Saturday, May 26, 2012

Illness in the Church

I must be honest, guys, my heart burns with passion and indignation on this subject, which is why it has taken me a while to write this post.  I knew I would have to be very careful with my words, not only because of my own personal experiences with this topic, but also because I can hear the voices of many echoing in my mind.  In fact, recently there has been an increase of people who have come to me with tears in their eyes because they have been told their faith “just isn’t strong enough”, and that is why I can now no longer be silent.

Some of my readers know that I spent the night before my sixteenth birthday in the ER.  What would follow was two years of living through a very traumatic and debilitating condition and being subjected to much medical analysis.  But this post is not really about that.  Rather, this post is being written because of some of the statements made to me during this time, by the church, which I now see other young men and women unfairly, and often ignorantly, subjected to.

The statements?  You are sick because you don’t have enough faith and you are allowing Satan to have power over, and rule over, you.
Rubbish!  God’s children are not subjected to sickness or trial because they don’t have “enough faith”.  Nor are we allowing Satan to rule over us by being sick.  How do I know this?  Because when these words were spoken to me I went directly to the scriptures.  And I’m glad I did, because Christ is much more loving then those who spoke such words to me.
I know that is a hard statement, but I also know that this mindset which has infiltrated the church has devastating results, especially when told to someone undergoing trials.  While the comments had little effect over me, I have seen firsthand how harmful they can be to others.  So, without further delay, let us dive into this topic, because I know you all want me to back up my comments with scripture.
Firstly, let’s deal with the declaration that Satan has power over us if we are sick or undergoing trials. Now, I recognize that the statement I am about to make shocks people, but I am going to say it anyways.  Satan’s just not that powerful.  Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s got plenty of power and sway over our world, but Satan has no hold over the Christian.  We have been bought with a price, purchased by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore Satan no longer has any power over us as the children of God.  Satan can’t “make” you do anything and he certainly does not have the power to strike you down with an illness. 
I know, I know, you want proof.  Well, I’ve got it.  In Job one, these words are uttered:

“So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face."


And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Now, God’s response, and this scripture in particular, is very important.  Why?  Because we don’t get a lot of insight into the relationship between Satan and God, and consequently Satan and the Children of God, in the scriptures.  There are certainly some passages, but not a lot.  So when we do see passages that deal with these relationships, we should sit up and take notice. 

So, based off of this scripture, what do we see unfold?  We see that Satan had no power over Job.  In fact, we see him come before the Lord and ask for power over Job in order to prove to God that Job would “surely curse You to Your face”.  To drive home the point even further, we not only see Satan ask for permission, but we see God’s response.  He does not say “Satan, why would you ask me?  You know you have power to afflict my child.”  No.  God says “I will give you power, but you may not take his life”.

So, Satan did not have the power to afflict Job in the first place, right?  So why do we say today that Satan has power over God’s children?  In all the research I have done on Satan’s power (which I have done research on due to a conversation once had on the power of demons) I have never found an instance where Satan has power over our physical well being.  Now, Satan does orchestrate things around us in an effort to tempt or distract us, and he often tries to cast our sins in our faces in an effort to make us feel worthless and unredeemable, but he cannot physically lay a hand on us, as God's people. Now, if we are talking about someone who is not one of God's children, I think you could make a case. After all, someone can be demon possessed who is not saved. So, Satan has power over those who are not God's children, but over us, the saved, he has none.
Now, in dealing with the second half of this post, I think there are some things we should straighten out in our understanding of the subject of illness and trials.  I do not believe that we are sick as a form of punishment for our personal sin.  Notice I did not say that that sickness is not a repercussion of sin and the fall of man, but rather that we are not made sick as a form of vindictive punishment.  Now, my reason for this is found all throughout scripture, but most specifically in John 9:1  
‘Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

So that's pretty clear, isn't it?  God said that the blind man was not afflicted because he or his parents sinned, but because God had great plans in store for him.  He was going to bring glory and honor to Christ, through it. The Bible says we are REFINED through FIRE! Which is a metaphor I love to use for very hard circumstances.
Anyone know what this means or how the process of refinement looks?  Let me tell you, God uses the term for a specific reason.  See when gold is being refined, it is put through scorching, and I mean SCORTCHING, temperatures. The fire is so hot that it can dehydrate the worker, so they have to use a long pole to put the gold into the fire.  The result of these extreme temps is that all the impurities, the dross as it is called, slowly begin to rise to the top. Once this occurs, the goldsmith will skim the dross off the top of the gold.  But wait, there’s more!  They don't just do this one time; they have to do it over and over and over again! Until finally, after the gold has been tested through the flames, you have a pure block of refined gold. Now, let's look at our lives.

We get put through the ringer in life!!! We get put through those fires in order to refine us; to make us pure. To bring glory to the Goldsmith for His fine craftsmanship. I believe passionately that we are given trials and illnesses in life not by Satan, who wants our demise, but by God, who wants to see us grow and become that pure gold. Trials and illness makes us stronger.  And I’ve got an arsenal of scriptures to back that up. 
Romans 5:3-5
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."
Romans 8:35-37
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither trouble nor hardship nor persecution nor famine nor nakedness nor danger nor sword. As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep for the slaughter." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Revelation 3:21
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."
Romans 8:28
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Isaiah 41:10
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

James 1:12
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Philippians 4:13
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

Isaiah 43:1-3
But now, this is what the LORD says - He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..."
James 1:2-3
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
And that’s just a few.

Let me ask you, my readers, something.  How many of you have ever undergone a significant trial in your life, be that sickness or some other form of affliction?  I have learned, through my own time of intense illness and trials and that of others I have met over time, that there is a common theme seen among Christians in these types of situations.  They all say “God is the one who got me through”.  They don’t say it wasn’t hard, they don’t say there weren’t times when they struggled, and they don’t say there weren’t times when their faith faltered, but they do say that God was with them.  He gave them the strength.  Not only that, but I have seen time and again where tremendous growth came from times such as these. 
In fact, let’s look at someone you all will recognize.  Joni Eareckson Tada.  This incredible woman, due to a diving accident in 1967, became a quadriplegic. She lives under heavy physical affliction.  To top it all off, 2 years ago Joni was diagnosed with cancer.  Is all of this because she has little faith?  Or is it because Satan is ruling over her, despite the fact that the Lord has allowed a beautiful ministry to bloom out of her adversity? 
Or my brother Samuel... was he born the way he was because he had little faith?
 I cannot find a scripture verse which supports this.  Not even the ever popular “who healeth all our diseases” found in the psalms or the popular “by His stripes we are healed”, both of which I think are dealing very specifically with the diseases of our soul. 
 Guys, we have to be very careful when we interpret scripture and tell someone, specifically someone undergoing hard times, what those scriptures say to them.  I have had someone come to me before saying, in great distress, it was their fault their mother had cancer.  You know why said person felt this way?  Because their pastor told them it was their lack of faith that brought the cancer upon the mother.  And yet… and yet that mother has been a blessing to many in her testimony as she undergoes her trial.
 Be very careful, my bretheren, that you do not sink your brothers and sisters into despair, for our role and duty to other believers is very clearly laid out in scripture.  We are to be an encouragement.  We have a responsibility to be loving and gentle, even when we have to give hard truths.  And when imparting truths about God’s character to others, we should be very careful we attribute the correct characteristics and attributes to Him.
Search the scriptures, find the truth.  Don’t just take my word for it.  And, as always, feel free to express your views and opinions.  Iron sharpens iron.   :D


  1. An excellent article. I agree.

    However, I do want to note that while "by His stripes we are healed" does seem to be dealing with healing from our sins, "who heals all your diseases" seems to address physical healing, but the context is not necessarily an absolute promise of healing, and it must also be seen in the context of the rest of Scripture.

    1. It is possible that the Psalmist is addressing physical healing, yes. However, if he is addressing physical healing, I believe he is speaking of foreshadow. David often foreshadowed events which would come, specifically dealing with Christ.

      One day we will be healed of all diseases. What a blessed day that will be. :D I do not think, though, that the implication David is giving in his praise is that we will be healed of all our diseases, if we only have enough faith.

      Did that clear up my meaning a bit? I realize that paragraph was very short, mostly because I wasn't really focusing on those verses. :D

    2. Well, it appears clear that he is referring to physical healing, but regardless of whether or not it is foreshadowing, I agree that David is not implying we will be healed of all our diseases if only we have enough faith.

  2. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts on this issue, Kaitlyn. :) I was interested to hear them.

    1. I hope they were helpful, Aussie. :D I was rather hesitant to post them, but a couple weeks ago I was speaking with another person who had been told this, and I decided that perhaps it was wrong to keep silent.

    2. I too have thoughts on this very close to my heart that I often wish to share, but in my case I think it is right that I remain silent. :)

      I always greatly appreciate the frankness and honestly with which you share your heart, Kaitlyn. :)

    3. *nods * I understand. I've had a rough time with the subject, and people belittling my faith, and I hope that my words did not come across as harsh. :)

  3. Good post. :-) I agree with everything you said, excepts for...

    "I do not believe that we are sick as a form of punishment for our personal sin."
    The verse you referenced was one specific example; not a general one. I don't see anything in Scripture that indicates God can't discipline us and get our attention via sickness.

    If I'm misunderstanding you, please correct me. Besides that, good work. :-)

    God bless.

    1. Yes, I very briefly touched on this. The problem with an article that is not exhaustive is that you can’t put all your thoughts into it. :D Which is why I love the comments section.

      I fully believe the Lord can use our illness’ to teach us. For example: during the 2 years in which I was- or rather should have been- bed ridden, the Lord used specific things in the illness to grown me and teach me. The loss of all my hair (twice, and I decided bald is not a great look on me), and any form of worldly beauty, being one of those things. Let’s face it, the first thing culture looks at is our outward appearance. Mine had drastically changed. People judge you by how attractive you are long before you open your mouth. Suddenly my thoughts were no longer valuable to some because my external appearance had been altered. My mind was still the same, I still had the same hopes, dreams, aspirations in life, but I was no longer a 16 year old full of life and vitality. All the truly beautiful things about me were the same, but that didn’t matter to many people.

      I blush when I share this story. :P I think it is valuable to tell from time to time, so I swallow my pride and tell it anyways, but still... I was devastated when I lost my hair. I mean, at first I was in denial, but it came to a point where I could no longer delude myself and I had to face reality. I had to face what it would be like to start growing inch long stubble all over my scalp if my hair was even capable of growing back (which was a concern the Dr.’s had). I realized I found identity in my long hair.

      When I realized how important my hair was to me, and that I put so much worth in it, I was disgusted with myself for letting society dictate to me what gave me value! My soul was not in my hair; my heart and my mind were not in my hair. If I lost it, I was still whole. I might never look the same again, but I would still be me.

      My vanity and pride needed a hard knock, and God gave it to me. He allowed the illness to be a teaching tool.

      So I agree. There are also consequences to our sin, which is why I tried to be very careful in how I presented my comments on that subject. After all, Herpes is a repercussion of the choices we make in life.

      All that said, though, Illness is not a form of vindictive punishment sent by God, as the culture, and often the church, like to view it.

      So I believe we agree. :)

  4. Very well said! I agree that, in most cases, illness is not a result of sin. I know you did not exhaust the possibilities, but I did want to mention that there are sometimes sins that do lead to sickness. 1 Corinthians 11:29-32: "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world."

    My guess is that you would feel the same about that, but you did not have room to put it in the article :).

    Thank you for sharing!

    Lady Katharina

    1. I do, most certainly! If a person chooses to smoke, then a natural consequence of that is that they could end up with lung cancer. The Bible makes it very clear there are always consequences to the things we do, be them good or bad, so I agree. :D If we sin, we should expect consequences. Sometimes the things we do to our bodies make us sick.

      Thank you for bringing that up, Katharina. :D

  5. "God is the one who got me through." AMEN!!!

    I've enjoyed reading your thoughts here, my lovely. I'm planning to get over here with some thoughts soon. Right now I'm percolating, and a bit out of time. But thank you, thank you for posting! It's been a great encouragement to me.

    1. I am glad I could get the gears turning and the percolation process in place. ;) It's been a long journey to get here, to be honest. I've learned a lot, by God's grace, but I love knowing "He's not finished with me yet".

      Kudos to all who recognize the song that plays that line. ;)

  6. I suspect you're response is or was more Christ-like than mine, which would be somewhat politely asking them if their brain is malfunctioning.

    Now I know where to point them specifically if anyone says that to me rather than telling them to go read the Bible and finding the answer.

    1. *chuckles a bit * Thanks, Varon. It is a touchy subject, that is certain. I am glad I could help. :D

    2. You're welcome. I had a few other comments, but by the time I finished the article, they'd slipped my mind.


I love to read comments, hear feedback, and interact with my readers, so if you have something you want to say, please feel free to share. Ask questions, challenge my ideas, or even say you disagree with me. I don’t bite, so don’t be shy!

You can even say you liked the post, if you want. I really won’t mind. ;)