Nobody enjoys sickness or infirmity. Whether it is a significant disease or a minor sickness, infirmities often are a source of consternation and complaint. Regardless of whether it is our own sickness, or the sickness of a loved one, Christians are constantly driven to questions about God’s relationship to sickness and suffering. Does God have control over sickness?
Sickness and God’s Glory
One of my favorite passages which addresses the issue of sickness or infirmity and God’s control is John 9. As Jesus and His disciples traveled in Jerusalem, they pass by a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
The assumption behind the disciples’ question is that sin and sickness are connected. The disciples supposed that it was either the blind man’s sin, or his parents’ sin that brought about the blindness now endured by this man. In other words, the disciples saw a theological connection between sickness and sin.
Jesus responded to the disciples by correcting their thinking. Jesus noted that it was not sin at all which caused this blindness, but rather, “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). This remarkable statement is headed by what is known as a purpose clause in Greek (ἵνα). In other words, Jesus is specifically stating that the purpose of this sickness or infirmity (i.e., the lifelong blindness) was so that God’s glory might be put on display in him. God was the one who had designed this situation from the start. It was not a specific sin by this man or his parents that caused this sickness or suffering, God was in control of this sickness.
This is a similar reminder to what we read in Exodus 4 where God tells Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exod 4:11). Nowhere does Scripture paint the picture that God is frantically trying to respond to situations that are outside of His control. Rather, He is in complete control, even over our sicknesses and sufferings. Whether it is a chronic infirmity, such as blindness, deafness, muscular atrophy; or something more temporary, like the cold, flu, or COVID-19—all of sicknesses are under God’s sovereign control.
Although it can be difficult to see why God might allow sickness and suffering in our lives, we can be assured that there are significant benefits to trials that we go through. However, just on a practical level, one of the greatest comforts we can have in life is knowing that suffering is not outside of God’s control. We might not know why we are experiencing sickness or suffering (the blind man of John 9 didn’t know why he was blind for years). Yet, we can trust in our sovereign, loving God—that He is working out a plan for His glory and our good.
Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash