I write this having had many people in my life come under significant sicknesses; some of which led to their death. Even now, as I write, there are people in my church who are stricken with cancer and others terminally dangerous maladies. This isn’t written with naivety or unrealistic idealism.
With that, I offer these six thoughts from Brian Najapfour about sickness were worth reposting.
1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin. In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die. Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.
2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord. In James 5:14-15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.
3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord. The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin. Job is an excellent example of this truth (Job 2:4-7). Sickness became an instrument in the hand of God to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person. 2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of his sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. It is thus possible for a child to suffer the consequence of his parents’ sins. It is possible that your child is sick because of your sin.
5. Sickness can be neither a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty. Remember the man born blind in John 9:1-3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God is simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. And his purpose in doing this is to display His sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!
6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good. In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified. While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” in order to keep him from the sin of pride.
Maybe God has given you that illness that you have in order to keep you from pride. And God may not heal you in order that you may learn more to depend on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9). Once you have learned the lesson, you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
Also, for an excellent read on sickness, make sure to check out J.C. Ryle’s beautiful sermon entitled, Jesus in the Sickroom. For a longer read, make sure to grab a copy of Jerry Bridges’ book, Trusting God Even When It Hurts.