Healing and Chronic Sickness

I recently received an email message from a friend titled: Why God Doesn't Always Heal. They used the passage about Paul's thorn in the flesh from 2Corinthians 12:8-10 as the basis for the exposition of the topic. The email involved a list of seven reasons why people are not healed. The first 5 involved the usual unbelief, sin and neglect reasons, the sixth invloved "the mystery of divine providence", and the last reason said:
Often times there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires MORE than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less than perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can only be attained by means of physical weakness.
Generally speaking, I thought that the treatment of this topic was fairly rote as I have heard it espoused for many times over the past 30+ years. Here are a few excerpts from my email message back to my friend:
I was glad to see that you eventually got to the heart of the thorn in the flesh in #7.. I was wondering if you were ever going to take the burden off the chronically ill believer.. most charismatic Christians who suffer with chronic illness are part of the suffering crowd that wrongly blames themselves for their pain wondering if they could just believe enough or find out that hidden sin.. it is a blight on the church how these are made to feel sub-Christian.

I wonder why the many who try to discern why people are not healed do not include “the church” and its leaders (the focus of James 5:15-16) in #1-5 of your list. Why do we always feel a need to, like Pharisees, add burdens to the sick? Why not say that the unbelief and/or sin of the elders are preventing healing from coming?

I also wonder why it is so hard for us to say that Paul’s thorn was God’s will.. and maybe a sickness falls with the confines of His will for contemporary Christians? I think that when we do this or something similar we help people to be content with their physical limitations instead of causing them discontentment. In case you are wondering – even people who have learned to be content with their physical limitations continue to pray for miraculous healing :)

Being in and pastoring in a charismatic church, I always find it interesting how people respond to my wife’s wheelchair.. there is often a superiority projected in these interactions that embody your points 1-5.. people listening to the faith teachers look at people who are sick as subpar Christians.. it is very sad.. both for the way it makes my wife feel and more importantly the delusion that upright (read that standing upright) people suffer under.

Hope I didn’t come across as upset or angry. I just wanted to give you an alternate view and perhaps a peek into the life of a guy who prays every day for his wife to arise out of her wheelchair.. and of guy who has had to pastor people who pray and are not healed.
I received a response from my friend thanking me for sharing my insights and saying that I should think of writing on it some day.. yeah, he is not a reader of this blog :)


  1. Bob, I think you dealt with the topic as best you can. Every time this topic comes up, I think of this.......

    John 9
    Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
    1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
    3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

    I don't know.....to say that sin or lack of enough faith blocks the power of God to heal seems to be edging strongly in the direction of denying God's unconditional love for us. What truly loving parent would tell her child, "Yes, I will take you to the hospital and ask them to treat your broken leg, but only if you promise to clean up your room and take out the trash every Wednesday."? That's what the accusation of not having enough faith says to me.

    I believe........ that sometimes He doesn't heal us, so He is able to reach others who would otherwise never be drawn to Him. I know of a woman named Kathy who has been fighting inoperable brain tumors for years. God has used her witness in suffering to reach fellow patients receiving experimental form of chemo therapy and even a police officer who stopped to check on her when she had to stop her car along the road on the way home to vomit from the effects of the chemo. Kathy finds meaning in her suffering and that gives her the will to go on living. I have no doubt that she will receive a crown of life when her earthy days are over....which from the reports I've gotten lately may be quite soon.

    As horrible as our suffering can be, I know God is not deaf to our cries for relief. Sometimes that relief doesn't come the way we want it and that's hard to swallow sometimes, but it is relief all the same. Sometimes we can't stop at the foot of the cross, but actually have to enter into His suffering on the cross in order to find meaning in our own.

    Love and blessings to you and Ann, Bob.


  2. I am SO glad you posted this Bob!! As one who spent a great deal of my life in the Faith & Word churches I think "The Church" so often gets off base on this one. Why is it we seem to have to fall into the ditch, on one side or the other?

    I first (I've read it several times since) read Catherine Marshall's book "BEYOND OUR SELVES" in 1989. I appreciate her honesty in dealing with her illness.

    I & my husband, and all our children, have been blessed with good health so I do not know the truth of this by experience but just by "knowing" in my Spirit.

    I pray we can all learn so much. I love where you said "Even people who have learned to be content with their physical limitations continue to pray for miraculous healing".

    That is so beautiful.....to find contentment and yet still believe in the miraculous God we serve and His purposes. I love the verse where Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." I've never been near being slayed, but I have prayed that prayer in the midst of many difficult situations.

  3. Bob,
    I have pretty much stopped going to a church service , at least I haven't been in a while. But, I can relate to your statement about praying for healing even though you have prayed that prayer so many times and it hasn't happened yet.
    I used to attend a big Charismatic church that I really loved a lot of things about. But, there was one message that used to make me so angry. There were so many times when the pastor would have these word of faith type healing prophecies. I have no problem with prophecy but when he would start telling people about how they can be healed of what ever ailment it was I would think about my 2 oldest boys (who I would make attend against their will) listening to him saying that someone was being healed of diabetes right now, they would be asking themselves why they weren't being healed. In fact I think it made them angry too. They are both type 1 diabetics and they have both been taking insulin since they were very young. It hurt me that they would hear this and they were never the ones who were good enough or that had enough faith to be healed.
    Seems it is often times just one more part of a prosperity gospel that so many evangelicals have embraced.
    ok end of my long comment.

  4. Thanks all for the great comments and encouragement.

    I have also been in similar services Shaun where people would get a prophetic word that fell to the ground. I really would not have a big issue with it if these words were followed by explanation and a dose of reality. Rarely are these words challenged and the result is that church sometimes resembles more of a circus than a place of God's presence.

  5. Penless, I am opposite from you, I grew up in a fundamental church. But now growing in the Lord and accepting a life of faith in His Holy Scriptures.

    I have heard much about Paul's thorn A quick check of cross references on thorn.
    Numbers 33:55 Israel's enemies would be a thorn in their side.
    Ezekiel 28:24 Sidon would not be a painful thorn any more.
    Joshua 23:13 Israel's enemies are a whip in the side and thorn in eye.

    So thorn in OT signafies trouble from enemies not sickness. Paul being a religious Pharisee knew of these OT references.

    And the context of 2 Cor 12:7 is 2 Cor 11 Which talks of Paul's many torments in serving the Lord. Yet not one of them mentions sickness. So the context agrees with the OT idea of the thorn being opposition not sickness.

    Yet the purpose of Jesus and also our is Jesus being our Lord. Romans 14:9 "For to this end Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead of the living." So weather we are serving God in sickness or in health we are to make Jesus Lord. And serve Him in faith.

  6. Shaun, I too have been angered that leaders did not heal my brother who is autistic. Yet I did not get angry at God just leaders. (I have now forgiven them) I continue to pray and look to God to heal my brother.

  7. Sorry Bob,

    the 2 posts above are from me and not Jill.

  8. Thank you SO much for sharing this, Bob. It's a funny thing, how much we associate health with faith or Godliness here in this country. It is SO different in other countries, where suffering and illness are such a common part of life. I keep thinking about one of your other blogs, where you quoted a guy who said he didn't go to church because Christians eat our own (or something to that effect). While that's not true in every church all the time, in certain faith circles it is more true than not. I think THAT is the disease Christians should be concerned about. The one that attacks and condemns those who are already suffering.

    1. So true Kelli! This does seem to be another way that Christians eat their own. And yes (a big yes) to self-righteous religious judging being the disease we should be most concerned with.


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