Having COVID, however mild a variant (and mine is mild) causes a person to think about illness. If it were a worse variant than I have, I am sure my mortality would come to mind… Instead, my favorite Biblical quote about illness comes to mind,
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity;
But a broken spirit who can bear?
If a person believes that the end of illness will be either recovery of her health or being recovered by God in the afterlife, then a person shall find they can bear their infirmity. Yet suppose a person’s weakness is not merely physical? Suppose like me the person has Bipolar, and an optimistic outlook is difficult. Of course, I take pills… yet apart from the fact that there is a world outside of pills, perhaps those pills are not “enough” to recover the happiness that ordinary people supposedly have as a given?
The Bible speaks a great deal of health, but it also speaks of a “broken spirit,” and that is why one of my favorite portions of Isaiah describes a suffering servant, interpreted by Christians to be Christ himself and by Jews to be the Jewish people:
He was despised, and forsaken of men,
A man of pains, and acquainted with disease,
And as one from whom men hide their face:
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried;
Whereas we did esteem him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
The servant was not esteemed, in part, because of his physical ailments. He is “acquainted with disease,” yet the more debilitating fact is of the disease itself. Only God and his servant understand the depths of human suffering. The great mystery is why God, who is good, allows illnesses from leprosy to autism to exist at all. Perhaps it is a kind of test of the healthy: can they behave humanely towards those whom are difficult to understand, or are they destined to be as cruel as Victorian society was towards the Elephant Man at one time? Surely the sick represent the “least of these” as much as children to Christians–and Jews.
Yet sickness has the potential to move the diseased closer to God. Though there have been cases where illness became a roadblock between a person towards belief or towards God, the reverse must be acknowledged. It must be recognized that to have that “broken spirit” can form an open heart with which to receive God. It is as though the soul were Noah on his Ark. The rains of suffering had pounded the world and the Ark alike, and then finally receded. Then Noah set forth the raven and next the dove to be his eyes… and discovered that life outside of the Ark had revived once more… and Noah and his family left the Ark, because the world was no longer a stormy world of woe. So COVID is like a great flood, but soon it will pass and the surviving people will leave the feelings of isolation and illness to return to the lush beauty of life on earth… and, refreshed, they will see God in the rainbow. Or so I see it… but to experience the joy, a person must first experience the brokenness of spirit of knowing about the storming outside of the Ark which we all experienced during COVID-13 and COVID-19…