742) Meditation on the Good Use of Sickness

By Blaise Pascal  (1663-1662)  (Adapted)

     Lord, you are good and gentle in all your ways; and your mercy is so great that not only the blessings but also the misfortunes of your people are channels of your compassion.  Grant that I may turn to you as a Father in my present condition, since the change in my own state from health to sickness brings no change to you.  You are always the same, and you are my loving Father in times of trouble and in times of joy alike.

     You gave me health that I might serve you; and so often I failed to use my good health in your service.  Now you send me sickness in order to correct me.  I pray that I may not use this sickness to irritate you by impatience.  I made bad use of my health, and you have justly punished me for it; O, that I may not make bad use of my punishment.  In my sinfulness, your favors to me became snares to my spiritual life; grant, O Lord, that your chastisements may be beneficial to my spirit.  My health was full of pride and selfish ambition when I was well.  Now please let sickness destroy that pride and ambition.  Render me incapable of enjoying any worldly pleasures, if that is what is necessary for me to learn to depend on you alone.  Grant that I may learn to trust in you, now in the lonely silence of my sick bed.  Grant that, having ignored the things of the spirit when my body was vigorous, I may now enjoy spiritual blessings while my body groans with pain.

     How happy is the heart, O God, that can love you and find its peace in you.  How secure and durable is the happiness that is found in you since you endure forever.  Neither life nor death can separate such happiness from its source.  Move my heart, O God, to repentance for all my faults, and for all the many times I looked elsewhere for fulfillment and hope.  Let this disorder in my body be the means by which my soul is put in order.  I can now find no happiness in physical things; let me find happiness only in you.

     You can see me, Lord, as I truly am; and surely you can find nothing pleasing.  I can see in myself, Lord, nothing but my sufferings.  Yet I find comfort in the knowledge that, in a small way, my sufferings resemble your sufferings.  You became a man and suffered in order to save all people.  In your own body you embraced all bodily suffering.  Look down, Lord, on the pains that I suffer, and on this illness that afflicts me.  Let my sorrows become my invitation to you to visit me.  

     Uproot in me, Lord, the self-pity on which self-love feeds.  Let me not dwell with self-pity on my own sufferings.  Let me not regret the loss of worldly pleasures, but remind me that such pleasures can never satisfy my heart.  Let me henceforth ask for neither health nor life, but rather let me be content with your will for me.  Let health and sickness, life and death, be equal in my sight.  Let me joyfully acknowledge you as king, able to give or take away your blessings as you wish.  Let me trust in your eternal providence, receiving with equal reverence all that comes to me from you.

      And finally, as I share in your sufferings, let me one day share in the joy of your risen life.

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Death mask of Blaise Pascal.

Pascal, a mathematical genius and inventor, died at the age of 39, suffering from many ailments.  His last words were, “May God never abandon me.”

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Romans 5:1-5  —  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

1 Peter 4:12-13  —  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Philippians 4:11b-12  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.