All of our physical, emotional, spiritual suffering is welcome in the practice of the great physician—even the seemingly-small stuff. He will not despise us if we come or send us away. He won’t sigh and help us reluctantly. He’ll take our hand, and sooner or later, help us to rise up, well again, and able to serve.
I’ve always loved the placement of the story where Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. The account is a short one. She has a fever, so Jesus touches her hand. She is healed, rises, and like a good Middle Eastern mom immediately begins to serve her guests. In Matthew, this non-flashy miracle comes directly after Jesus has healed a leper and a paralyzed servant who was suffering terribly. And it’s followed by Jesus casting out demons and healing all the sick brought to him in Capernaum. In Luke and Mark the preceding account is of the showdown with the demonized man in the synagogue. (Matt 8:1-17, Mark 1:21-33, Luke 4:31-41).
In this context, the healing of a fever seems like a small thing. “Big deal, fevers are ho-hum, everyday stuff. Casting out demons and healing those with life-threatening diseases and excruciating pain? Now that’s what really counts.” Yet there it is, a simple healing of a simple illness, placed in all three synoptic gospels, a reminder that Jesus cares about fevers too. Apparently, he does not scoff at requests to heal the little stuff, but even there he delights to show his compassion and power.
Perhaps fevers were more life-threatening in first century Galilee. But still, a qualitative difference remains. The doctors in Capernaum would have felt like they had adequate medicine for fevers. There were treatable by normal means, as it were. Leprosy and demon-possession? Not so much. Peter’s household may have felt some temptation to not ask for healing. After all, shouldn’t Jesus’ power and attention be saved for the big stuff, especially when local remedies existed for things like fevers? Whether they felt this or not, we are not told. We are simply told that they told Jesus about her fever and he healed her.
This is the logic of faith functioning as it should. Jesus can heal bigger and badder things, so therefore let’s be quick to ask him to take care of this fever also. This is true humility, faith like a child. Yet so often we fall into a different kind of logic, where because we know Jesus can heal bigger and badder things, we think he shouldn’t be bothered with our little forms of suffering – if we even put them in the category of suffering at all. I know that I for one am often guilty of taking headache medicine without praying for God to heal. Even today my kids are home sick from school, yet it took me until I wrote this post to actually pray for them. My underlying assumption seems to be that it’s not worth bringing the little stuff to God, that either he or I really can’t be bothered.