Since the fall of man, creation has been subjected to decay (Romans 8:20-21) because the consequence of man’s sin is death (Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.), which includes sicknesses and diseases that affect man and the rest of creation. Nobody wants to get sick, but that is the sad reality that we face because we’re living in a fallen world. Some are born with a certain sickness, while some become sick later in life. Suffering from sickness can greatly affect a person’s faith, hope, mentality, and motivation. Sickness is one of the things in life that you have little or no control over at all. So, what can we do when we’re sick?
James 5:14-16 tells us that prayer is the best recourse if anyone is sick. It is primarily recognizing that God is the creator of our body, and its healing comes from Him. But besides praying, one must consider the physical, mental, habitual, and spiritual reasons for sickness.
Prayer is very important and helpful in dealing with sickness. Since God has the power to create everything, He also has the power to restore what is broken and heal all kinds of sickness. When we pray, we humbly acknowledge our incapacity to deal with sickness and that God is the only One Who can bring supernatural healing. But this does not mean that we don’t take medicine anymore or ask for the help of doctors. If God has given animals the ability to find medicinal plants to consume for healing, then how much more should man, to whom God has given superior intellect? In fact, the Bible acknowledges the use of medicine and physicians for healing in many verses.
One example is found in (1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.), where Paul told Timothy to not just drink water but drink “a little wine” as well to address his frequent stomach sickness. Unlike our water today, when we have filtration systems, people in the ancient world were forced to drink contaminated water. Here, Paul prescribes a little wine as a medicinal substance to kill the germs and bad bacteria present in the drinking water. Paul did not say to Timothy that you need more faith and prayer to cure your stomach problems, but he gave practical advice to take what can be considered a medical solution.
Another instance is found in (Matthew 9:12 but when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.), where Jesus recognized the need of the sick for physicians. The verse may not be about doctors, but here Jesus was recognizing the need for doctors. God can use doctors and medicine to help bring healing, but at the same time, we recognize that it is God alone Who allows healing. So, it is right to seek medical help, take medicine, and, most importantly, pray for healing.
Another thing to consider if you are constantly getting sick or acquiring certain diseases is assessing your lifestyle. Do you have healthy eating habits? Are you living a sedentary lifestyle? Are you getting enough rest and sleep? Is your life subjected to constant stress? We ask ourselves these questions to understand our overall wellness based on lifestyle and food choices. We must understand that our body is given by God for us to steward well. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Covenant practice of temple worship, God’s temple must be well maintained, for it houses His manifest holy presence. So, if the body is now regarded as the new temple of the Holy Spirit, we are responsible for keeping it healthy. We are not stewarding our bodies well when we allow ourselves to be consumed by gluttony, addiction to certain foods or substances, or unhealthy eating habits. It is good that we pray for good health and healing, but we must also have the discipline to back it up. James tells us in James 2:14-18 that faith without necessary action is dead. In other words, praying and praying for healing and good health without the right discipline in food and lifestyle is no good. It honors God when we take care of the body He entrusted to us.
But what about those who are sick due to congenital diseases? Primarily, they are sick not because of the lack of discipline but because they were born with the disease. How do we deal with this kind of sickness?
Some babies are born with birth defects, and they carry them through adulthood; some are tolerant while some suffer terribly. It is heartbreaking to see how people suffer in life due to a sickness they have never asked for or been responsible for. As to the question of why God allows people to suffer from birth defects, we really don’t have an absolute answer for now, but we must trust in God’s sovereignty. He does not make mistakes, and nothing is out of His control. Things may not make sense right now, but Romans 8:28 tells us that for those who love God, He will always work everything together for the good of His people, whom He called to Himself.
In John 9:1-7, we find the instance of a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus if it was the blind man’s sin or that of his parents that made him blind at birth. Jesus replied that it was neither; it was preordained so that God’s love, glory, and power may be displayed. Jesus then went on to heal the man with mud and His spit. This creation miracle, which can only be attributed to God, validates the divinity of Christ. The man experienced and believed in Jesus, as did other people who knew the man who was born blind.
It is wonderful that this man received healing from Jesus, but what about those who continue to suffer from their birth defects? You see, life is more than just addressing our physical needs; most importantly, it is about being reconciled to God in eternal intimacy. True life goes beyond our life here on earth. Whatever circumstance we have in the world, if it opens the opportunity to bring us back to God, then the suffering is worth it all. What good is having a complete and healthy body but no relationship with Christ; then losing it all later in eternal suffering? It is better to be physically disabled than to be spiritually dead.
It’s like the story of a couple that was being reached out to by the church. The wife was born with a congenital heart disease that nearly took her life later. The church prayed for healing, and in turn, the couple started praying. She needed very expensive surgery and treatment to save her. Everyone prayed for supernatural healing and provision. But the thing is, God did not heal her, even up to now. Even though she was not healed even after all the prayers, the couple still gave themselves to Christ, chose to live by faith, and became connected to the church community. How did that happen? God moved in a different way; instead of healing, He showed them His supernatural provision so that they did not have to pay for almost anything. They saw the love of God extended through the church. And since then, that moment has been the memorial stone that reminds them of God’s faithfulness each time they start to waver in their faith or swerve from His path. They know that God may not have addressed their physical need, but He gave them so much more—faith, hope, and love in Christ. Indeed, God’s grace was sufficient for them.
Other times, God does not heal but allows His people to continue to suffer in sickness to cause growth in a Christian’s faith and maturity. In Romans 5:3-4, Paul tells us to rejoice in our sufferings because we know that God is making us grow in endurance. Endurance produces strength of character, and character develops our hope in Christ. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 teaches that God’s grace is sufficient enough in times of challenge, for His power is made perfect in our weakness.
There is the story of a married man who was very successful and wealthy. Sadly, during one of his travels, he fell for another woman, committed adultery, and almost eloped with his paramour. But by the time he got back to his senses, he had already experienced God’s discipline. He lost his business and almost lost his family. He repented, got saved, and became part of the church; things started to turn around, though he was not as successful as before. Unfortunately, later on, he lost his wife to disease, and this plunged his whole family into grief. But he and his family recovered from mourning and started serving God again. They became more involved in church and were growing in their faith. But then another trial hit them hard. The man suffered a stroke and almost died; most of his body was rendered paralyzed and he couldn’t walk anymore. He had a hard time talking and was bedridden most of the time. You might think the stroke was the last straw after the unfortunate events. But the situation made his faith even more admirable. He did not give in to self-pity but spent most of his time studying the word and praying for people and the church. Despite his difficulty in talking, he was quick to pray each time we visited him, and he prayed for us even before we could pray for him. He would give away money, even though he really did not have any source of income. He said he wanted to bless pastors and missionaries with the handouts that people give him. He even expressed his desire to help any outreach groups by providing snacks. Each time we visit him, we get inspired and at the same time feel ashamed of our own faith, which wavers in difficulties. Clearly, this is a man who has been tested by fire and emerged as pure gold (Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.). God used his sickness and difficulties to make this man’s faith soar high. He may not be as rich as he was before, but he has much more than material wealth. He is rich in God.
God, at times, may not heal people physically, but He heals the troubled and hopeless soul and regenerates a spirit that has been dead in sin. Many times, difficult circumstances may not make sense, but God helps us in areas where we are truly brought into an intimate relationship with Him. He redeems, transforms, cleanses, and makes us grow in faith, hope, character, and love in Christ.
Lastly, but most importantly, sickness and disease – both congenital and acquired – and death are the ongoing effects of the consequences of sin. Originally, there was no sickness or death in all of God’s creation. According to Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil because, in doing so, death would come upon them. As we all know, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and caused corruption to happen to all of creation. One man’s sin caused everything to die.
Sickness, at times, can also be a discipline that God brings upon those who are consistently unrepentant to bring them back to repentance. It causes a person to ponder upon the futility of life, how we are not in control but God is, and how we are at the mercy of a benevolent yet just God. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul was indignant with a certain man in the Corinthian church who was blatantly practicing sexual immorality and was unrepentant, even proud, about it. He charged that this man be handed over to Satan and his devices so that Satan may do his worst on the man’s flesh; that it may come as a terrible sickness, near death, or anything that would break the person. This is to save his spirit, though the body may be destroyed. Just like the repentant thief on the cross beside Jesus, he may have died but since his situation brought him to repent and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, he received mercy and grace and was promised to be with Christ in paradise.
Another story that demonstrates this principle is when we were asked by a church member to visit his ailing father. He was in bad shape and in the last stage of colon cancer. Usually, when somebody attempted to reach out to him or even pray for him, he always resorted to mockery instead of repentance. But in his miserable state, he welcomed us and we were able to share the Gospel with him. He was made to understand our helplessness to save ourselves, how we are condemned because of sin, and how God sacrificed His one and only Son to save us all. We told him that God loved him so much despite his rebellion and self-sufficiency. This time, he did not mock or show anger but humbled himself and decided to give his life to Jesus. When we prayed the prayer for repentance and salvation, he willingly agreed and embraced the love of Christ for a hopeless sinner. The next day, the man died and went home with God in heaven. A man who was consistently unrepentant had found salvation and reconciliation in Christ.
Sickness may be awful, but God can use it to bring people to repentance, show His glory, or build up a person’s faith and maturity. Whatever the enemy means to bring about evil, God can unquestionably turn for our good and for His purposes.
What the Bible says about the sick
According to the stories above and the scriptures presented, sickness can be used by God to benefit both the believer and unbeliever. We do not have to give in to the adverse effect of sickness and disease on our faith and relationship with God. The effect of God’s healing should not be just for personal consumption but to spread the news of our loving God, Who is concerned over the unbelievers’ poor and hopeless spiritual state.
James 5:14-16 invites sick people to seek help in prayer. This also tells us that we must be deliberate and compassionate in praying for the sick, as it is an opportunity to speak God’s Word and pray for the person in need of physical healing.
If it is God’s will to heal, the person receives healing. But even if it’s not His will, we must understand that God has better plans. His ways will always be higher than ours. We must fully trust in His sovereignty and power.
Scripture also tells us in Psalm 41:3 that the Lord sustains the sick even when they are on their sickbed. God has the power to restore even those who are in a vegetative state to full health. We declare the power of God over sickness and death. If we have God on our side, sickness will never have the final word.
In the Gospels, we often find people receiving healing because they responded in faith. From lepers, the bleeding woman, and the paralytic to the centurion who was asking for healing for his servant, Jesus was amazed by two responses: great faith and lack of faith. As we pray for the sick in faith, we are actually pleasing God, for without faith, it is impossible for us to please God (Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.).
Finally, we anchor our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. As said in Isaiah 53:5, Jesus was greatly injured and shamed for our sins. And His punishment has brought us peace. It’s amazing how we benefit so much from the sacrifice of Christ. As He endured all the torture and bore our sin and shame upon Himself, all those wounds inflicted upon Him bring healing to our infirmities. Now, that is a powerful promise of Christ that we can declare and hold on to as we pray for ourselves and others who are sick.