So what did I learn from it all?
- God sometimes lets us go through tough experiences to develop our character and to give us a deeper knowledge of him. Romans 5:3-4 says "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us". I know that God has been working on my character, in particular reminding me that he is God and I'm not and allowing me to know him at a whole deeper level.
- God uses suffering to give us a better understanding of what other people are going through. Having never been ill before (other than man flu!) I'd always found it hard to understand what it was like for people who were ill - particularly the frustration and disappointment when you think you are starting to get better then get ill again. I've always felt drawn to 2 Cor 1:3-4 where Paul writes "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." but I now understand that with a whole new depth. I hope that's come through in my interactions with at least some of you.
- Illness isn't always the result of personal sin. Some people were quick to tell me that I was ill because there was some hidden sin in my life and that if I was truly walking with God then I wouldn't be ill. That was probably one of the most dispiriting and discouraging things I've ever been told, especially after I'd sought God to ask him if there was any sin I wasn't aware of and felt him say nothing. However, the more I read Job and what happened to him, read what Jesus had to say in John 9:2, pondered what Paul wrote to Timothy and read of the health struggles of people like Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Graham and our own Andrew White I realised that there is often a mystery about illness, and although I believe that God does heal today we live in that time between the first and second coming of Christ where we know some healing and some answer to prayer but are till longing for more of God's kingdom to come and God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Rom 8:28 is a truth we can build our lives on - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". Not that all things are good, but in all things God works for our good, even if at the time we can't see what God is doing. As Zoe said on Sunday night God has given us the power to choose life, and part of choosing life is choosing to believe Rom 8:28 and put our confidence in God, not the circumstances of what is going on. I can now see some of the good God did through me being ill including Lee developing as a preacher, a number of people developing as leaders as a result of stepping in when I couldn't be there, the realisation of what a loving community God has put me in and a new appreciation of what a wonderful wife I've got.
So there it is. I'm still learning to try and get enough rest (just to keep this in reality Catrina will tell you that the last couple of weeks I've done too much and I've been tired this weekend) but that's just normal life rather than me being ill. Thanks so much to everyone who's been interested in how I've been doing and has been praying for me.