I’m not sure how widespread it is – if it has reached epidemic proportions yet or just a few isolated cases. Am I referencing some plague or illness? No. I am referencing the shaming of Christians who are sick. It has happened to a few people I know – and it has happened to me. This topic must be addressed before such shaming becomes a proverbial “epidemic”.
Do I defend sickness? A thousand times, NO! I despise sickness with a passion. I am also a firm believer in God’s miraculous healing. I have seen too many real-life miracles for anybody to convince me otherwise. I have seen, firsthand, how God has saved the lives of my loved ones from the brink of death and how He has performed many supernatural miracles.
Nonetheless, we live in a fallen world and sickness strikes all of us – some more severely or more frequently than others. Furthermore, I am realistic enough to know that death happens to the good and bad alike. We will all die a physical death. But the shaming of Christians who fall ill… oh, it needs to stop!
First off, allow me to explain exactly what is being implied by the word “shame” or “shaming”. You see, Christians who fall ill, have chronic illness, or mental illness will sometimes be chided by others. The “chiders” may mean well, but will often cause more harm than good. They make statements such as:
“If you had more faith, you would be healed.” (In other words, they are saying that you’re a “Doubting Thomas” and it’s your fault you’re not healed).
“If you would sow a financial seed, God would hear your prayers.” (In other words, they are saying that God responds to money more than faith).
“The reason you’re sick is because there must be some sin in your life.” (In other words, they are saying it’s your fault that you’re sick – you rotten sinner, you.)
“You’re supposed to be walking in divine health as a Christian – why aren’t you?” (In other words, they are questioning your salvation and teaching that Christians aren’t supposed to ever be infirmed).
“Just rebuke the devil and claim your healing – it isn’t God’s Will for you to be sick.” (In other words, they are saying you’re being disobedient to God’s Will and for you to “just get over it”).
On and on, the rhetoric continues. It has the propensity to make infirmed Believers feel downright awful about themselves. Then, the self-doubt and mental questionings begin, with thoughts such as:
“Is my faith truly flawed? I prayed and believed for healing and am still infirmed. It’s all my fault.” (This is where the seed of doubt and condemnation gets planted).
“Lord, I have given to the poor even though I am not well-off myself. But, the TV evangelist said that if I gave $1,000 I could be healed. I wish I could afford this healing.” (This is where false beliefs are instilled and a misconception of our Lord is formed).
“I’ve searched my soul and have asked the Lord to wash all of my sins away. I thought He did… maybe He didn’t. Maybe that’s why I’m not healed.” (This is where doubting God’s complete saving and delivering power begins).
“I was told that if I were a good enough Christian, I would be 100% healthy all the time and walking in divine health. Maybe I’m not even saved.” (Again, this deals with doubting God’s saving power – or His power, in general).
“I was told that it’s not God’s Will for me to be sick. Oh no! You mean I am out of God’s Will too?! I must be such a rebellious person. There’s no hope for me.” (This is where faith begins to cave in. The chiding from others doesn’t encourage faith; it discourages it).
When Sin Is Not To Blame
Do you see how chiding/shaming statements made to one who is infirmed can cause more harm than good? But who is right? Is the sick person truly to blame for their maladies? Let’s explore this further.
Can physical illness happen due to sin? Of course! There are examples of this in scripture (Ps. 38:3, Matt. 9:2, John 5:14, 1st Cor. 11:30) as well as in modern days. Look at the drunkard with a hangover and/or alcohol poisoning. Look at the homosexual who is stricken with HIV. Look at the prostitute with all types of STDs. Certainly, sin in a person’s life can cause physical and/or mental illnesses; but sin is not the only reason nor is it typically the reason why a God-fearing Christian would fall ill.
Let’s look at the blind man’s story found in the ninth chapter of John. Was he stricken with blindness from birth because he was a bad person or because his parents were sinful? Let’s see what scripture has to say:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3). This needs no further elaboration. It’s pretty cut and dry what Jesus’ answer was.
Furthermore, let’s look at the story of Job. Remember, in the book of Job, how scripture refers to Job as a “perfect and upright” man? We see by this that his calamities (even physical ones) did not happen because he was a sinful man; nor did they happen because he doubted God or lacked faith. In fact, in the midst of his troubles, scripture says, “In all this – Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Again, we see that many bad things happened to a very good, God-fearing man.
Some of the Biblical patriarchs (Trophimus, Epaphroditus, Paul, Timothy, etc.) as well as Godly men and women throughout church history were infirmed. Some may have also dealt with mental anguish, at times. Charles Spurgeon, the man who reached thousands with the Gospel and was known as the “Prince of Preachers”, had physical and mental struggles. He battled painful gout and mental depression for a large portion of his life. The great hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby, was blind; yet, she wrote some amazing hymns which are sung to this day. Missionary, Amy Carmichael, was a Godly woman who opened an orphanage and wrote about her missions in India; yet, she was severely injured by a fall and bedridden for nearly 20 years. James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, also struggled with severe health problems for much of his adult life.
Taylor once said, “I am so weak that I can hardly write, I cannot read my Bible, I cannot even pray, I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child, and trust.” He and others found that, through it all, God could be trusted. But, none of the aforementioned saints were infirmed due to lack of faith or sin. They were some of the most Godly, giving, loving people doing God’s Will; yet, they didn’t walk in “divine health” as is promised by so many nowadays.
How Much Did Jesus Charge?
Briefly, I wish to address this false idea – that if you give money to a preacher or ministry, that guarantees your healing. Two words… Money-swindler. That’s all they are; professional con artists. This deceptive idea is so wrong on so many levels that it’s laughable – no, it’s scary. I pity them on Judgment Day if they don’t change their ways of deceiving the people. Such smooth talkers are very convincing and skilled at what they do. They will twist scriptures around like a pretzel in order to gain money. Don’t fall for it.
Allow me to pose a question, “How much did Jesus charge to heal people?” If Jesus Christ didn’t charge people money to heal them, how could anybody else have the audacity to do so? Could you even fathom that Jesus would walk up to the blind man after healing him and say, “Okay, pay up!” Never! It isn’t wrong to give money to support those who are genuine and preach the Gospel – but the giving of money is not done as to barter a healing.
Finally, what about those who are poor, who can’t afford to “sow a financial seed” to some fraudulent “evangelist”? Are they not able to receive Jesus’ healing touch just as freely as the rich? Whatever happened to Matthew 10:8? Jesus said, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Let us be careful to bear this in mind, lest we fall prey to deception and false beliefs.
(More on this topic HERE.)
Not By Choice
“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” ~Psalms 73:26
For some, it’s true – they manipulate others and seek attention through physical sickness. They’ve embraced sickness with both arms and are the type who love to complain and embellish every single ache or pain. Nothing is dealt with privately through prayer – it is all a big show and dance for attention. That is the sole motive – attention.
However, the vast majority of chronically ill individuals would much rather be well. The majority of those suffering will diligently seek healing through various means such as prayer, healthy eating, vitamins, exercising, etc. Most chronically ill individuals are trying really hard to get well. However, despite our best human efforts – sickness remains. This is not by choice. There is an inward battle which the chronically ill person fights that no one but God sees. Therefore, the chiding serves no good purpose since the attack upon their body was involuntary – not chosen, wanted, or embraced. However, God’s grace sustains.
What About Healing?
On his website, writer Don Stewart states: “Nowhere in the New Testament is perfect health throughout life considered the norm. Scripture never indicates that the people remained sick because they lacked faith to be healed. Neither does the Bible indicate that God heals those who ‘claim’ or demand it. In fact, people were healed according to God’s mercy. People have the right to ask God for healing, but the result is left up to Him.”
At the beginning of this blog entry, I stated that I am a firm believer in the Lord’s healing power. I have seen it, firsthand, where there was no doubt of God’s healing touch. And while I strongly believe in healing, I also find that not all of God’s children are healed instantaneously. There are different types of healing – some are gradual, and yes, some are instant miracles. Even though we don’t see it this way, even death is a form of healing to the Believer; for, you see – there will be no suffering when we are with our Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2nd Cor. 5:8). Furthermore, Christians are promised eternal reward (in Revelation 21) where there will be no more death, sorrow, crying nor pain. So eventually, whether in this life or by the way of death, the Believer does have the relief of healing to look forward to.
I would like to leave you with a quote by the late J.C. Ryle which seems to sum up my thoughts on healing. He said:
“The Lord Jesus makes no mistakes in managing His friends’ affairs. He orders all their concerns with perfect wisdom: all things happen to them at the right time, and in the right way. He gives them as much of sickness and as much of health, as much of poverty and as much of riches, as much of sorrow and as much of joy, as He sees their souls require. He leads them by the right way to bring them to the city of habitation…He mixes their bitterest cups like a wise physician, and takes care that they have not a drop too little or too much. His people often misunderstand His dealings; they are silly enough to fancy their course of life might have been better ordered: but in the resurrection-day they will thank God that not their will, but Christ’s was done.”
In closing, let us remember not shame or blame those who are infirmed beyond their control; rather, let us bring our faith-filled prayers, love, support, and compassion.
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:35-40).
“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” ~Proverbs 18:14
“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. 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 5:14-16
“… and [Jesus’ disciples] anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” ~Mark 6:13
“… they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” ~Mark 16:18
I’m No Stranger to the Valley – by: Mike Bowling