A newsletter that I subscribe to recently drew my attention to this article about “man-flu.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s used to describe the way in which men’s response to illness is more exaggerated than what you see in women. And men do, in fact, report greater severity of symptoms and longer recovery times than women. But is that because women are stoic and better at enduring pain, or do men experience illness differently?
Increasingly the evidence is suggesting that the difference has to do with testosterone and the way that it suppresses antibody response. It seems that the flu (and many other respiratory illnesses) might actually hit men harder.
But why? Scientists are always keen to find the evolutionary angle that could account for a development like this and the prevailing hypothesis is that, at a time when the stakes were generally higher, a man who was keenly aware of how a virus had him at a disadvantage would be more likely to stay by the fire than take the huge risk of going on a bear hunt or picking a fight with another man. Engaging in competitive, violent, and physically demanding activities when you are sick can lead to disaster.
And if this is true about testosterone, it makes as much sense to attribute that feature to the wisdom of a good Creator as to the blind machinations of evolution. So the next time I’m sick I can be a real baby about it and expect for the women in my life to care for me, and if they don’t like it they can take it up with the God who made me, right? Maybe not.
But what does all of this have to do with church?
This is some of what Jesus was getting at when he said that his followers had to be people who “counted the cost.” And being disciplined to count the cost before undertaking something is only helpful if you are accurate in counting the cost. The Russian leadership undoubtedly did an assessment of its strength and of Ukraine's strength before launching an unprovoked attack. But it’s also evident that it did not really understand its own strength relative to that of its opponents or it would have made different decisions than the decisions it made in those fateful days in February.
Feeling the symptoms of the virus is uncomfortable. Not feeling those symptoms is disastrous.
We hate, as a church, to be laid low and to feel that the gap between our capacity and our gospel aspirations is too wide to leap across. We want to pick a fight with the forces of darkness in our community, when sometimes it’s all we can do to pull off a successful worship service in the controlled environment of the sanctuary. When chafing at our limitations it is important to remember that the virus is a problem but that the symptoms are a matter of grace.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog