John Donne was “lead pastor” (the title was “dean” in 17th century London) of St Paul’s Cathedral during the devastating bubonic plague that kept funeral bells tolling. Later in life, he himself fell into a life threatening illness. During this time on his sickbed, in his prayer journal, in one of the devotions, he offered thanksgiving for his king — the king of England. The act of kindness by his king that brought him to offer this thanks to God in prayer was that the king had sent his personal physician to care for Donne. But the devotion praises this thoughtful king for two acts of kindness. The first was the sending of the physician — “when he can’t heal with his own hands, he sends the gift of his physician” (A Companion in Crises p56). The second act of kindness on John Donne’s mind was a much deeper rooted act of kindness — an act that had a taproot that was buried into the very center of his heart.
This is Donne’s prayer to God about his king. “Before anyone else, he saw potential that I might be of use in Your church, and hinted, persuaded, and nearly ordered me to embrace that calling. You, who put that desire into his heart, also put into mine an obedience to his call. At a time when I was sick with dizzy indecision, it was this man of God (this king) who set me straight.” John goes on to pray, “Not only has he sent a physician for my bodily health, he has sent a physician for my spiritual health.”
What a king! This king gives us a reflection of our King Jesus (Revelation 19:16). Jesus is truly king — a king with all power. He has nothing to compel him to love me. But, not only has he sent a physician to meet my material needs, he has sent a physician to minister to my soul. King Jesus offers the same thoughtful kindness to you as well.
Donne’s devotion reflects on the limitations of his king. His king was susceptible to sickness. His king was susceptible to death. His king’s hands were limited on how much help they could offer. But our King’s hands are not! Our King’s hands are more than capable of bringing both our physical needs into His purposes (Romans 8:28) and our spiritual welfare into a perfect state of deliverance. Nothing is impossible!”
By W. Stephen Williams © August 29, 2022
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
“The gracious king has sent me his own physician” (A Companion Crises: A Modern Paraphrase of John Donne’s Devotions by Philip Yancey)