Bitter Medicine

Sheba on PillowNot only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Like most senior citizens, Sheba has a collection of pills that she takes daily, medications and food supplements to maintain her health and relieve her allergies and arthritis.  These are very effective treatments, and as long as they’re consumed she moves around quite comfortably.  But Sheba doesn’t like her pills—apparently they taste bad—and if they’re given alone she won’t touch them. Added to dry dog food, she’ll eat all around the pills and leave them in the dish; every morsel will be gone except the few tiny bites that will keep her healthy and pain free.  So we disguise them with moist food, coating each pill so thoroughly that she never even realizes she’s eaten something that’s good for her.

Life typically hands us a lot of ‘bitter pills’, and we all endure unpleasant experiences that ‘taste bad’.  But amazingly enough, these hardships that we despise so much may be the very medicine we need—opportunities disguised as problems that God allows so that we can become stronger.  And when it all just seems too much to swallow, Take the old prophets as your mentors.  They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.  What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.  That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (James 5:10-11, The Message)


I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. Luke 11:8


When Sheba is hungry she will not leave me alone.  She follows on my heels, rubs her little body up against my feet or legs over and over (like a cat), and becomes such a pest that I finally give in and feed her, whether it’s time for dinner or not.

Shouldn’t I be like that with God?  Such a pest—so hungry for his truth and his love that I just won’t leave him alone—constantly pursuing him in prayer for more of his truth to be revealed to me—to be always hungry and thirsty for his righteousness.

Just as I’m committed to feeding Sheba, God has promised to satisfy my desire for him; I will not go hungry. Jesus himself promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Lay Aside Every Weight

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

After years of illness or injury and recovery, I was finally at a point where my car was learning to go in directions other than doctors’ offices or hospitals.  On a much-needed vacation, a favorite pastime was to soak in a bubble bath with a good book—something I rarely have a chance to do at home.  On this day, when the time came to get out of the tub, I was shocked to discover that it was almost impossible because years of infirmity had diminished my strength to the point that it was a struggle just to get to my knees, let alone stand up and step out.  I decided I was much too young for this, so when I got home I joined a gym and started counting calories; determined that I was going to get back in shape so I would be able to keep up with my on-the-way grandchild.

One year later, I’d lost over forty pounds and was in better shape than at any time since high school, when PE was required and I had no choice but to exercise five days a week.  I hadn’t looked or felt so good in years and, on top of that, I got to buy an entirely new wardrobe. I didn’t keep any of the old “fat clothes” either for I certainly would never need them again.  The Lord didn’t let me get too cocky about it though—a friend, intending a compliment, actually said, “Oh Barbara, just think, this is as good as you’re ever going to look in your whole life!”   OK, great—how nice to know that it’s all downhill from here!

But oops! It soon became easy to skip a day here and there at the gym, or to allow myself an extra piece of bread or a second helping of food; and over several years I noticed that some of my new clothes weren’t quite as comfortable as they’d been when I bought them.  Then some of them didn’t fit at all.  Then I was shopping for undergarments that would compress my waistline and wearing things that were loose fitting or had elastic waistbands.  Like I said, oops!

So, here I am; back at the gym and counting calories again, working off the pounds I allowed to creep back; and it turns out to be a good thing I didn’t keep those “fat clothes” because with the current economy, getting a whole new wardrobe again isn’t an option so I’m extra motivated.  Along the way, as He often does in every life experience, the Lord has been gracious to point out some spiritual parallels.

My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I have a responsibility to take care of it to the best of my ability.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?   For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The principles for developing spiritual maturity in 2 Peter 1:5-7 work just as well to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.   But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 

As weight gain may be slow and subtle, almost unnoticeable for a long time; so are the effects of unrighteousness.  Little sins seem like nothing, but allowed to continue they escalate and become destructive.  Ananias and Sapphira probably thought little white lies were OK, but one lie that seemed OK to them cost them their lives.  Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.  So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (Acts 5:9-11)

The Apostle Paul repeatedly referred to life as a race, and my desire is to finish the race well; doing the maximum amount of damage possible to the kingdom of evil.  If I am a good steward of my body I will be better able to accomplish the Lord’s purposes; so when old unhealthy habits creep back into my life, I must turn from them and start anew, just as I would if I recognized an old sin popping up that I thought I had overcome.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)