Illness helps you sort out who your real friends are. Often people you never realized cared for you step up and provide incredible support. And then there are those on whom you counted but they fail to come through for you.
My friend Kristie expected to get some words of healing and blessing when she went to talk to her priest shortly after a diagnosis of breast cancer sent her reeling just before her 40th birthday.
She didn’t get either.
“There was no comfort from him,” Kristie recalls more than 20 years later. “He told me ‘You deserved this. You’ve done something wrong, something bad and this is God’s way of showing you that.’ He was adamant about it. ”
Obviously, Kristie went looking for encouragement in other places after that conversation!
Sadly, I have talked to many people over the years who thought—or at least wondered if—their diagnosis was indeed a punishment from God. Usually there was something they did—or failed to do—and the thought the diagnosis might be God’s response to that wrongdoing.
While I have no doubt that illness can get our attention and even spur folks on to change their wayward ways, I don’t believe God is in the business of zapping people with serious illness to get them to shape up. If doing something wrong or “bad” led to cancer, everyone in the world would be needing to make an appointment with an oncologist!
Even in Jesus’ time people were tempted to equate sickness with sin. Jesus disciples once asked him: “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents?”
Jesus’ reply was clear: “It was not because of his sins or his parents sins…This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2,3)
I never thought my cancer was a “punishment” for any of my sins, but I must confess I often wondered if I was “good enough” to be physically healed by God. Oh, I never doubted He could heal me, I just wasn’t sure He would want to.
My doubts stemmed from an evil voice whispering in my ear: “Everyone prayed for Ralph’s first wife, and she still died. You don’t think you’re better than she was, do you? If she wasn’t good enough to be healed, you certainly aren’t.”
Thankfully, my dear friend Sheila Latta stopped by during this time and explained to me that my fight was a spiritual battle as well as a physical battle, and I needed to be reminded of Ephesians 6:16: “In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.” Those “fiery arrows” often include depression, loneliness, fear, anxiety, and despair—all common emotions for people facing a life-threatening illness.
Sheila prayed with me (after she cleaned my toilets and changed my bedding!) and reminded me what I knew in my head but could not feel in my heart: God’s love is not based on whether we’re “good enough”—it is a gift, unconditional and with no strings attached.
Slowly but surely, I began to feel God’s love again and to understand that my prayer for healing would not be answered as a reward for good behavior.
So I remind you today, neither you or your loved one is facing a serious illness because you weren’t good enough. And you don’t need to do something special to earn or deserve healing from God. Don’t try to bargain with Him by being an especially good person, hoping He will reach down and heal. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more—or any less—than He already does. He proved that a long time ago:
This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10
Author Max Lucado puts it this way:
“You wonder how long my love will last?
Find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill.
That’s me you see up there, your maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding.
Covered in spit and sin-soaked.
That’s your sin I’m feeling.
That’s your death I’m dying.
That’s your resurrection I’m living.
That’s how much I love you.” 
So if you’re still searching for an answer to the “why” question regarding your or your loved one’s illness…it’s not about you. Maybe, just maybe, it has happened so that the power of God might be seen.
 In the Grip of Grace, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, 2009, pg. 180.
Don’t miss the song below by Shannon Wexelberg! I’ve pasted the words at the bottom.)
Right Where I Am
Words & music by Shannon J. Wexelberg
c. 2012 Shanny Banny Music / BMI / International Copyright Secured
I could tune my ear to a bitter song
Or choose hope’s melody
I could curse the ground that I’m standing on
Or pray for dancing feet
I could shout at Heaven when rain pours down
Pounding hard on me
Or I could cup my hands and drink of You
Whatever this life brings
You are good, You are good
Though I may not understand (I have come to trust Your hand)
You are good, You are good
I give thanks right where I am
I could count the cracks in my wounded soul
Or splash in healing oil
I could break down on this broken road
Or run through fields of joy
I could count the ways I wish my life
Had turned out differently
Or awaken to each gift of grace
This pain has helped me see (repeat chorus)
Today will never come again
These moments passing by
Packaged in my deepest ache
Are treasures in disguise
The sweetest gifts I’ve ever known
From Your tender hand
I could not have guessed they would have come
Come the way You planned