I’ll be up front with you: I absolutely don’t get it. I’ve asked God, “Why did You give that person success and happiness, but You gave me disastrous skin lesions?”
It’s a useless question – we’ll never know the depth of the struggles others are facing and only ever see how much better their lives are than ours. Maybe that’s why the covetous nature is such a danger: it takes away our empathy for another human being.
Still, in a culture where prosperity and beauty translate as achievement, it’s hard to maintain perspective. I’ve been stripped of what the world values (you can’t imagine how ludicrous cosmetic commercials are to me now), and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect my self-perceptions.
I’ve always known that God doesn’t see success where we finite humans seem to tack it; but to live that knowledge is another thing altogether. Can I really still claim to be “doing well” when I look like a burn victim?
The answer I strive to accept is: yes. I can claim it with confidence.
Over the past few months I’ve been pointed again and again to the Biblical idea of God’s favor. I’ve read Job’s story (he had bad skin too, y’know), and I’ve buried myself in the Psalms. The concept that’s emphasized throughout each book is that God’s favor has little to do with physical circumstance. Whether Job had all his land, his family, his livestock – or whether he was destitute and scraping himself with pottery shards: God favored him. Isn’t that crazy? Job’s friends sure thought so.
The Psalmists also processed this dichotomy: “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Ps. 34:19) It struck me, those words “have many troubles”. We aren’t exempt from pain, and yet Jehovah is still our rescue.
What does that mean for the times when we suffer? What about my uncle, who’s survived a stroke – and my aunt, who bears up under the emotional strain of watching him hurt and heal? Do they have God’s favor? Absolutely, all the time. What about my friend who struggles to find somewhere she can use her God-given gifts, but seems thwarted at every turn? Does she have God’s favor? You betcha she does.
Because once we’ve said, “Jesus, you have my life. I love you most over everything,” then we are his family, we’re in his care. Skin disease, stroke, or struggles be hanged. The world has trouble, and the Devil plays like it’s his sandbox; but “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The verse is harder to live than it is to recite, but maybe skin lesions will show me what it really means to belong to the Healer.