Why does God allow birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease?
There are some who claim that God does not want any Christian to suffer from birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease. But notice what God declares in Exodus 4:11,
The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” Exodus 4:11 (NASB)
God Allows Some Babies To Have Birth Defects
Exodus 4:11 is only one of many passages that reveal God causes people to have birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease as a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12; 8:22). For example, in Psalm 139:13-15 God declares that He formed us in the womb of our mother.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth . . .
Psalm 139:13-15 (NASB)
In the gospel accounts of Jesus life and ministry, we are told that Christ said this about Lazarus’ illness,
But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:4 (NASB)
That is, Lazarus’ sickness had a purpose. His sickness was designed to bring glory to God. In fact, we are told that Jesus remained to Bethany and did not rush to heal Lazarus (John 14:6). Later Martha states that Lazarus died because Jesus had not rushed to heal him (John 14:21). That is, Jesus intentionally delayed coming to Lazarus and healing him. After Jesus arrived, he replied to Martha that the raising of Lazarus from the dead was for the glory of God.
In John 9:2-3 we are told that Christ’s disciples thought that a man had a physical defect at birth due to his own sin or his parents’ sin. Jesus replied that neither had the man or his parents sinned (John 9:2). He was born blind so that “the works of God might be displayed in him” for the glory of God. This reveals that some people have physical defects for the glory of God and not due to any sin. This also reveals that we have the wrong view of physical defects. We see them negatively because we are so earthly minded. We are trying to make life on this planet like heaven. But heaven is where there will not be any suffering (Revelation 21:4).
God Allows Some To Have Illnesses, Sickness and Disease
Some physical defects, illnesses, sickness or disease are due to sin as revealed in the conflict between Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12:1-10). Aaron and Miriam had objected to Moses marrying a Chushite woman (Number 12:1). Apparently the conflict was significant because God defended Moses by rebuking Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12:8). Then God made Miriam leprous.
So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed.But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. Numbers 12:9-10 (NASB)
What is the message? Miriam was the leader of the conflict. Because she sinned by confronting Moses, God made her leprous. She became sick with a disease due to her own sin.
But we can be sick for reasons other than sin. For example, in 2 Corinthians 12:1-9 the apostle Paul shares with us that God had given him a thorn in the flesh in order to motivate him to not sin. In Galatians 4:13-15, there is a hint that Paul may have had an eye disease. That may have been the thorn in the flesh.
Throughout the scriptures there are other examples of disease and suffering that occurred due to sin. The reader is encouraged to study the series “Why Do Christians Suffer?” in the book of 1 Peter.
It is important to remember that it is God’s will for every Christian to suffer (1 Peter 4:19). Sometimes we suffer for the cause of Christ (Matthew 5:10-12). Other times we will suffer because we are godly in our conduct (2 Timothy 3:12). On occasions God tests our faith in order to cause us to grow spiritually (James 1:2-7). God allows us to suffer! God might allow physical traumas to bring us or others to Christ as their Savior and Lord (Acts 9:3-9).
In summary, God uses birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease for His glory, our spiritual growth, or for the spiritual growth of others. Yet, that does not mean that we should ignore medical help to reverse birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease. When Jesus was here on earth, the gospels tell us that He healed people in Judea and all the surrounding area (Matthew 4:24-25).
The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:24-25 (NASB)
This reveals that God did not intend for people with physical defects or any other sickness to never be healed. In fact, it was God’s will that they be healed because Christ healed them. The same is true today. Christ encourages us to pray for healing and to seek healing (James 5:13-16). God may chose to heal miraculously, or though medications, procedures and medical personnel. At times He chooses for His own purposes, as with the apostle Paul, to leave the “thorn in the flesh” or allow someone to be blind for His glory (John 9:2-3).
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB)
Reference Links:I Am Suffering!
Blessed Are The Persecuted
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 1
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 2
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 3