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Praise God for the Common Cold

By Andrew Goins

Watauga CountyAndrew Goins


The common cold makes for a great preacher. He does not preach like the calm and collected preacher, who, articulately interpreting a passage, drones on with a monotonous voice that miraculously makes a wood pew feel like a king-sized temper-pedic. Instead, the common cold is a fiery Appalachian preacher sweating somethin’ fierce while pounding his pulpit and yelling about God’s holy love and loving holiness until the congregation feels the holy tremors rattling their bones. The common cold’s message is as old as the hills yet surprising, fresh, and rarely heard…but I heard it; I felt it surge through my clammy body.

It all began during finals season. No matter how many times I do it, it never gets better. I hate the sleepless nights, the anxiety-charged irritability, the constant, subtle adrenaline rush, and the fear of failure.

But I am a studious student. The month leading up to finals I worked twelve-hour days crammed with reading, homework, and lectures on top of my other daily and weekly tasks. This spring semester consisted of a harsh routine: I would greet my wife, roll out of bed, spend time praying (which, sadly, shrunk as the impending final season drew nearer), and begin my allotted work. My eating habits consisted of a skipped breakfast, a worked-through lunch, and a wolfed-down dinner all so that I could continue working. It was exhausting.

Every semester, I spend about three weeks working on my final study guide, which is what keeps me working into the early evening (usually 8. p.m.). After the study guide is compiled, I begin swallowing the information to spit it out through my pen and onto paper so that I can get a good grade.

Every semester, the most peculiar thing happens—I catch a common cold. That is whenever I hear the common cold’s sermon. It starts faintly, with a slight scratch in the back of my throat, like a vague whisper in the wind. This year I thought I was being paranoid, so I trudged on through my studies. And then I got up to drink some water. I felt the sermon coming on again as the water spilled down my gullet. His voice got a little more clear, like the voice of a stream that faintly, yet ever so clearly, clamors through the valley. I woke up at 4:30 am feeling the fiery sermon roaring through my body. He was a-shoutin’ and a-yellin’.

They say that the great Cane Ridge revival of 1803 had people compulsively laughing and running, trembling with holy tremors. They say other people barked like dogs and rolled around on the ground like they were King Nebuchadnezzar himself—exiled to the fields to chew the cud and wear morning dew for clothes. I felt more like Nebuchadnezzar restlessly rolling around in a bizarre and sweaty fever dream as the sermon billowed through my body, congesting my sinuses and dancing on my raw throat while my head was pounded by the great steel driver John Henry himself.

“This is my lot,” I said to myself in a feverish state. I worked like a dog and found the common cold’s sermon had made one out of me too—a dog charged with the Spirit of God, with the message of God surging through my body. Then I began to think, perhaps this message is not so much a word of punishment as a word of pardon, a word of grace. The common cold says “You are not the Creator! You are a small, weak little creature. Stop pretending to be a god and hospitably accept that you are a product of the infinite!”

Praise God for common colds! Praise God for bloodshot eyes and adrenal-shot bodies! Praise God for the mild flu! Praise God for our creatureliness! The common cold is God’s cease, which stops us dead in our tracks of work and lays us bare before the eternal Creator of the cosmos. If you have ears to hear, God’s voice rings through the common cold’s sermon saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”


Andrew Goins is on staff for a campus ministry at Appalachian State University called Ratio Christi. He also works as a youth leader and worship leader at Arbor Dale Presbyterian Church in Banner Elk.

Andrew is committed to simply and thoroughly loving his wife Bethany, growing in his bible nerdiness, delighting in good books (theology, poetry, and select fiction), music, photography, creation, and in gathering people together for bible studies, a shared meal, or making music.

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