March 14, 2012 – Suffering

Below is a great response by Randy Alcorn to unbiblical thinking and teaching on disease and suffering.  We have been confronted by people with this type of thinking and it has been very hurtful.  We pray that anyone going through an illness or suffering the loss of a loved one, that you don’t let people convince you that you have done something wrong or that you are not faithful enough.

An hour ago I read the Facebook post from this morning that is in the following paragraph. It had been up three hours when I read it and decided to respond to it, but then when I tried to enter my reply below it wouldn’t let me, as apparently the original post is gone. But since this is an important issue, and one which keeps coming up in the comments, I decided to address it. It is heavy on my heart, and I feel like I need to speak up for God’s people who have suffered and are suffering, whether from sicknesses and disabilities and accidents or for their faith in Christ. A number of you will have read the original comment, but for those who didn’t, here it is:

If a man has a sickness, say diabetes, and honestly believes that sickness came “from” God as part of HIS “good, sovereign plan”, why would that man take insulin? If the disease was sent from God as part of His plan, meaning God wanted that person to suffer with this disease, why would any remedy which could alleviate that suffering be considered in God’s will? If the “wisdom” which says God WANTS His people to suffer with sickness for ‘their own good in eternity’ is true, why did God grant doctors the wisdom to treat, alleviate and cure sickness and disease? Is God working against His own will?

Okay, now this is Randy again. In my response below I allude to and take into consideration previous comments made by the same person:

John, by your standards John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Owen, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, Joni Eareckson Tada and countless others (including the apostle Paul and several of his missionary companions) have all been unbelieving spiritual failures. Why? Because they suffered serious ongoing physical illnesses and disabilities and hardships. AND they recognized the providence of God in choosing not to answer their prayers for healing and deliverance here and now.

It’s hard to take seriously your question about taking insulin. Study the doctrine of God’s common grace. Paul’s friend Luke was a physician, Paul advised Timothy to take wine for his stomach problems (by your standards Timothy failed to trust God to heal him and Paul failed to heal him; you would have rebuked them for their unbelief, Paul said drink some wine to help it feel better). When Paul left his companion Trophimus sick at Miletus (apparently Trophimus was a spiritual failure also?) no doubt they sought medical care. I’m sure Luke the physician treated Paul’s thorn in the flesh (yes, an actual bodily dysfunction, despite your earlier creative attempts to get around that) which Paul asked God to remove three times, before God made it clear that His will was for Paul NOT to be healed. But just because God didn’t choose to heal Paul did not mean Paul would be wrong to have his disease treated. (God is sovereign AND we are responsible; both are clearly taught in Scripture. Surely you must know that, John. So why would you even ask about a Christian taking insulin, as if you were making some profound point?).

Read Romans 8, a whole chapter about the suffering God’s children endure in this world, a chapter in which God tells us He sovereignly works “all things” (in context, clearly including suffering, in fact emphasizing suffering) together for the good of the children He loves and calls. You are convinced suffering is never God’s will for his children? Dozens and dozens of passages show otherwise. 1 Peter 3:17 says, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Clearly, IT IS SOMETIMES GOD’S WILL FOR HIS CHILDREN TO SUFFER.

I pray that you would come to understand that, for His glory and your good. And especially that you would cease to pass judgment on God’s suffering children all over the world, and throughout history, who have affirmed God’s sovereignty and love Him and serve Him despite their illnesses, disabilities and sufferings, and have learned to trust Him that when He chooses not to heal them now, He nonetheless loves them and is working for their good. Yours is not only an unbiblical theology, it is also very cruel to faithful people who love God and trust Him but are not healed as you believe is always God’s will. So you add to someone’s pain the idea that it is THEIR FAULT that they are not healed, that if only they had the faith and trust and convictions that YOU HAVE, they would be healed.

I truly hope, brother, that you or a loved one don’t have to undergo ongoing suffering to learn that as wonderful as healing is (and most of us have seen and experienced it at one time or another, and have been full of gratitude for it) God doesn’t always heal his children when we ask Him to, that sometimes He chooses to delay the full healing of the heart until we are with Him, and the healing of the body until the resurrection.

But regardless of your experience, John, I implore you not to allow your tidy little theological arguments (which don’t stand up to the larger biblical revelation) to cause you to disrespect the people of God throughout the ages, and around the globe (I am trying to picture your theology among suffering Christians in Sudan) who have believed the WHOLE Bible, not just the verses you quote. And who believe that when God chooses not to heal or deliver us as we would wish, that He has good reasons, and His promises of ultimate healing and deliverance remain true.

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