When I Get a Cold
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. Galatians 4:13-14
I had a sore throat and cough last week. It wasn’t Covid-19 – I checked. Still, it was annoying and it kept me from going to the gym all week, which is kind of a big deal for me. I wasn’t a big whiner about it, but it was bad timing. I had several other things going on and I just really didn’t have time to be sick. I know it wasn’t a huge life trial, but still, I was frustrated by the inconvenience. At no time during my week did I thank God for the illness or ask him what I could learn through it. I didn’t pray for a good attitude, and I didn’t look for any opportunities to use it for God’s purpose. I was just annoyed.
In reading today’s passage, I had to contrast my attitude with that of Paul’s. In the story, Paul looked back to the circumstances that first brought him to share the gospel with the Galatians to whom he was writing. He reminded them that it was because of some illness that he even met them. We don’t know what the ailment was, but because of it, Paul was waylaid in his travels and spent time with the Galatians. He apparently didn’t waste that time in self-pity. Rather, he asked God what he could do in the circumstances that had been given to him. He used his trial as an opportunity, and he loved those that God put in front of him. In seeking God’s will, he used his illness for good.
This isn’t natural for most of us. Most of us are egocentric enough that we’re mostly concerned with our own wellbeing. We don’t inherently look at our trials as opportunities, asking God how he wants us to use them. We could do this though. We could learn, like Paul, to choose love and obedience. When we struggle with anything, we could turn to God, asking what it is that he wants us to do.
The passage doesn’t explicitly say that God caused Paul’s illness for this purpose. It does say that he used something evil for good though. That good outcome however depended on Paul’s attitude and obedience. It’s the same with us. If we choose, God can use our life trials for his purpose. The difference will be found in our attitude and obedience. God, what do you want me to do with this?