God’s Provision Through Illness

Recently, I finished an autobiography that demonstrated how God provided for two women in a Nazi death camp. Having suffered the loss of so many things due to Lyme disease, and finding myself conflicted by the idea of what it means to be provided for by God, I decided that a book describing how God provided for two women who, in worldly terms, had lost everything, would help me to fight a wave of rising bitterness against my creator.

I get into these mental funks from time to time. They happened frequently when I was really sick with Lyme disease, but they still haunt me more often than I would like, and every time they do, I go diving for answers in God’s vast ocean of knowledge.

The two women of this book, “The Hiding Place,” endured starvation and sickness; they were abused, physically and emotionally, and yet were able to believe that God was providing for them, as they endured harsh weather and even harsher treatment in the Nazi death camp. Their provision was God’s presence; the reassurance that, despite what was happening to them, they were loved and doing the work that they were supposed to be doing–that is, loving their fellow prisoners by giving them hope in God’s love and an afterlife. One of the two women, Betsie, displayed such profound joy at being able to do God’s will that it often seemed she was celebrating a birthday party rather than suffering in a death camp!

I waited for Betsie to become bitter and discouraged at her creator, but as circumstances grew darker, the opposite seemed to happen. Indeed, as she grew sicker, and her body more emaciated, her optimism and joy seemed only to increase. The darker circumstances became, the brighter was her light, and this light was subsequently used to bring hope to millions after her death, as her sister, Corrie Ten Boom, having survived the holocaust, retold the story of their experience years later.

When I shut the book at midnight with tears streaming down my face, I realize it had solidified within me a belief that I have tentatively held… that is, that provision is more a place of the mind and spirit than a place of circumstance. Indeed, my god says, “Man does not live on bread alone.” And while I think that food, clothes, shelter and health are necessary for life, by themselves, and according to my god, they don’t constitute provision. Anyway, too many people on this earth are not, in human terms, adequately provided for; some will never have enough to eat, and many won’t heal from illness. If God provides for them, too, then His definition of provision must be larger than ours.

And not everyone will heal from Lyme disease. If this is the case, is it yet possible to believe that we are all abundantly provided for by our creator? What if you have to spend the rest of your life on the sofa? What if you will never be able to afford new clothes? What if this is, in circumstantial terms, as good as it gets?

Maybe you don’t tie yourself up in huge theological knots, wrestling with this question as I do. But perhaps you have days when you are frightened, not knowing how you’ll be able to pay for groceries, while on other days, you sink into the floor with despair, wondering if you’ll ever be able to work again. Or perhaps the ache of loneliness consumes you, as you realize that you’re still too ill to get out and see friends. Do you feel deprived? Where are God’s promises of provision in such a difficult life? What does provision mean to a physically, financially and emotionally devastated Lyme disease sufferer?

I wish I could be like Betsie, or the Apostle Paul, who were “content in any and every circumstance”. Unfortunately, though, this is not who I am. It’s not who most of us are. I need the creature comfort crutches of this world to be happy, but comforts are like the wind and it’s too bad that I must go where the wind blows. If I could stand firm in a tornado, then it wouldn’t matter, but I’m more like a mud-grass hut, rather than a cement tower.

Yet I believe that provision is about the mind and the spirit, and that these can go places that the body cannot. They are places of limitless potential, in a world of severe limitations. A place where all things can be had; food, drink, fun, life, peace, love…and all the rest, when your physical world deprives you of everything but the roof over your head. A place where you can dance, sing, skip, and work fourteen hour days, no matter that your worldly body would disagree with you.

Not that my mind is great at taking me to parties and rose gardens, but I know that such scenarios are possible. If a woman in a concentration camp could live with such joy, then provision is certainly something larger than what we can see and are given in worldly terms. And maybe it’s not even about joy through suffering. Maybe it’s about the joy we will receive down the road as a result of our pain. Maybe provision isn’t just about bread for the body, but bread for the soul, that, down the road, will grow us into healthier, happier beings than we were before. Even if right now that bread tastes moldy.

Yes, doesn’t it feel at times like you’re ingesting nasty green fuzzies?
Especially when neurological Lyme precludes positive thought and right belief?
But maybe you’re yet being provided for. Maybe you’re being molded by the mold into all the abundance that you were created for. Maybe it’s not about a nice car, energy to work, and three thousand weekend activities. Maybe provision is a place of the soul that isn’t subject to human definitions of prosperity.

To receive this prosperity, however, we must decide that we are being provided for, in the best possible way, everyday, if only we ask. It is much easier if you believe in a god who is sovereign and desires to provide for you. It helps if you can hold on to the truth that God loves you, even in the face of tragedy.

Betsie shone as a light in the darkness because she knew this, and believed that a divine hand was always upon her. Not all of us realize we are loved, and so we must implore our creator for revelation, as we spend time in solitude and in prayer, seeking answers. As they come, we may see miracles of provision unfolding in our lives, in ways we had never believed were possible.