Sickness helps to…

(J.C. Ryle, Sickness)

I know the suffering and pain that sickness entails. I admit the misery and wretchedness that it often brings along with it. But I cannot regard it as an unmixed evil. I see in it a useful provision to check the ravages of sin in men’s souls. If man had never sinned I would have been at a loss to discern the benefit of sickness. But since sin is in the world, I can see that sickness is good. It is a blessing quite as much as a curse. It is a rough schoolmaster, I grant, but sickness is a real friend to man’s soul.

Here are some of the benefits that sickness may bestow:

1. Sickness helps to remind men of death.
Most live as if they were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics, or amusements as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for the future, like the rich fool in the parable, as if they had a long lease of life, and were always to live in this poor world. A heavy illness sometimes goes far to dispel these delusions. Therefore It awakens men from their daydreams and reminds them that they have to die as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically, is a mighty good.

2. Sickness helps to make men think seriously of God, their souls, and the world to come.
Most in their days of health can find no time for such thoughts. They put them away. They count them troublesome and disagreeable. Now a severe disease has sometimes a wonderful power of mustering and rallying these thoughts, and bringing them up before the eyes of a man’s soul. Even a wicked king like Benhadad, when sick, could think of Elisha (2 Kings 8:8.) Even heathen sailors, when death was in sight, were afraid, and “every man cried out to his god.” (Jonah 1:5.) Surely anything that helps to make men think, is good.sickness helps to

3. Sickness helps to soften men’s hearts, and teach them wisdom.

The natural heart can see no good in anything which is not of this life, and no happiness excepting in this poor world. A long illness sometimes goes far to correct these ideas. It exposes the emptiness and hollowness of what the world calls “good” things, and teaches us to hold them with a loose hand. The man of business finds that money alone is not everything the heart requires. The woman of the world finds that costly apparel, novel reading, and balls and operas–are miserable comforters in a sick room. Surely anything that obliges us to alter our weights and measures of earthly things, is a real good.

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