Pleasing God On Your Sickbed

Last week I talked with a man whose wife recently died after enduring years of multiple sclerosis.

They were married 36 years, she’d had her disease for the last 26, and the last 18 she was bedridden. She went home to be with the One she longed to please all her days. She did please, honor and glorify Jesus – incredibly. And so did her faithful, loving husband who kept his vows and cared for his beloved till the end.

The same week I talked to a woman who is battling cancer, who told me she really wants to please God, but doesn’t feel like she can do much for him because of how exhausted she is all the time and the pain she experiences. What an honor it was for me to tell her that she is without doubt bringing immense pleasure to God in many ways, even as she perseveres in him through this affliction.

How do we please God on our sickbed or when we are disabled?

There are multitudes far more qualified than I am to talk about this, multitudes who have pleased God through suffering in ways I can’t even fathom, but here are some ways I have seen others please God on their sickbed or in their disability:

The desire to please God is pleasing to him. Unbelievers have no desire to please him. Only those bought with Jesus’ blood and filled with his Spirit long to glorify and please him. What parent wouldn’t be delighted to hear their child say, “Mom, I just want to please you and make you happy”? Even your desire to bring pleasure to Jesus fills him with pleasure and joy.

Trusting Jesus for your righteousness and justification pleases him.

Hoping in God pleases him. Even if you’re seeing a doctor or taking medicine, ultimately your hope is in Jesus to heal and help you, and that honors him.

Doing everything to God’s glory – even small and seemingly insignificant things. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If it’s taking a pill, or simply lying on your back, if that’s where Jesus has you, then you can do it for his glory.

Persevering in Jesus honors him. It’s easy to trust Jesus and follow him when all is going well. But when we trust him in pain and disability, that brings him great honor. The world would say “Curse God and die.” But you go on praising God and living for him.

To whatever degree you are able, looking to the interests of others – even if you can only whisper a brief prayer for a fellow sufferer.

Not complaining. The man whose wife suffered with MS for 26 years told me “I never heard her complain once.” “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). When you endure without complaining you shine a bright light for Jesus to all around you.

Being content in Christ. A woman in our church who suffers from a debilitating disease told me how tempting it is to be discontent with her situation. She asked me to pray that Jesus would help her heart be content. How pleasing to God – both the desire to be content and the request! I hope I can imitate her in any afflictions I must endure.

Loving others. Spurgeon’s wife Susannah was an invalid, yet she collected money and gave away thousands of books to poor pastors.

Being cheerful and grateful. Believing that God works all things for good. Offering God worship and thanks on your sickbed. It’s easy to praise him when all is going well; how it honors him when we praise him in suffering.

Praying to whatever degree you are able.  Even if it’s simply crying, “Jesus, help me,” prayer pleases God because you look to him as your supply and help.

Reading or listening to God’s Word. The man whose wife had MS told me she regularly listened to Scripture music and worship music to lift her soul to Jesus.  It pleases God that we would want to know him through his Word.

Participating in fellowship to whatever degree you can. There are several folks in our church who faithfully come to the Sunday meetings and care groups, though it requires a huge effort and sacrifice. How that glorifies Jesus that they long to be with and love their fellow believers.

Back to my first thought – even the desire to please God honors him. I hope that many will know how pleased God is with them in how they endure and glorify him on their sickbeds and in their disabilities.

  • Jennifer Van Wieren

    I love this post. I love it all except the 26 years of not complaining. First if all, one has to delineate what constitutes complaining or grumbling verses sharing with others and God what the illness feels like. If someone asks you about your level of pain or another side effect, how is one to answer this question for fear of complaining? Do they verbally always have to follow it ip with But God is good” and then spend 5 minutes assuring us they trust him and they are ok? I have seen this happen and I have felt this pressure myself. I wonder if this sets up a bar that is yet another expectation upon a person who is already suffering. Being honest about ones experiences, pains, side effects, concerns, fears, and feelings should be something we encourage. Our loving father wants us to be honest with him. When we are honest with others we share deeper relationships and we can know how to pray for each other. In a church that celebrates no complaining you can see how one might be fearful of looking less faithful if one is honest. People can judge others with how one walks through something. In the end, I think this kind of thinking values stoicism which is easy and natural for some and not as natural in others, having nothing to do with an individuals faith but maybe a way they are hardwired to experience things or the way they were raised. Stoicism isn’t a biblical value. It is different from faith but can appear to be the same. Stoicism can also be damaging and isolating and false. Celebrating stoicism false environment where one goes home at the end of the day feeling like a failure or not strong enough in their suffering because they cried or experienced an emotion about their situation.

    I get what you are saying. I see in the Old Testament that the Israelites grumbled and it angered God. They did it as a body of believers. I get that it glorifies God to trust him but I think this is a private journey to become strong in him in our trials. And which ever way The Lord pulls us through something is a blessing…not one way celebrated over another. Each and everyone of us sins in suffering…grumble or no grumble. I love the verse about “I learned to be content” because we are all constantly learning this process of trusting God. are to say to each other and other, ” this is really hard because _____” and we knew they were leaning into God nonetheless and had a hope in him…I wouldn’t consider it grumbling. Maybe you could define what you mean by complaining. I just get very concerned when I hear things like this celebrated. I do believe we can have a faith in the midst of what appears to others and even ourselves as confusion. In my opinion, we close doors and encourage an environment of stoicism instead of brokenness and dependence on God when we celebrate non-grumbling. I love to sit down with and have…those who feel like they have to drum it up for other Christians because they feel pressure to act and say the right things in trials as to not appear to be grumbling. I love to trust their relationship with him and be the person they can come to when they feel like they are not good enough in their environment, not saying or feeling the “right” things, and need help.

    As a side note, those with chronic illness can suffer from depression and may not be able to see the world and the Lord and themselves in a healthy way in the way they would normally due to the symptoms of depression. Sometimes just listening to people and what is the hardest parts about their illness is a healing balm. I would hate to see this experience taken from them. The psalms are amazing examples of complaining and concern.

    Haha, I guess I am complaining about the part of your post on complaining in a way haha.

    As always Mark I am so thankful for your teaching and the Christ and your love for us.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Jennifer,

      Thanks for your comments! I mean it. I think you have so so much to say and offer on this topic. I agree – I probably should have defined complaining or grumbling, which would not be talking about one's pain or temptations or struggles, but an outright accusation of God, like "I can't believe God is doing this to me," or "How can a good God let this happen?" or "I can't believe I have to go through this." When I ask someone how they are doing, I want to know. And when they tell me, "I'm really in a lot of pain," or "I'm really sad" or "I'm really hurting" or "I feel like giving up" – to me, that isn't complaining. And I don't feel like someone would immediately have to follow it up with "but God is good." However, I've known folks who continually talk about how miserable they are and never connect it to God.

      I also agree that we should listen when someone is in pain and be very slow to correct or adjust them.

      We can also lift our "complaint" to God and our questions to him. And I certainly don't want to create an attitude of stoicism. Yet at the same time, God is glorified when we trust him, or struggle to trust him, and praise him in the midst of our afflictions.

      This subject probably needs much more discussion, but I want you to know I appreciate your comments and helping me to be more accurate and helpful. I also appreciated a lot what you shared at the end of the meeting on Sunday! I know you have suffered a lot, Jennifer, in many ways, and I truly believe you have glorified God and pleased him so much!

      • Jennifer Van Wieren

        Thanks Mark. That really helps me understand the difference…and makes a lot of sense. That is really helpful to me. I am such a processor so sorting out what is meant by complaining helps me…an also gives me an idea of what to steer clear of in my sufferring. I agree that outright accusation of God are different and hearing someone doing so would help one gauge ones thinking of God in their suffering (and how deep and intense these thoughts actually are). Their thinking about him and who they are in relation to him (his care for them, love for the, and sovereignty) maybe skewed. Their complaints against God give one a magnifying glass into their hearts to know what reassurances and scriptures they might need to help their thinking. (All of the above I have learned through your teaching) Incorrect thinking about God, self, and other adds so much to people’s pain.

        Thanks for your kind words about Sunday. I have suffered myself and wrestled with ideas about suffering. In the past I was a grumbler and complainer and lived with bitterness for almost a year. I was confused about God’s role in my suffering. Once The Lord gave me wisdom, grew me closer to him, and healed my wounds, I was able to see my incorrect thinking about him. I often wonder if he closed my eyes to that correct thinking for I certainly searched for him as I was bitter. I am so thankful though that I have that wisdom that cannot be taken from me and trials since then have no accusations against him but instead met with peace in Him. Thanks for listening to my thoughts and feelings about this issue. Thanks also for explaining this to me.

        • Mark Altrogge

          You're welcome, Jennifer! Always glad to hear your thoughts and feelings – you have a perspective lots of us don't have, since you have gone through some devastating trials. And because of all God has taken you through, I'm sure he uses you powerfully to comfort others in their pain.

  • Jennifer Van Wieren

    (Lots of typos as I posted this from my phone).
    *I am thankful for “the Christ” haha but I meant to write ” your love for Christ”.

    That post was just written to help me sort this issue out in my head and heart. It’s a confusing one for me. Thanks :)

  • Mary Ann

    Mark, your point: "Praying to whatever degree you are able. Even if it’s simply crying, “Jesus, help me,” prayer pleases God because you look to him as your supply and help."
    I remember being very, very sick and all I could pray was one word, "Jesus". And that was enough…because HE is enough!
    Thank you for this post.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thank you Mary Ann! Amen, HE is enough.

  • princesscassia

    Thank you so much for this <3. So needed and encouraging today!

    • Mark Altrogge

      I'm so glad princesscassia! Thank you.

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  • sonja

    Thank you so much for your post, and your answer to Jennifer about what constitutes complaining. I would love to explain how much I needed this today, and how helpful it was, but I don't really have words to tell you how much it touched my heart.

    Thank you again!

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