"(The Lord Jesus Christ) will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body..." Philippians 3.21
Joni Eareckson Tada says it well when she exclaims: "I, with shrivelled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright and clothed in righteousness - powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives? No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope."
Most people don't like they way they look. The technical term is "body dysmorphia" and it affects children and young people particularly. And, as we grow older, aches and pains make it worse - though few of us will suffer in the way Joni describes above. Nevertheless diseases can affect our minds and hearts as well as our bodies: dementia, social anxiety on top of arthritis or worse, osteoporosis add up to a cocktail of painful woes. And the tragedy of wasting diseases is that they are unlikely to get better. So how do we minister to people facing such bleak prospects? Maybe you are in that very place yourself?
It is important to be honest: there are no easy answers or quick fixes. A large part of our response will simply involve understanding and sympathy, whose best prospect is to reassure the sufferer that they are cared about. Medicine continues to make significant strides in treatment, pain relief and psychological support. Yet complete healing is rare and temporary. None of us is getting younger and, after a certain age, we are unlikely to get fitter and stronger. But, if we allow our faith to speak, we can look forward to a glorious future, free of pain and bursting with health and vigour...
With that prospect in mind, can we find ways of coping such that our suffering prepares us for that glorious future by honing qualities of endurance, hope, patience, compassion, &c? In so doing we shall honour the one through whom this blessed relief will come: our Maker and Redeemer. And what of those whose suffering and decline has taken them past the point of rational thought and decision-making? God knows their predicament and he has them in the palm of his hand. Let us pray that his will and purpose works in their lives as well as in ours. We might not know how, but, dedicated to God, their experience will blend with ours to achieve everything they and we were created for!