All the bags were packed and waiting by the door, full of the special snacks, swimsuits and towels for the hotel pool, and tablets borrowed from the library for use passing the time on the seven-hour drive. Our three kids were so excited to join Dad for the first time on his yearly work trip to Washington DC, and I was perhaps more excited than anyone for the escape from the gray January monotony.
But, alas, it was not to be. At 4:00 a.m. our daughter knocked on our door, burning up with fever and hacking a deep cough, and just like that, all hopes for a break dissipated and I faced a long weekend of caring for flu-ridden kids by myself instead. One by one, each child succumbed, and the toddler also added a UTI to her list of ailments for good measure. It was a sorry turn of events.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Mothering young children often means mothering sick children. No matter what decisions you make about nutrition, vaccines, or essential oils, you will find yourself tending the sickbed more than you’d like. We live in a fallen world with fallen immune systems, and nothing we do can change that. Then, we care for those fallen immune systems with our fallen natures, natures that are prone to sin and discouragement when things get rough. Although we know sickness is the result of the Fall, and one we’re eager to get through, I think there are redeeming elements if we’re willing to look for them. Today, in the midst of cold and flu season, I hope to offer you some encouragement on how to view the sickbed with fresh eyes. *
First, see the sickbed as a privilege. A couple weeks ago, as I nursed my little sickies, I was weary. The demands, fussiness, and lack of sleep felt never-ending. I was praying for the Spirit’s help when I thought of a loved one who recently and unexpectedly lost her daughter very suddenly. I knew how much she would love the chance to care for her sick daughter one last time. I realized that the fact that I had usually healthy children who now needed care was itself a blessing. Sickness reminds us that we are usually healthy, and that we have children to care for, access to medical care, and a myriad of other reasons to be grateful. Rather than complaining, give thanks for the privilege of loving your kids through sickness.
See the sickbed as a chance to grow in faith. Anytime my children begin exhibiting symptoms of illness, I am tempted to be anxious. I fret over them. I let my mind wander to the most terrifying possibilities. I start to Google combinations of symptoms. I reference my eight-week pediatrics rotation in nursing school and come up with vague memories of terrible outcomes. But this is not what it looks like to be a faithful Christian mom. The godly mom sees the sickbed as another opportunity to grow in faith. She responsibly cares for her children’s needs and seeks medical attention as needed, but she also takes captive her restless, wandering thoughts and remembers that her children belong to the One who made them. He can be trusted with their wellbeing. She sees the sickbed as another opportunity to trust God.
Lastly, see the sickbed as an opportunity for self-sacrifice, not self-pity. I have to be honest here. While nurturing my children comes somewhat naturally, this does not! I failed many times during the week of sickness that ensued following the scene I just described, frequently feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I was the one who could go on the trip while my husband stayed home instead. I’m not proud to admit that. Thank goodness we aren’t looking to me and my (nonexistent) perfection for inspiration on how to handle illness! No. We look to Jesus’s example with those who were suffering and ill, and we see Him showing compassion and a willingness to be inconvenienced for them. We see him meeting their needs without grumbling or self-pity. We see him healing the sick even as He wanted time to Himself (Matthew 15). Because He is our Savior, we should emulate Him in His self-sacrifice, and sickness is one of the ways we can grow in this area. Welcome this opportunity. Of course, if you’re like me, during a week-long stretch of illness or more, you will fail and be tempted to give up. We know where to go when we’ve sinned, though, don’t we? We go to Jesus again, for forgiveness and strength to try again.
Moms, most of us will have sick kids a time or two before the winter ends. We can see the sickbed as misery to trudge through, or we can see it as a privilege and an opportunity to grow in faith and self-sacrifice. Since we’re going to face it regardless, let’s choose to face it with grace.
* (Note: I’m not here to address those of you who are caring for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. I know you dear sisters need unique encouragement, but I’m wholly unqualified to give it, since I have not walked in your shoes. Feel free to read, but know that I understand your struggles are on a whole different level, and any encouragement you receive here is only through God’s grace and no wisdom or experience of mine!)