Praise the Lord I made it through another winter without getting the flu, or pneumonia, or even a bad cold. We usually don't appreciate our good health until we get sick, because we are so prone to taking our health for granted. Well, I certainly don't. My wife will tell you I'm not a very good patient, because I'm not a patient person.
Throughout my years of being a Pastor, one question I would get a lot (from people I visited in the hospital, for example) was this: What are the Biblical reasons for sickness? Approaching this important topic from a purely Biblical perspective, I can find at least five answers to that question.
First, there is no specific reason behind most sickness; it is just part of our normal human lives under the curse. We know that all sickness, and death itself, was the result of the fall of Adam. So you could say that sickness is caused by sin, generally. But every time you get sick, it is not because of some terrible, specific sin in your life. This was the mistake Job's counselors made. They kept accusing him of having some deep, dark, sin in his life that was causing all his problems, including his terrible health problems (sore boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet). The disciples also made this mistake, in John 9, as it pertained to the man born blind. In Bible times blindness was often the result of gonorrhea, and that is why they asked: Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? It is downright cruel to assume that when a person suffers from some terrible disease, or goes through some tragedy in life, that it is because of some specific sin in their life.
The second reason for sickness is God's timing: "It is appointed unto man once to die". When our appointment comes, usually there is some illness like cancer that precedes death. In other words, there comes a time when sickness has an "end of life" purpose to it. That is why we should never pray that God would heal every ninety year old person on earth. If it is God's time for them to depart this earthly life, praying that they stay here is selfish and un-biblical. Even Jesus knew this: "If possible, take this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done".
The third reason for sickness, according to the Bible, is disciplinary. Whenever a child of God lives in open rebellion and defiance against the Lord, there is the possibility that God will take that believer home to heaven. This is taught in I Cor. 11, where Paul is talking about Communion. "For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (have died)". There have been a few times during my ministry years that I saw God do this. How do I know for sure? Because the parents prayed: "Lord, do whatever you have to do. My wayward son (or daughter) is bringing reproach to your name, so if You have to take them home, I can accept it".
The fourth and fifth reasons for sickness both have something in common: the glory of God. There are two ways God can glorify himself in a sickness, or disease. First, he can work a miracle of healing. We have abundant testimony of this in the Scriptures, as this was a very integral part of Christ's ministry. He had compassion on people and their needs, and responded accordingly. The man born blind in John 9, mentioned earlier, is a case in point. Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." Whenever God chooses to heal someone, we rejoice, and give Him the glory. But we must remember, God does not choose to heal everybody. He works all things after the counsel of His own will.
The final reason for sickness also results in the glory of God--and that is, His all-sufficient grace and strength to endure. In II Cor. 12, Paul prayed three times that God would remove the "thorn in the flesh", the physical malady that plagued him. But the answer Paul got from God was even better than what he asked for: "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (verse 9). God uses those with disabilities in a powerful way to magnify His grace. I think of Joni Erickson Tada, who was paralyzed as a teenager diving into the shallow water at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, MD. (We lived right near there when I pastored in Glen Burnie). Her testomony for Christ, through the years, has been phenomenal. She has reached more people for Christ from her wheelchair than if she had never had the accident. Paul responds to God's answer by saying: "Most gladly therefore will I rather suffer in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me". Yes, sometimes God heals and is glorified. Other times He doesn't heal but gives grace to endure, the grace to go on, which also brings Him glory. Right now, my beautiful wife Nancy is experiencing what that means.