(Author’s Note: As in the previous post on wealth, this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise on health and healing. It is most certainly not meant as a criticism in any way of those who are dealing with serious health issues in their own lives or in the lives of those that they love. It is our great privilege to help and encourage one another as we “fight the good fight of faith” in every area. Enough said.)
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5 (NKJV)
For those who know me, or have read some of my previous posts, you know that I am a registered nurse. In the earlier years of my professional life, I worked predominantly in the area of hemodialysis; now in a non-traditional role as a clinical documentation nurse specialist. One would think that this would give me some sort of “expertise” in the area of health. Not so. Certainly not so in regards to God’s views on health and healing.
Like the subject of wealth, health and healing generate much heated argument and debate in Christian circles. The arguments run the gamut from, if you are a “good” Christian, you should never get sick to, God makes you sick to teach you a lesson.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that I struggle with the subject of healing, probably more than any other, in my Christian walk. I struggle because what I believe to be true regarding God’s will for health and healing, I have trouble holding to in my personal life. I have “head knowledge” but no real “heart revelation”.
As I stated in my previous post on wealth:
“No matter what we believe on this subject, we would probably all agree that there was no poverty, lack, or sickness in the Garden of Eden and there will be none in Heaven. If we start with the premise that what God created as “good” at creation is also His perfect will, then we must at least consider that God does not want us sick or broke. From there it is likely to get sticky.”
It gets sticky because in so many ways we hold on tight to our sicknesses and diseases. If you pay close attention to our conversations, you become aware of how tightly we hold on to them. We discuss our ailments in painstaking detail until you want to yell “TMI (Too Much Information) Alert”! What if we do this because we are sometimes, in actuality, using our illness to draw attention to ourselves as a means of gaining other’s pity, or as someone once stated, in order to get, “A cheap sympathy shot”?
Every day as I review patient’s medical records for physician documentation accuracy, I read about the life experiences of people who now find themselves in a place of serious illness. For some, this illness was a direct result of poor life choices that brought them to the place where they needed hospitalization. For others, it appears that they were just going along, living their lives and minding their own business, when catastrophe struck.
There is no doubt that there is much we can do to take care of ourselves and prevent illness. Certainly, I think, everyone could agree that God designed our bodies for health. He has placed within the DNA of every cell the “desire” to heal itself. It is that premise on which medicine is based. Each treatment, each medication, is developed and administered to give our bodies “help” in returning to a healthy state. It is why we call it “dis-ease“; it is not considered the norm or standard for our bodies.
It is the sin of Adam and Eve which opened the door to sickness and disease in the Garden of Eden. If we use Jesus as our perfect example (as we should), we know He was never sick and never dealt with disease in His own body. He was fully God and yet fully man, a concept that I do not understand. As he was “tempted in all things as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), He must have been tempted to succumb to sickness and disease. He certainly was exposed to those diseases that were prevalent in His day and yet He never got sick. Not only did He not get sick, but He actively went about healing all who would believe.
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38 (NKJV)
Clearly from this passage, sickness and disease are considered oppression by the devil. Why then do some believe that God makes us sick to teach us something? Now, I will be the first to admit, that there is much that God can, and does, teach us from our infirmities. I would argue though, that we certainly could learn these lessons in another way.
If we truly believed that God wanted to teach us a lesson through illness and disease, why do we so quickly run to the doctor for help? Why don’t we just stay sick, learn our lesson, and get it over with? This does seem pretty silly when put in that way. No one desires to be sick. It disrupts our lives and keeps us from doing those activities that are important.
What if the whole point of sickness and disease is that the enemy causes and uses it to keep us from being effective in our ability to fulfill the “Great Commission”? We can’t do what we are called to do if we are laying in a hospital bed or curled up on the couch too sick to do anything. Why would God deliberately cause something that hampered us in fulfilling what He had specifically asked us to do?
Now, lest anyone get ready to “tar and feather” me for this view, I have heard many examples of people who have taken their experiences with disease and even injury, using them as a glorious example of God’s grace and mercy. Clearly in a world filled with sin, things happen. That being so, is it correct to ascribe to God that which is clearly Satan’s domain?
From my own life, my mother died at a young age (55) from a rare form of cancer. My mother handled her illness with great faith and graciousness. She had many plans for service in the Kingdom during her retirement years, which at the point of her death was a few short years away. Because of her early death, she did not fulfill that desire which God had placed in her heart. What people were not reached for the Gospel because she was not there to tell them?
I will be the first to admit that I have more questions than answers for much of this subject, but of these things I am sure: God wants us healthy, we need to fight sickness and disease with everything we’ve got, both in the natural and spiritual realms, and God still heals in miraculous ways today. The God Who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) has not changed His mind in this regard: His perfect will is reflected in what He created in the Garden of Eden and what is present in Heaven. Just as He did in His walk on earth, Jesus Christ desires to heal all who come to Him. We must hold steadfastly to that in faith when the enemy “seeks to steal, kill, and destroy” us or those who are most dear to us (John 10:10).
I would ask you to consider that it is possible illness can provide a certain “benefit” to some of us, causing those to hold on to it tightly. Illness can elicit sympathy from others (validating the “pity party” we could be having in our own hearts), it can provide a convenient excuse for those things which we would rather not do, and it can give us a reason to not fulfill the call of God on our lives. Ouch!! Been there, done that–all of them.
Lest anyone think that I am being critical of others, I have had my own battle with rheumatoid arthritis. There were many long months where just getting out of bed in the morning was excruciating. From bed (at 3:15 a.m.), to the one and a half hour daily commute on public transportation into work, there were multiple opportunities to give in and give up. It is only the grace, mercy, and strength of God that helped me to continue. He sustained me when exhaustion from pain and the disease itself wore me down to my last ounce of courage and strength.
I am under no illusion, however, that this issue with rheumatoid arthritis was God-given or a “gift” in any way. I know its source and its cause. Have I learned from it? Yes, absolutely. But, I may not have learned what others thought I would. I have learned that sickness and disease are a curse. There is no benefit from it that I could not have learned from God’s Word or by listening and obeying His Spirit. It has kept me from doing things for my family, it has kept me from the ability to always give 100 percent at work, and it has kept me from doing many things for the Kingdom that I would have been able to do in the past.
So, I am left with a belief system that has not completely played out in my personal life. I know it is God’s will to heal “all my diseases” but have not yet seen that completely manifested in my own life. I have made progress, however. God has graciously brought me to a place where each day’s struggle is a mere shadow of what it has been in the past.
I know this subject is one of great debate in the church and is a particularly “touchy” one. This is in no way meant as a criticism of those who are dealing with serious illness. I have great compassion for those who struggle with constant pain and life-altering illnesses. I do not know why it appears that God heals some people but not others. I only know that it is God’s will to heal and as F.F. Bosworth has said: “Faith begins where the will of God is known.”
I am left with the conclusion that, as there can be no problem with God, the problem must somehow be with us and our understanding. If we are going to fulfill God’s call on our lives, we must do this unhindered by that which keeps us from doing so. I would then ask: Do some, by believing God causes sickness, no longer heals, or wants to teach us a lesson through disease, actually allow the enemy to gain a foothold in our lives that he should not have? Do we give him the opportunity to destroy that which he should not have the opportunity to destroy? Do we permit him to keep us from advancing the Kingdom of God by accepting sickness and disease in our bodies?
I know the maturing of our faith is a growth process. The time to start praying and believing for healing and health is when we are dealing with minor “inconvenient” health issues, such as a cold or a headache. If we learn how to stand in faith and agreement with God’s Word at that time, we will be ready when the enemy tries to bring out his “big guns” against us. But, we will never even start this faith process if we believe that God wants us sick or this is part of His plan and purpose. Make no mistake, the enemy’s prime purpose for disease is to take us out of the race–permanently. If he can not prevent us from entering the race that God sets before us, he will do everything within his power to keep us from completing the call of God on our lives. Satan does not “play nice in the sandbox.”
God can, and certainly does, use these experiences to mature our faith. There may be a better way. If we learn from God’s Word, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and from the experiences of others, maybe we wouldn’t have to learn everything the “hard way.” Isn’t that what we try to teach our children? Don’t we stress to them the value of learning from our mistakes and other’s so they don’t have to make the same ones?
I believe this is why God includes, in Scripture, so many examples of people whose lives were less than sterling examples of wisdom. He shows us what we should not do, and what we should. At the very least, where healing and health are concerned, we should consider revisiting our beliefs and opening our hearts to the possibility that what we have always accepted as true, may not be. What would we find God has to say about the subject if we did an extensive study across the entirety of the Bible? Would we find this lines up with what we currently hold so dear?
Just asking . . .
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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