Sin Is the Sickness

I reached into the crib one recent afternoon and pulled out a sick baby. Not this, I thought. Anything but this.

Not because of the extra work or the disrupted sleep or the cranky toddler who would spend the week fussing in circles around our ankles, but because nothing is worse than watching a child suffer.

There was no doubting it, either: The shine was off her smile, drops pooled beneath her reddened eyes, and the usual mischief was pathetically dormant.

My heartache at the sight of her runny nose was amplified by what a bright, soulful creature Amelia is at her best. Two weeks shy of her first birthday, she is the perfect size and shape of a baby — effortless to lift out of nap time, sublime to pull into a cuddle. I knew right away that she would spend the next few days coughing, and it hit me like it always does. Until she was well, I would not be well.

When the baby is sick, nothing is right in my world.

The gloom hung over everything I did in the following days. Not worry or anxiety so much as sympathy. My child was suffering — not her first rodeo, admittedly, and far from her last. In fact, all of my angst over Respiratory Woes in Month 11 only served to heighten my dread of Identity Woes in Year 15, or Boy Woes in Year 18, or Spiritual Woes on the far side of Year 20. I knew instinctively that a common cold was the easiest it was going to get, in terms of a suffering child.

“Sin is the sickness of the soul,” the puritan commentator Matthew Henry wrote, snapping my day into perspective. “Pardoning mercy heals it; renewing grace heals it; and this spiritual healing we should be more earnest for than for bodily health.”

The occasion for Henry’s timeless observation was Psalm 41:4, where David cries out, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”

Read it again. Heal me, for I have sinned. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to pray Forgive me?

David made this connection three thousand years ago. Sin is the illness of mankind. It is the pesky cough and the cancer. It is the plague that everyone inherits by nature.

And scripture is clear that it affects the Father in an emotional way.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” Paul exhorted the Ephesians. As I cradled my ailing daughter, helpless against the virus infesting her airway, I understood the Apostle’s warning in a new light.

If we follow this thread through the Bible, we begin to sense that God wants us to know that our sin affects Him personally. Indeed, the evidence mounts.

For example, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Matthew translated the Hebrew words “griefs” and “sorrows” into “infirmities” and “sicknesses” in Greek. Peter, in his handling of the same passage, wrapped both Hebrew words into one: “sin.” (See Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17 and 1 Peter 2:24.)

The point is that sin can legitimately be considered a sickness, and if we understand sickness as a parent observing it in a child, we are met with a glimpse of God’s emotional response.

In Genesis chapter 6, Moses penned what I think are the most sobering and definitive words on this topic. Because of the continual evil of humanity, “the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

I understand now that this is not the picture of an uninvolved God, frustrated that things hadn’t worked out as planned. Nor is it a God who is simply fed up.

It is the picture of a Father grieving for His diseased children — grieving, in fact, for children who choose their disease over Him.

One of the many lenses through which we may view the Gospel is that Christ took on the disease of sin for us, so that we may live as cured people.

I would do that for my children.

I would not have hesitated to trade my wellness on this particular afternoon for my daughter’s sore throat, her headache, her upper respiratory inflammation. Not because I owed it to her, but because I loved her.

If sin is what grieves, love is what heals. God’s love is the only cure.

sickness and sin

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”   {Ephesians 4:25-32}