a gentle fever

I’ve been working through a particularly difficult issue in therapy for the past few weeks, and on Saturday, I got a glimpse of my brokenness and my inadequacy to solve the problem. Seeing myself in that state was like a cold that shocks the lungs. I was disoriented and hurting and didn’t know how I could keep on.

When I’m especially tired or lost, I struggle with self-contempt, and I was struggling with it on Monday like I hadn’t ever before. I kept crying out to God, “Be gentle to me,” as if God were the one harming me rather than I. But he heard me.

Early Tuesday morning, around 3:30 a.m., I woke up suddenly in a sweat with my sinuses full and a sore throat. Sick. I prayed, as I often do when sick, for healing. But it wasn’t a humble prayer. I was exasperated, and I let God know it. My last cold was less than two weeks ago, and I was still getting over it, and I’ve been sick so much this winter that I’ve actually run out of sick days. I’m at the limit of my emotional strength, and now my body is weakened again. How would I make it through the work week?

I knew that God heard my complaint—I felt his kindness toward me—and I also understood then that he wasn’t going to heal me overnight. It’s not that God doesn’t hear me or doesn’t care; he has actually chosen to heal me immediately of my petty illnesses before. This has taught me that in whatever God chooses to do, I should always expect him to be there with me, somehow, in the midst of my simple hurts. I should always watch for God.

On Tuesday, despite the fever that kept me up most of the night, I was able to work, just a little slower and spacier than usual. What was more of a surprise was that all my self-contempt had gone, and I was in a good mood. God knows that I’m much more kind and patient with myself when I’m sick, and it was this sickness that was God’s way of being gentle to me, and of prodding me to be more gentle with myself in seasons of mental sickness. In this strange way, I’ve carried the warmth of God’s love in my gently sick body.


Central to Paul’s understanding of the cross is the belief that it is the free gift of God to a wicked and corrupt world. This point was and is offensive to those who want to make their own unaided way through life, or who suppose that nothing much is wrong with the world or the human race, or indeed themselves. Free grace is obviously correlated with a radical view of human wickedness and the threat posed by death. For those who want to remain independent, being ruled by grace appears almost as much of a threat as being ruled by sin and death. But this is, of course, absurd. Grace is undeserved love in powerful action; and love seeks the well-being, the flourishing, of the beloved, not their extinction or diminution. To look love in the face and see only a threat is the self-imposed nemesis of the hermeneutic of suspicion.

N.T. Wright on Romans 5 in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary