Dealing with Disease

During the course of our lives, most of us will have some sort of health concerns and difficulties. It’s easy to get frustrated, discouraged, or even depressed in the midst of such concerns. However, God has a much better plan for us through these hardships that He allows to come our way. So how should we understand these difficulties? How should we respond to them?

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First, remember that God is in control. After Jesus warned His disciples of the difficulties which would come as a result of following Him, He taught them, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31). God concerns Himself with even the most minor circumstances such as the death of sparrows and the number of hairs on each individual’s head. Jesus reasons that since mankind is far more valuable than sparrows and more important than the quantity of a person’s hair, we can be sure that God oversees every detail of our lives—sickness included.  Sickness, disease, and difficulties do not surprise God when they come into your life. He knew they would come to you. He allowed them to come to you. He is in control of whether they come, when they come, and how long they last. And indeed, He is right there with you directing your situation and protecting you from greater harm than is coming. He sifts every offense the enemy desires to bring against you through His mighty hands and only allows what He desires through to you.

Second, remember that God loves you. During times of disease and difficulty, our faith in God’s goodness is tested and we are tempted to focus on ourselves and withhold praise from God. We may ask, “Does God really love me?” Yet, Jesus answered that question definitively on the cross. Paul says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and again “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). If our whole lives fall apart and our entire health diminishes, we can still say with great certainty, “God loves me dearly” and we can affirm Job’s statements, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity” (Job 2:10) and “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). In times of difficulty, dwell on the love of Christ (Philippians 4:8) rather than on the hardship of your situation.

Third, realize that the ultimate cause of all suffering is sin.  God created the whole world perfectly (Genesis 1:31). Disease, difficulty, division, depression, and death only came as a result of sin entering into God’s perfect world and more specifically as a result of the separation that sin brings between man and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). God is the source of all life, all goodness, all health, and all flourishing. When we are separated from God, we are separated from the abundance of His provisions. If sin never entered the world, our health would be perfect and our lives would be eternal. In many instances, we suffer disease, not because we have sinned, but simply because we live in a fallen world that has been ravished by sin (John 9:1-12). However, there are other instances where we experience disease and difficulty as discipline from the Lord for sin in our lives. King Uzziah incurred life-long leprosy for his pride and disobedience to the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:16-23). Some of the Corinthians were “weak and sick” and some had even died because they took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). Ananias and Sapphira died instantly because they lied to the Holy Spirit and the church (Acts 5:1-11). When we experience bad health, it is a calling to examine our lives for sin. If we find any sin, we should then repent. James directed sick believers to call the pastors of the church to come and pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord to find restoration (James 5:14-15). Pastors’ primary task is to preach the Word of God and the gospel which calls us to repent of sin and trust in Jesus (Acts 6:4). Anointing with oil is associated with the call to repent in the New Testament (Mark 6:12-14). We may be sick merely because we live in a sick, sin-fallen world or we may be sick because we have sinned. Our sickness is a good reminder to search our hearts and actions for sin and repent—knowing that if not for sin, no one would know sickness.

Fourth, look to the future of our great salvation. Jesus became a man, lived a perfect life in this sin-fallen world, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven in order to conquer sin and its effects on us. While we’re forgiven of sin the instant we trust in Jesus, we still experience the suffering that sin has caused in this world. But a day is coming when Christ will return. When He does, He will free us from the presence of sin and all the ill it has worked in our lives—including health problems. In our salvation, we have a future resurrection in which we will be given perfect bodies that will never have ailments. Paul says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Even if our health concerns take our abilities, our minds, or even our lives, they cannot conquer us who are in Christ for Christ has promised to raise us with a perfect body that will never be tainted with sin. In your struggle with health concerns, find certain hope in the promise of your resurrected body.

Fifth, realize that God has a purpose for allowing your difficulties. We know that God is in control. We know that God loves us. Then why does He allow us to have health issues if He could prevent them? Consider the core of our faith—God sent His Son in order to suffer. Isaiah says, “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” But why would God be pleased with the suffering of His Son? Isaiah continues, “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10). Because Jesus desired to make Himself a guilt offering, an offering that would cover over our sins so we could be forgiven and accepted by God. It was through Jesus’ sufferings that we became “His offspring,” that His days, and ours, would be prolonged in resurrection, and that God’s will would prosper. So when we suffer health concerns, we must pray, “God, I know you’re in control and that you love me dearly. What would you like to accomplish through my problems?” God has promised to work out good for Jesus’ followers in all our circumstances—even health problems (Romans 8:28). In your suffering, God may be guiding you to repent of sin, or to share the gospel with someone you meet because of your suffering, or to rely on and value Him above your health and natural abilities, or to grow in character through your trials. So when you struggle with your health, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:27-30).

So brothers and sisters, when we struggle with health concerns, we don’t have to be discouraged by what has happened, depressed by what we’re experiencing, or afraid of what is to come. We have a faith that gives us hope for our discouragement, joy for our depression, and certainty for our fears. Let’s consider the words of Paul in His physical ailments, “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). May God lead us to honor Him through our difficulties and may He bless you as you continue to follow the Lord Jesus who suffered for us.

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