A couple of recent comments by savedbygrace have prompted me to address some of the more prevalent ideas that people pick up from poor teaching and fleshly reasoning. I’ll just take one at a time, which may prompt you to send me questions or concerns about teachings you have heard. You’ll see what I mean.
Savedbygrace brought up the first one in a recent comment:
“God gave me sickness and disease because He disciplines those He loves”
This is a common explanation that comes to us when disease doesn’t go away easily. Those who suffer from debilitating or discouraging illness sometimes long for a reason, something that would make the suffering worthwhile. Well-meaning believers toss this in as a sort-of encouragement. “The illness just shows how much God loves you.”
While it is true that God loves us, this idea can be very confusing. “God loves me so much that He gave me cancer?” We can see how some people may not find that encouraging. In fact, it may drive them away from a God who expressed His love in that way.
There are several things wrong with this idea.
- God is not the author of evil. It seems clear from Scripture that illness and suffering were not part of the way God made the world. But the world was damaged when sin entered. What we call suffering is simply the consequence of the world not working the way it was made.
- God uses trouble in our lives for His purposes, but He rarely sends it directly. Instead, He allows the natural consequences of evil to continue. And the agent of evil, when it comes, is not God.
- Not all illness is allowed for discipline or personal growth. It may and should result in deeper faith, but there may be a different purpose. Jesus said that the man born blind was that way “for the glory of God.”
- It is not up to us to discover a purpose for our troubles. Faith does not require understanding, but trust through the process. Those who find the deepest peace are usually those who don’t try to give God an excuse for their suffering. They just know that He is with them through it all.
When we come to the Lord, He sets us aside as His own. He forgives us and makes us holy and marks us as His. But He does not take us out of this world. The brokenness of this world continues to affect our daily lives. Illness, suffering, pain, sin—everything that finds its source in the broken world will still touch our lives. It may be that our Lord will protect us or deliver us, as He sees fit, but He does not take us out of these circumstances. The same troubles that affect the rest of creation affect us.
The assurance that we have is that these troubles are never the real will of God. His will was for us to have peace and joy and security and health. But the trouble is here, at least for a while longer, and God will use it for good in our lives.
I remember sitting in the doctor’s office watching him set my son’s broken leg. The pain for my son was great. I sat by watching as the action that caused such pain prepared the healing his leg needed. I prayed for him and encouraged him and I sincerely wished that he did not have to suffer so. But I let it happen because I loved him.
God does not send pain to us. Pain is the natural result of the broken world’s activity in our lives. God uses the things of this world to bless us because He loves us and sometimes pain is part of that process.
So I find it less than helpful to tell someone that God is sending their trouble for discipline or growth because He loves them. Instead, I assure them that He is with them. They are not alone. We pray and ask God to remove the trouble and often He does—in His time, in His way, for His purpose, and for His glory. But, if He does not, then I tell them of His great love and I remind them of the day the Father watched the Son suffer for us. Yes, our Lord can take the evil of this world and use it for His purpose. Trust Him.
Tomorrow the corollary: “God sends sickness and trouble because we have sinned.”