The subject of today's blog has been on my heart for a very long time, but I've been having such a hard time writing it. Friends have been encouraging me to write about it, and most importantly, I know there are others out there who are hurting and need to hear this. I have really struggled yet the words just wouldn't come. I think that's because the Lord still had more He wanted to teach me.
First, imagine you are battling a terminal or serious illness, or facing some other kind of crisis in your life. Now imagine that someone tells you that your illness or problem is because of unconfessed sin in your life and you just need to confess and turn from your sin in order to get well. Also, you just need to have stronger faith, then God would answer your prayers for healing. Or my personal favorite: "Just think good thoughts!" (Wish I had a dime for every time I've heard that!). So basically, YOU are to blame for your own illness and it's your fault that you're not getting well. Now imagine that this "helpful" advice is coming from fellow Christians, the very people you need to support and pray for you. How hurtful and isolating this kind of thinking is!
This went against everything I believed, but still I was wounded by it. I examined myself for unconfessed sin, strong faith in the Lord, and a positive outlook. I'm not perfect, but I felt I passed them all. I ran to my Bible to defend myself and clarify my understanding of God's view of sickness and healing.
First, I looked at the story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9:1-3.
"1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
The disciples assumed that the man's blindness was the result of sin—either his or his parents', and this was a commonly held view, based on Exodus 20:5:
"I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me."
But Jesus corrected them and said that this sickness was not the result of sin, but was a means of displaying the mighty works of God. He didn't mean that this man or his parents had not sinned, only that his blindness was not a direct result of sin in their lives.
I felt better, but was still searching for more. A few days ago I was paging through the New Testament looking for a particular verse, and I happened upon James 5:14-16:
"14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."
This seemed to completely support the idea that I thought was wrong! What the heck?!! God, now I'm really getting confused. Help me!
I dug a little deeper and learned more about what God's word says about healing. First of all, in a general sense all sickness is a result of the fact that sin entered the world. Sometimes sickness is a direct result of sin in a person's life, but not always. The blind man is an example of that, and so is Job. The verses in James refer to an illness that is related to sin.
God can and does heal, and He uses different means, including natural body processes, medicines, through doctors, and sometimes miraculously. But—it is not always God's will to heal. He has not promised to heal in every case, so it is not something we can demand from Him. It is a mercy.
Also, it is not true that failure to be healed indicates a lack of faith. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who suffered and struggled: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Job to name a few. If that were true, some people would live on & on indefinitely!
I have also found the "health and wealth" theology to be hurtful and unbiblical, again laying blame on those of us who are sick or suffering. Talk about kicking a dog when he's down! The main problem with the "health and wealth" or "name it and claim it" theology is that it is man-centered rather than God-centered. Our happiness becomes the aim of life and the main reason for God's existence is to give us what we want.
Jesus told His followers to take up their cross every day which meant to be ready to suffer. We are called to die to the flesh, to the world, to everything we want. We are not called to seek our own happiness, but to seek the glory of God. Yes, God has promised us blessings and prosperity, but most will come in heaven.
Paul suffered from a "thorn in the flesh" which God didn't take away, but rather told him "My grace is sufficient for you." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Paul said that God had a purpose in his illness and a purpose for not removing it.
I have always prayed that God would grow me more like Christ each day of my life. I believe that is His will for all believers. He uses all the events in my life (ALL THINGS!) to accomplish this, including my suffering.
Satan wants to trick us into thinking that God doesn't love us, doesn't care, or that we have done something wrong to bring the suffering onto ourselves and feel shame. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our God is good and faithful. He blesses us—sometimes in our darkest valleys when we don't feel like God is blessing us, that is when we receive God's greatest blessings!