Does God Allow Sickness?
Today many people prefer to think of sickness as being against God’s will. The health and wealth doctrine, for instance, tries to use these words in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” to prove that God wants us to always be healthy. Notice, however, that John says he wishes that Gaius would be in health. John does not say that Gaius will be in good health as he serves God.
We realize that sickness and death were not God’s will when He created man. Adam and Eve’s sin brought these into the world. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). However, even though sickness and death were not originally God’s will, God is able to use them to increase our faith. Also, God uses Christian fortitude in personal suffering as a powerful testimony to others.
If there were no sickness or death, we would not need to look to God in faith. Our sickness draws us closer to Him. When we die, we go to live with Him. “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? (Ps 89:48a)
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Eccl 7:2).
Even though we cannot avoid sickness and death, we can be comforted in spiritual health and life, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).
The Bible tells us of many godly people who have suffered sickness. For instance Jacob, in Genesis 48:1, suffered sickness, even though he was godly. Job too, bore illness. “So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown (Job 2:7).
We read in Job 4:7 that Eliphaz said “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” However, we understand from reading the rest of the book that Job was indeed innocent. Although his sickness came from Satan, God allowed it and used it for His own glory. In the end, Job regained health and prosperity “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
God does not always intend physical renewal. Luke 16:20-22 tells of the beggar Lazarus, who was never cured of his boils, but died. We notice that Lazarus still enjoyed the rewards of faithfulness, even though God chose not to heal him physically. “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (Luke 16:25).
Like Job’s friends, many people through history have felt that sickness is a result of personal sin. Jesus’ disciples asked this when they saw a blind man. “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”(John 9:2b). We recognize this as a shortsighted question, since the man born blind obviously could not have sinned before he was born.
Read Christ’s answer. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3b).
Christ did not heal all people who had faith. “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had . . . When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? . . . Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:2-4,6,8).
We notice in this passage that there was a great multitude of sick people. Christ healed one. We have no reason to suppose that the rest were too sinful to be healed.
James speaks to Christian believers when he says “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). Other Scripture does not support the idea that raise here exclusively means “to heal.” We know, however, that God will bring the sick person closer to Him. If he turns to the Lord in faith, his sins will always be forgiven him. And yes, the sick person does sometimes supernaturally recover. Still, anointing with oil is no cure-all. The power rests, not in the oil, but in God’s power. He will heal if He wishes.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). Again, even though other Scriptures and current events verify that God does not always heal physically, He does promise to heal spiritually. To be healed spiritually, we must come to Him in faith and obedience. Then as we walk with Him, He will give us grace to bear whatever He has for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
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