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Sickness and Sin

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.

Psalm 38:3

In Psalm 38, David makes a strong connection between his devastating physical illness and his sin. Apparently, he had sinned in some particularly egregious way. As a result, he became terribly sick, a sickness that David attributed to God’s anger.

Psalm 38 reminds us that God is sovereign. He can use any means to help us become the people he has envisioned us to be. God can use physical disease, for example, as a way of disciplining us when we sin. When this happens, we must remember that God’s ultimate purpose is redemptive, not vindictive. Psalm 38 provides an apt illustration of this truth. David’s sickness led him away from sin and back to God. It impelled him to repent so that he might be restored.

Yet we must avoid generalizing from David’s experience in Psalm 38. Some Christians have claimed, on the basis of texts like this one, that all human disease comes as a result of sin. While it’s true that disease finds its ultimate cause in the sin-induced brokenness of the world, it is not true that every instance of human sickness is the result of the sick person’s sin. The Old Testament book of Job shows that the “sin = sickness” equation falls short of God’s sovereignty. Jesus reiterates this point in John 9 when he explains that a man’s blindness is not the result of his sin or his parents’ sin (v. 3). When we are caring for those who are sick, including ourselves, we must never assume that sickness is God’s punishment for their sin.

No matter the ultimate cause of our sickness, God will use our suffering to bring us into closer fellowship with him. As we turn our hearts to the Lord in our neediness, we sense God’s presence. The God who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, does not abandon us. In fact, he often makes himself known to us more profoundly through our pain. Even as we hurt, we are reassured that his love will never let us go (Rom 8:18-39).

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, you want the very best for us. You do not let us go in our rebellion but draw us back to yourself. Sometimes you can use physical illness for this purpose. I’ve seen it in the lives of many, and I’ve experienced this in my own life. Thank you, Lord, for your ability to work all things together for good in my life.

Today, Lord, I’m thinking of friends who are experiencing physical illness. As you know, sometimes what they’re going through can feel like punishment from you. Please help them to sort out the truth of this spiritual diagnosis. But, beyond this, help them to sense your presence in their suffering. Moreover, I ask you, Lord, to heal them. Restore what is wrong in their bodies and give them strength.

I pray in the name of Jesus, the Healer. Amen.

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