these frequently cited verses in mind during times of worship can be a source of strength for us. Here is another common seen verse: Wait for the Lord. (cf. Psalms 27:14, 37:7, 40:1, 62:1) We often have little patience and desire immediate answers to our prayers. Yet God asks us to be patient and wait for Him. Its in those moments that His works are revealed. Mosesblessing upon Asher, your strength will equal your days, reminds me that this is not an empty comfort but a solid foundation rooted in the Word of God.

In addition to Scripture, hymns also reflect the spirituality of Gods people. In face of diverse circumstances, Christians often find solace and resonance in their favorite hymns,. There is an old hymn called He Leadeth Me(The Chinese New Hymnal: 258). I have been singing it since I was young. Every line of the hymn, which is so familiar to me, can offer great comfort during my illness. One particular line stands out: Whateer I do, whereer I be, stilltis Gods hand that leadeth me. In my healthier days, I could move about with ease; but now I am bedridden and struggle to distinguish day from night, or sit up by myself. Despite these, His hand still guides me. Lead, Kindly Light(The Chinese New Hymnal: 262) is one of my favorite hymns. The latter part of the opening section goes like: I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me. Even though the future remains uncertain, I my commit my body and my soul into the Lords hands, believing that He will lead me Himself.

The good fight continues...

Thanks to the intercessory prayers of my fellow workers and the medical treatment and recovery measures I received, I gradually recover after a hospital stay. Fortunately, the damage inflicted by Covid-19 was not fatal.

We are all very familiar to what Paul said before his departure: “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

We must continue to fight the battle in the amidst of the journey. For Paul, the battle referred to his trials for the sake of the gospel, and the inner spiritual warfare, as noted in the epistles. (cf. Romans 7:21-25, cf. 2 Timothy 6:11-12) Are we living a spiritual life in accordance with the truth, or are we yielding to our own desire? This has become a common question for every Christian. Obviously, it is not external battles like fighting against individuals or things, but the inner struggles of fighting the old self. It determines whether we have kept our faith and fought the good fight.

My symptoms of infection with the virus include weakened vision and hearing. Many advised me to look after myself, but my thought is senior people with long lifespan yet low quality of life is rather unpleasant. We should not squander the life granted by God and the time and energy that people, including our family, have invested in us. With limited physical capabilities, we can still influence not only ourselves, but also others including our family members. The most important thing is whether we can conquer the darkness within ourselves every day, relying on the Lord to mold us into the individuals He desires us to be.

Becoming a fighter has never been easy. Take physical recovery as an example. After I felt better, doctor recommended that I should exercise, as prolonged bed rest could lead to muscle atrophy and make it difficult to stand. So I began to lift my legs whenever I could. Initially, I attempted to brace myself up on my own, with both feet touching the ground; then I used a walking aid to take a few steps, moving from my hospital room to the corridor. I even practiced standing on one foot.

To be honest, from the very start, every step I took was extremely painful, making me sweat and tempting me to give up and lie back down. With the doctors instruction lingering in my head, I kept it up because I was not reconciled to become a bedridden elderly. Now I can finally walk independently without a cane. It is all thanks to Gods gracious mercy, which allowed me to learn such a valuable lesson: not to advance is to regress. This truth applies to the lives of the elderly, both physically and spiritually.

Spiritual discipline is crucial. I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave. (cf. 1 Corinthian 9:27) Set aside our concerns for the future and maintain a peaceful mindset. Overcome to flaunt our seniority, and treat younger people with humility. Pray for the security and stability of the country and the society, and place our own needs second. Prioritize the matters of the church, even if we are no longer regular church goers. Not only care about our own needs, but also those of others. Sometimes, these may challenge our previous self-centered motivations. But we must alter the habitual mindset and lifestyle in order to bear the fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Galatians 5:22-25). It may be full of pain, but conquering the old self is the path that one must take, which requires perseverance. Without it, we cannot understand Pauls words. Though  outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16)

Recovery from an illness, for the whole lifetime of a Christian, is brief and temporal. Ultimately, we will enter the eternal homeland, where there will be no...or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things has passed away. (cf. Revelation 21:4) Before the Day arrives, let us continue to fight the good fight.

Published on Tianfeng (Vol. 519) in March 2023 and translated by Bei Feng.