An Invader Corrupted My Body

Bill Stough

I began to feel an extreme weakness on Christmas Eve 1952. When it came time to go to bed I couldn't walk. My parents looked at each other with grave concern. My father carried me up the stairs to bed and called the doctor. I was twelve years old.

In those days the medical system was different. Doctors made house calls and hospitals were rarely used. The doctor came and ruled out polio which is what my parents feared but he could not diagnose what was wrong yet.

The next day was another matter. On that day the doctor found a heart murmur. I had rheumatic fever. I would nearly die the next day.

There are vivid comparisons between rheumatic fever and how sin can disrupt the body and turn it against itself. This can apply to a congregation or an individual Christian. We will consider the individual only in this article.

Rheumatic fever is a strange disease. It is one of a family of “auto-immune” illnesses in which the body attacks and destroys itself. I had strep throat about a week before Christmas but that was now gone. However, the antibodies that my body manufactured to destroy the strep now somehow mistook my heart tissue as strep and began attacking it. My own body was now killing itself.

I could hear my parents downstairs crying as the doctor talked to them. He told them he feared for my life.

How does our Heavenly Father feel as he sees us destroying ourselves with sinful, addictive behavior? My parents were crying  - and human concern is only a small type of what our Heavenly Father feels. My parents were totally helpless to stop what was happening to me. They were full of turmoil and dread.

Through Christ, our Father in heaven has provided a way out when we get trapped in sin, but because he has made us with free will, he too stands  helpless if we don't want to get rid of our spiritual disease. We ought to think about him crying and being full of dread when we are involved in sin. He sees it for what it is.

How does sin occur and take hold? “…but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15).”

Strep throat should be treated with antibiotics right away or it can lead to rheumatic fever. Temptation must be dealt with right away. If we mull over temptation and let sin grow out of it, it becomes harder and harder to put out. We need to cry out to God to help us see things for what they really are. He sees and cares intensely.

As my rheumatic fever deepened I became delirious. I was only vaguely aware of my parents presence. All I knew was the intense heat and fever that was wracking my body. My legs were so full of pain that I couldn't stand the bed covers, so my father used a carpenter's saw horse to hold them off my body.

When sin  takes hold and intensifies we are only vaguely aware of God at all, just as I hardly knew my parents were there. We are too eaten up by our sins. We are approaching spiritual death - and that is a death for all eternity.

Rheumatic fever is a vivid representation of a penetrating sin situation. God is grieved when his own children are sick and destroying themselves spiritually.

It is unwise to think we can't be invaded by a temptation that will pervert our body and lead to our spiritual death.

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8).”

My rheumatic fever would rage on for three days then abate. I would spend months in bed and would be left with a damaged heart. Throughout my life I would have very good health periods and then something would happen and heart problems would return. Sin affects us for life also.

The best way to deal with rheumatic fever is to not get it. That is done by going to a doctor for antibiotics at the first sign of a possible strep throat. The best way to prevent sin entering and perverting our spiritual walk is to cut it off at the temptation stage.

“Submit your selves, then, to god. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).”

Ask God to see things vividly as he sees them.