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 pastor 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 25 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 always 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)
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
This is the way pastor-author Max Lucado describes it in his book In the Grip of Grace:
“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… maybe, just maybe, it has happened so that the power of an incredibly loving God can be seen in you.
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