Posts tagged Relationship with God
Has God ever made you sick? Literally, I mean. Have you ever disobeyed God until the point where He suddenly struck you down with an illness? Does God do that? Is illness, sickness or disease a punishment for misbehavior? There has been many times where I have overheard people say, “I wonder what they did to deserve that?” “They must have really made God mad.” Is a health problem always the result of sin or disobedience in a person’s life?
I think the starting point in addressing this question is to remember that God never intended for people to suffer with disease. In the beginning, everything was perfect. Originally, Adam and Eve never caught colds. They never worried about cancer, heart disease, or dementia. Eve didn’t have the hassle of getting mammograms. Yearly physicals and blood work (my dread) weren’t a part of life. It must have been nice! They were in perfect health, sustained by God. But death followed sin into the world. The moment Adam and Eve chose to disobey the one rule God had given them, they immediately started the dying process.
Sickness and disease are inextricably linked to their decision to break their relationship with God. Today, we suffer the effects of mankind’s separation from a perfect relationship with God. Paul captures this idea vividly in Romans 8 when he says that creation is in “bondage to decay.” Due to sin, we will all die one day. Sickness will be the vehicle that leads to our death. So, in a global sense, sickness is the result of sin, but does that mean just because someone is sick or dealing with a debilitating disease they must have sinned in their life? The answer is a resounding no.
We can look to the life of Job. Scripture says that “this man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Yet, Job was stripped of everything he held dear, save for his life. His immediate circumstances in no way reflected his relationship with God.
Jesus sheds a tremendous amount of light on this question in John 9. He and his disciples encounter a man that was born blind, and his disciples asked what people often do, “who sinned,this manor his parents?” Why was he born blind? Jesus responded by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Just because a person is suffering, dealing with pain, or is sick does not mean they are paying off some form of debt for past sins.
Illness is not necessarily God’s means of delving out discipline. God often has other purposes for allowing pain in our lives. In the previous situation it was in order for God to receive the glory. Other times it is God’s means to get our attention and speak to us when we might not be listening. As Lewis so eloquently put it, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes illness or pain is simply God’s way of shouting into our lives. Sometimes God even uses our pain to prepare us for a specific purpose or to use us in a certain context. We might not always know the reason why. Sometimes we are left with unconnected dots in this life that will not be strung together until the next. Yet, God has his ultimate reasons for allowing certain things to come into our lives.
Last, I think we need to make the distinction between punishment and discipline. Punishment is an act of inflicting a penalty for an offense committed. It is retribution for wayward acts in the past. The sin of disbelief will one day be punished eternally in a place set aside for those who choose to reject Christ. Discipline is another thing entirely. The purpose of discipline is corrective. The end goal is to grow maturity into the person. It is future oriented. When I discipline my son it is because I don’t want to see him hurt in the future. Discipline is an act of love. God reminds us in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” God disciplines those that know Him. Discipline does not always seem like an act of love, but it is; because if we continue on in our sin unabated we are choosing to embrace more, often greater, suffering.
God uses a multitude of ways to discipline us. It might be loss of relationships, our finances, or even our health. God did not spare His own son’s life in order to have a relationship with us, why would he hesitate to do whatever it takes to maintain the health of that relationship?
More often than not, the discipline that God delves out is simply allowing us to experience the full weight of our decisions by enduring the consequences that follow. Much of the time, our discipline is a direct result of the choices we have made.
So why is sickness here? Because death entered the world through disobedience and none of us can escape it. Yet, just because a person suffers from disease or pain in no way indicates that it has been due to previous sin in their own life. God allows and uses pain in our lives for a multitude of purposes. Though, we should take into account that, at times, he will use our health to discipline us and draw us near to Himself.
Regardless of our situation in life, we must be reminded that, “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When life is good we must choose to continually walk close to God. When hard times come, we must lean further into God.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
A couple of months ago, Devon and I started praying with Hayden at night when we put him to bed. He sits in one of our laps while the other prays. We always say the pray as if he is praying. We put our hands together and offer up a prayer that might come from a toddler, and then we give an overemphasized amen. We then usually proceed to read a book, and about 7 out of 10 times he wants to read his bible stories.
Tonight, we were going through the whole bedtime routine and before we can even start praying he has his hands cupped together. Devon and I grin at one another, and I offer up his bedtime prayer. He gives an enthusiastic amen along with us, and then says, “More.” I ask him if he wants to pray again, he smiles with delight, and I offer up another prayer. The amens ring out, and as I get up he says, “More.” By this time, Devon and I are laughing, and I breathe yet another prayer.
Next, I let him pick what book he wants to read before bed, and as usual, it is his Bible stories. I exit his room and listen around the corner for a few moments as Devon reads him the stories, and he names the characters on each page.
Finally I made my way back to the living room, while thinking about the whole exchange between the three of us. Hayden gave me a vivid reminder. Isn’t that the way it should be for us as Christians? Shouldn’t we enjoy spending time with God? The times we are able to lean back in the safety of God’s arms and just enjoy talking about our joys, fears, concerns, problems, and blessings; then to have Him speak to us through His word should bring is delight.
Now, I understand, much of the significance of this was lost on Hayden. More than likely, he was just stalling to avoid sleeping and be able to sit with his Mom longer, but the application is still there. He wanted to delay going to bed, and “more” prayer and time to read his Bible. So often, I want to go to sleep so I rush my time with God.
Our relationship with God is like any other relationship. It only grows through nurturance. So maybe we should take the same approach. Instead of rushing our time with God, or skipping it altogether on some days, maybe we should seek “more.” I have a feeling if we did, the course of our week might be entirely different.
“It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.” -J. Oswald Sanders
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.