When I was a child, I would get strep throat often. It would start as a little tickle in my throat, a feeling like something wasn’t quite right. I’d still be able to function – to play with my little sister or ride my bike. But after a while that tickle would grow more and more painful, and going about my business would get increasingly difficult.
My mother would put the back of her hand against my forehead, as all mothers do, run her hands down the sides of my throat, and call the pediatrician.
We would make the drive to his office in a big brick building, and my doctor would take some time to check me over. He’d shine a light down my throat, take my temperature, look inside my ears, then diagnosis me with strep throat and send me away with a prescription to rest, eat some ice cream, and take my medicine. I always felt better after those visits – even before taking any medicine – because it was such a relief to know why I was sick and how to fix it.
As an adult, I’ve found myself sick in other ways. In ways that can’t be fixed with some medicine and a bowl of ice cream.
It starts out as a little tickle – a feeling that something isn’t quite right.
I feel restless. I feel a little mad and a little sad. I’m worried, distracted, and anxious. I can still function. I can still go to work, care for my kids, cook dinner…but I know something’s wrong.
I know I’m not really well.
Over time it grows. I feel battered by the news, by my circumstances, and by things that feel increasingly out of control. Going about my business becomes increasingly difficult. But I can’t go to a doctor in a brick building down the road to fix this sickness.
It’s at times like these, when I feel sick in spirit, that I realize I’ve lost my focus.
I’ve lost my connection.
I’ve neglected my relationship.
Not with my family, or my co-workers, or my friends – but with my God.
I’ve stopped seeking Him daily, and I’ve stopped listening for His voice. I’ve stopped praising Him, worshipping Him, and reading His word. My prayers have become after-thoughts that I slip in when I can, and I’m no longer even pretending to rely on His strength instead of my own.
Blaise Pascal once famously said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Can I be honest with you?
The sickness is all my fault.
I know, when I start to feel that tickle that grows to a roar, that I’ve tried to fill that God-shaped vacuum with something other than God.
Perhaps it was busy-ness. Activities, volunteering, work, to-do lists. Perhaps it was entertainment. Books, movies, television, music. Or maybe, and this one is hard to admit, it was the self-affirming lie that I’m so important and so many people are relying on me to DO things that I don’t have the time to BE with God.
Not right now, anyway, I’m just too busy filling up on things that aren’t you, God.
I’m filling my God-shaped chasm with earthly pebbles and wondering why I feel sick, why I’m not well.
And here’s some more embarrassing honesty for you. Once I get to that point, my next step has often been to blame it on God.
Well, He’s not close to me anymore. He’s not answering my prayers. He’s not guiding me. He doesn’t need me to pray because He already knows everything, so why isn’t He helping already?
Even though I KNOW God leaves the 99 to bring home the 1 (Luke 15:4-6).
Even though I KNOW nothing can snatch us from His hand (John 10:29).
Even though I KNOW I’ve been given the Holy Spirit, my advocate and seal (John 14:15-21, Ephesians 1:13).
Maybe you’ve felt like this before. Maybe you’ve felt sick from something other than a virus, and you’ve realized that you’re filling your God-shaped chasm with earthly pebbles.
What’s the medicine? Where’s the metaphorical ice cream that will soothe the sting and get us on the road to recovery?
We have got to remain in Him.
We’ve got to remain in Jesus (John 15:5). We must make Him our priority – before busyness, before work, before effort, before service, before fun. We must take the time to seek Him first and to know Him better.
And that time takes discipline, effort, and trust that God will expand that time and make it a blessing and not a burden.
Read your Bible.
Read a devotional.
Listen to worship music.
Pray – on your knees, on your couch, on your drive to work.
Set alarms on your phone, wake up a half hour early, go to bed a half hour later. Take your lunch break alone, listen to a sermon, go to church.
Don’t let the sickness win. Don’t be satisfied with pebbles.
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