I don’t know why this has been on my heart lately, but it has.
There are a lot of reasons we experience physical pain, illnesses, and ailments. We have a tendency to say that these happened because 1) someone did the work of Satan, that is, someone sinned and it affected us in a negative way, 2) it was seemingly accidental or an act of nature but was really Satan’s work [like in the book of Job], 3) it was truly an accident or 4) it was truly an act of nature.
Any of those can be true, but I say there’s, also, a fifth possibility.
Maybe God did it. Maybe He consciously chose to make you sick, or to injure you, or to afflict your body with an ailment.
In the Bible, we’re told that God wrenched Jacob’s hip out of socket. God afflicted Paul with a thorn in his flesh. God closed a woman’s womb and made her barren. God inflicted Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness. God sent ten plagues to Pharaoh and his people.
There was a purpose behind each of those things. Sometimes, the purpose was to punish someone for their sin (like Egypt and Nebuchadnezzar). Other times, God did it so that person would remember God or their encounter with Him (Jacob, Paul). And, further, the Bible doesn’t always clarify why God did what He did, but we can surmise from elements surrounding those stories that it might have had something to do with Him working things out in His time (the barrenness of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth and, subsequently, their children being born at the right time).
We know God does not sin so, if sickness or injuries are somehow sinful, then we know without a doubt that they did not come from God. The assault of one person on another is sinful- it’s not from God. Cancer, lupus, thyroid disease, influenza, cold sores, broken legs, TMJ- there’s no sin in these ailments themselves. They may have happened on accident or by nature- or they may have not.
Now, you may argue with me and say that there’s no way God would afflict someone with cancer. And I’d ask, “Why wouldn’t He?” Sure, God cares about the health of our physical bodies, but, with God, there’s a bigger picture. First, He desires for us to love Him and to love each other. God does not rank our health above His desire for mankind to love Him. He does not want us to be healthy more than He wants us to love each other. Physical ailments can change people’s hearts and make them love more than they ever would’ve. Afflictions in a physical sense can alter time, making events line up perfectly for God’s glory to be seen.
Sometimes, God makes us sick. Sometimes, He makes us fall off our bicycles and get hurt. Sometimes, He makes cells in our body deform, not by accident but by design, so that His bigger picture can be seen more clearly.
These things are painful. They feel awful to our bodies and our emotions. They affect the people who love us. They make all our lives more complicated and challenging. But we shouldn’t think that they’re all curses sent from Satan. Not all of us are Job. Sometimes we’re Jacob and Rachel. Sometimes we’re Paul and Nebuchadnezzar. Sometimes God afflicts our bodies on purpose because it’s part of His bigger picture.
I can find comfort in this, in knowing that God took time to work out a plan and that He decided I should be a part of it. It’s honoring and humbling. Further, it reveals to me another dimension of God and His incomprehensible ways. We can’t contain Him. We can find it challenging to fit Him into our view of things. But His view is bigger. He can see everything. Our role in it all is to trust His plan, to willingly be a part of it, and to have faith that it is accomplishing His bigger picture.