C-17°|F1°Healing - But first, why do we get sick? We can say that opinions about the origin and reasons of sickness are a minefield of mistaken notions. One common misconception leads us to wonder if retribution is involved when we come across someone suffering a major illness. It gets worse if we actually know the person because, like the friends of Job, it is tempting to start attributing the cause of suffering to the sins we suspect the person of. But if sicknesses were always due to individual sin, we should all (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8) be very ill and newborn babies should never suffer diseases. And if we think that the righteous don't suffer sickness then there shouldn't be examples of saints of the Bible being sick, and Job wasn't the only one. Paul (Galatians 4:13-15), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30); Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23); and Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20) are examples of New Testament saints with illnesses. There are thousands of diseases that medical science cannot attribute specific causes to and likewise spiritually, we just cannot generalise that sickness is always due to any one reason. There just isn't any generic, let alone an absolute, causation between sickness and individual sin. However, we can fairly say that sickness entered the world because of original sin. The nature of being fallen Few would argue against the postulation that God created Adam and Eve as genetically perfect humans (Genesis 1:26-31) and that at creation, God did not intended for them to get ill. However, as a consequence of their succumbing to temptation and sin, mankind was barred from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24) and so we understand that death, sickness and disease were allowed into the world. Physical death followed spiritual death and also separation from God. Having a fallen nature means we are predisposed, as it were, to falling ill and we can reasonably say that sicknesses and suffering are part of the nature of being fallen. What reasons does the Bible give us for sickness? Having in mind that the origin of sickness and suffering is a result of being fallen, we can take a look at examples of sicknesses in the Bible with attributable or deductable reasons. For the sake of a larger sampling, we'll look at sickness in the widest sense of the word to include mental and physical ailments as well as disabilities. We find a host of scriptures pointing to just about every conceivable reason why individuals get sick (and or suffer) and while the reasons do include individual sin, there are plenty that don't. If you find this next part boring (it's meant to be), just skip ahead to the next section. The reasons are: ,For no particular reason at all, or perhaps in any event, it gets our attention. The book of Job illustrates this. Job had no sin in particular that we would as deem as deserving of his suffering. In any event however, is suggested in the story that God may use the circumstances to get our attention and speak with us. It was one of Elihu's principal points in his speech that God could purpose to speak with Job in a special way through the occasion. Elihu goes on to list some of the ways, one of which is the chastening bed of pain (Job 33:14-19). While the sickness was not from God (nor was he being punished), we end up discovering as Job did that God allows it at times and uses it for His often unfathomable purposes. We simply have to accept God's sovereignty in the matter. , It could be a test. Based on the story of Job, perhaps we could also say that we may be allowed sickness as a test to strengthen our faith. It is hard to deny that it is during the most testing of circumstances that we seek Him the deepest. The test of sickness perhaps, is whether we will continue to trust God and accept His sovereignty even when He does not answer our question "why?"; show us "how"; or let us know "when". I am glad to note that the Bible tells us we won't be tested beyond our endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13), or in other words, we are expected to pass the tests He allows us to undergo (and I think with God, we get to re-sit even if we do fail... and in many personal respects I think I'm still stuck in fifth grade!) , It could be so that God's glory may be manifested. In John 9:3, Jesus clarifies to His disciples that a particular man's blindness was neither the result of individual sin nor his parent's sin but so that the works of God should be revealed through it and glorified. And further on in John 11:4, Jesus speaks of Lazarus' sickness (and eventual death) being purposed for the glory of God and the Son. In fact, every account of healing in the Bible is for God's glory and it also demonstrates the Gospel as in Acts where we have the healing of the lame man by the gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:1-8; 4:14). Just as it was in the Bible and our early church, instances of God's divine healing today also glorify Jesus. , It could be because of poor stewardship of our bodies or the environment. As another commonly quoted reason to explain illness, this one is rather logical. We do need to take care of ourselves and the earth we live on. We can't continuously mistreat our bodies and expect perfect health. Similarly, we can't continuously pollute and poison our environment and not be affected by it eventually. This is obvious enough but if we need Bible references, 1 Corinthians 6:15-20; Romans 12:1; Genesis 2:15; and Galatians 6:7 are usually quoted to paint this picture. , It could simply be "accidental" . Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth became lame as a result of an accident (2 Samuel 4:4). This is one biblical account depicting suffering from a somewhat senseless tragedy. We can take comfort that Jesus instructs us in Luke 13:1-5 that tragedies are not indicative of the degree of sin (nor due to particular individual sin). Yet we should note that Jesus asserts that repentance can avert tragedy and I think this should be taken as a call to intercession. Of course, in truth, the sovereignty of God means there aren't really any "accidents" (Proverbs 16:33). , It could be spiritual. It may be a harder for some to accept this, but sicknesses can be the direct work of a contrary spirit and the Bible gives many such examples. Job's boils and sores is a clear example of an affliction by the devil (Job 2:7). Jesus plainly demonstrates in His ministry that some sicknesses are due to spirits. Examples include: the spirit of infirmity in the woman who had been bent over 18 years (Luke 13:10-13); the deaf and dumb spirit only Jesus was able to cast out (Mark 9:25-27); and, the mentally unstable man in Gadarenes (Mark 5:1-8). In these instances, healing came through deliverance. , It could be of God Himself. What!? Well, as much as I don't like this either, we can't deny what is evidenced to us in scripture. Examples are: the angels of God striking blindness in Sodom (Genesis 19:11); Zechariah being struck mute (Luke 1:18-20) and Paul being struck blind (Acts 9:8). We can say it was by God's divine directive that boils afflicted the Egyptians (Exodus 9:8-11); and, we also read that God struck Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses (Numbers 12:9-10); and, a sorcerer was made blind when Apostle Paul spoke a command (Acts 13:10-11). There are many such instances. We like to say that God doesn't cause sickness but it doesn't mean that He can't do it or won't allow it to be done directly to meet His purposes. There are just too many biblical examples to ignore. Yet knowing this even, we must be very careful not to glorify sickness or claim that sickness is good. Healing glorifies God, sicknesses don't. Due to these latter two possibilities, I think it is always best to err on greater caution by neither claiming that a sickness is from God nor blaming evil spirits. We could make the mistake of either: wrongly blaming God for something demonically rooted; or giving the devil credit for something of God. We blaspheme God either way. Better still, we should just never judge lest we sin in doing so. , It could be for His loving discipline. Extending the previous possibility, it would not be unreasonable to say that Zechariah, Paul and also Miriam were being chastised; and in those cases it was temporary. Zechariah healed when he accepted the truth of God and so did Paul when he accepted Jesus as Lord and was later prayed for. Miriam healed seven days later. I think we can note that these occasions of affliction were not condemnation but discipline. We are exempt from condemnation if we abide by the Spirit and in Jesus (Romans 8:1) but yet, we are subject to discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6). , It could be due to individual sin. By extension again, we find that the cases of Mriiam and Zechariah indicate sicknesses due to individual sin. So, we do find instances where an individual's sin can actually be linked to a consequence of sickness to self and even to future generations. If we take another look at John 9 about the man blind from birth, Jesus did not actually disagree with His disciples' suggestion that the sickness was due to sin. He merely said that it wasn't so in that particular case. Perhaps this would be the more consistent interpretation as Uzziah's leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-20) is another example illustrating the case. And as an example of the sins of fathers being visited upon future generations, we find that David's sin led to his son's illness and death (2 Samuel 12:13-15, 18). With all these possibilities, it would be presumptuous to judge There are so many reasons for sickness (and suffering) that an observation of an occasion simply does not warrant our judgement of its cause. It is not our place to judge, presume or "play prophet" to those who are ill. If God wants us to know the reason why, I believe He will tell us and it will be Spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 12:8). Even then, it is not judgement but a gift of knowledge to help bring healing to someone. I believe that if there is indeed unconfessed sin that has led to a suffering, the Holy Spirit will make it abundantly clear. We do not have to agonise and wrack our brains trying to figure which sin lead to which illness. Neither should we be too quick to dismiss that notion because it is actually a blessing when it is made clear to us, so all we need do is repent and receive healing. Job's "friends" The Christian reaction towards those who are suffering sicknesses can sometimes be quite unkind. Rather that being helpful and supportive, we end up being judges and inciters of condemnation; casting doubt rather than building faith; hindering healing by discouraging treatment; and dishing out bad advice even. Try as Job's friends might to convince Job there was some sin that brought about the illness; we know he was innocent because God said so in the beginning of the account. But Job's "friends" simply couldn't let go of the notion that Job had sinned and attracted God's wrath. Their "help" was not compassion but a curious mix of pity that amplifies suffering and righteous judgement that kept putting Job under condemnation. Rather than apply a soothing salve, they were actually rubbing salt into the wound - and this - is what we Christians often do to those who are sick and suffering. We should shift our focus to our Healer If we take another look at the account in John 9 about the man blind from birth, we notice a contrast between the focus of the disciples and Jesus. Somewhat like Job's friends, the disciples too were preoccupied with the causes while Jesus was actually focused on the glorification of God. They were focused on the circumstances, on sickness, causes and the curse of the law while Jesus was seeing God's reality; and gently, He redirected the disciples' focus towards God's glory to heal. Not only do we need to stop judging someone for their sickness, we need to also stop dragging the suffering person through condemnation. Harping on like Job's friends about sin doesn't help. And even if we do discern sin, we need to go through it only once (1 John 1:9) and when that has been done we can receive His grace and should then focus on our Healer, Jesus. A sin that has been forgiven is no longer remembered by God (Hebrews 8:12) and we need not keep dredging at it. It seems to me that continuous focus on sin can be likened to a preoccupation to persist under the curse of the Law. We can choose life But we have already been redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13) and every type of sickness (Isaiah 53:4-5). This means we can focus on the Healer and not be blinkered by the circumstances. While we do need to face the facts when we are ill, the truth is that it has already been judged at the cross and we can be healed (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14). This entry is already so lengthy I can't get deeper into this, so for now, I'd like to conclude by saying that we have a choice to turn our focus towards the life of the Cross and Jesus. I would choose to establish the Truth of the Word and finished work of Jesus over the circumstances - and have life!
Indeed brother . . . why do we get sick? Thanks for your offering of reason. Why it would be impossible to list all the possibilities what you have said is on the mark. We do know in all things God is glorified. When affliction comes upon us ours is to lift up our faith and believe God is going to receive glory through this. All manner of sickness and illness is of the evil one. God does not put it on us however, like with Job, He sometimes allows the devil to afflict us. In all things, through faith, God will receive the glory. God is victorious over the devil and through our faith He is glorified in our healing.
Thank you dear brother for taking the time to research and present this topic in such a detailed version. Whether many people have the discipline and time to really read what you wrote or not, the material is now here for anyone with a desire to know the truth about this subject.
It hurts my heart so much to see the needless pain and suffering believers go through mentally as a result of physical problems and the condemnation heaped on them by "friends". I sometimes think the mental and emotional suffering is greater than the physical at times.
I certainly admire your skill in putting this together in such a thorough fashion and I personally thank you for your dedication to presenting the truth in this field, which ties into those which you are very adept at and knowledgeable in. Thank you for being a part of this community and for the depth of wisdom you share with us.
Very interesting blog... Deuteronomy 28:61 tells us that manifestations of many diseases are a result of the curse of the Law of Moses, and.... Galatians 3:13 tells us that we are redeemed from the curse of the Law. Job's example of sickness is often used, but as doulous pointed out there are many reasons for illness, besides the obvious one of sickness in various forms being a manifestation of death.... some of the aspects of healing for the believer include acknoledging that sickness is not a natural process, and renewing our minds and our environments as a number of disorders we contend with now are environmental, and not just spiritual.
Yes, wonderful blog and spot on! I am convicted of how many times my first thought upon hearing of someone's illness can be along the lines of "well, I'm not surprised; they've smoked for years."
thanks, I think.
Thank you everyone for your responses. I put this together really as a record of my own study thus far on the subject. I think it is always a productive exercise to have to gather and organise our thoughts in order to present them and this has helped me clear some of my mental clutter and bits of notes jotted everywhere!
When I first began serving in a healing ministry about 4 years ago I had a lot of different ideas about sickness and healing. Some of those ideas were taught to me, others my own, many were suspicious and those ideas were not complete. I'm not saying that what I've now organised on paper is comprehensive; it simply represents some of what I've learnt thus far. We often come upon a subject as if through one door only, seeing only one corridor and being exposed to only one room but there's plenty to learn and much we haven't been exposed to. Seeing only a limited perspective causes us to have a distorted view but exploring further helps us get better bearings to appreciate our boundaries and know that there is really much we don't know. I just wanted to bring out a big picture view and not push a pet theology so to speak.
On the causes of sicknesses, I know I don't understand them all and I never will because there are always His unfathomable purposes. Not understanding much probably drives us towards a greater dependence on Him and while the reasons are numerous and should be acknowledged, I came to realise that there should only be one focus, and that is Jesus our Healer. His work of the cross is complete and He has indeed redeemed us from every curse of the Law. And as many reasons as there are, their relevance pales in the light of this Truth.
I've also witnessed many healings of all sorts also, of people with known sin and of those without; of God working by accelerating medical treatment and by faith alone; of people who required no "ministry" but were healed with just a word; and of people who healed gradually as their faith increased; even people with no faith and non-believers can be healed as a sign to them. There are really no hard and fast rules, only One Healer...
Thanks again to all and I appreciate Blackrose's picking up on that point about Galatians 3:13 and amplifying it.
God bless to all,