Bible Question:

I very much want to know why we as children of God are not cleaning out hospitals and mental facilities. In prayer, every angle is covered. I do not think it is lack of faith. Thanks for letting me ask.

Bible Answer:

Let’s start by asking, “Why are people sick?”

Why Are We Sick?

God uses suffering to bring unbelievers to Himself. One great example is the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4,

Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. (NASB) Daniel 4:33

God had warned this man to recognize that God rules, to do righteousness and to show mercy to the poor. But he did not, so for seven years this king lived like an animal of the field (Dan. 4:28-34). At the end of the seven years the king raised his eyes to heaven and praised and honored God. It was then the king’s sanity returned to him (Dan. 4:34-36). I believe he became an Old Testament saint (Dan. 4:37). God used illness in this man’s life to cause him to believe. This is one reason – a major reason God uses illness in the life of a non-Christian. The second reason God uses illness in the life of a non-Christian is discipline for flagrant sinful conduct (2 Chronicles 21:16-19; Rom. 1:27).

God uses illness in the life of a Christian also. 1 Cor. 11:30 the Holy Spirit says that some Christians were sick and even died because they participated in the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner.” At times like this, God uses illness to motivate Christians to stop sinning (Heb. 12:4-11). He also uses illness for His own glory and to grow a Christian spiritually. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s description of Job (Job 1:1; 8; 2:3),

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil. (NASB) Job 1:1

Notice that God describes Job as being “blameless” in the first verse of Job. What follows in the book is a trial that God allows Job to go through even though he is “turning away from evil.” Job loses his wealth, family, and his health. Eventually, Job sins through his suffering, but he never curses God as Satan had predicted (Job 1:11). God is glorified as a result, and in the end He learns some great truths about God and eventually he says,

I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee. (NASB) Job 42:5

In the end God restores Job’s wealth and gives him more (Job 42:10).

God also uses illness to turn a Christian away from sin.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;” (NASB) Hebrews 12:4-5

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were struggling in their spiritual walk with God. They were in sin. They were not in the Word, not attending church, and being spiritually faithful. They were suffering. So God simply reminds them their suffering is His loving discipline to motivate them to a correct behavior.

God also uses suffering for His own glory (Exodus 4:11; John 9:3; 11:4),

And the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (NASB) Exodus 4:11

But when Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” (NASB) John 11:4

Why are people in hospital beds and mental facilities? Because God uses illness to draw non-Christians and wayward Christians to Himself. He uses illness as a discipline to motivate Christians to turn from sin. He uses illness to cause some Christians to grow spiritually. He even allows illness to prevent Christians from sinning (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

When Does God Heal?

As we have already read, there are times God chooses for us to suffer. How long we suffer is determined by God. Sometimes the length of our suffering to determined by His purposes. Other times it depends on us – how long we choose to keep sinning. And on other occasions, He does not heal because we lack faith.

When Jesus was present on this earth, He healed many people. People who were blind, lame, those who could not hear and those who could not speak (Matthew 8:14-17). This was a sign of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 53:4). The Jews believed the Messiah would come in power with a new teaching (Mark 6:2). Matthew shows that He did. But it is important to remember that Jesus did not heal every everyone,

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. (NASB) Matthew 13:58

Who was not healed – unbelievers or believers? Scripture does not say that everyone who believed and was healed was a “Christian.” Scripture says Jesus healed because He felt compassion (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34) for the people. Many were not healed because they lacked faith. What kind of faith – faith He could heal them or personal faith in Jesus?

For Christians, the Holy Spirit tells us,

Is anyone among you sick? 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 offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (NASB) James 5:14-16

Notice the three parts required of a Christian: 1) faith 2) confession of sins to one another, and 3) pray for one another. More than faith is required. More than prayer is required. Confession of sins is required. Christians need to remember they are still sinners even though they are forgiven and going to heaven. When does God heal this way? When we pray, have faith, and confess to one another.

Faith

What kind of faith is James 5:14-16 talking about? Some teach that faith must not waver. They may refer to James 1:6. But Paul, the apostle, had great faith, yet His prayer for personal healing was not answered (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). So how do we understand faith? Probably the best example of faith in action is found in Daniel,

. . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (NASB) Daniel 3:17-18

King Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to worship a statue of gold. He warns them he will throw them into a fiery furnace if they do not. They refuse anyway and tell King Nebuchadnezzar that their God will deliver them from his fiery furnace. Then they tell him that even if God does not save them, they will not worship his Babylonian god. What kind of faith did they have? They believed God was powerful enough to deliver them, but they did not know if it was God’s will for them. 1 John 5:14 says that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Faith that is consistent with the will of God is what God responds to. How did God respond to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego? He saved them from the hot furnace. They believed in God and His power, but they recognized He might want them to become martyrs. They also recognized God’s sovereignty.

This is the same situation with Paul’s desire for healing (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Paul had been praying and praying for a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed, but God kept saying, “No!” Did Paul lack faith? No, God indicated that is it was not His will to remove this illness. God uses illness for a variety of purposes. He does not always choose to heal.

Conclusion:

When does God heal? When suffering has accomplished God’s purpose. For some Christians, they suffer because there are sinning. James 5:14-16 says the suffering will stop when we finally admit we have sinned and confess our sin. For others, God has a reason to continue to allow us to suffer: to bring us to Himself, to grow us, and for His own glory. We can conclude that God uses suffering in this life for good. We live in a sinful world. But God has promised us that there will be no tears or illness some day – when we are in heaven,

He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. (NASB) Revelation 21:4