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Question and Answer

Is sickness God's discipline?

Question:

Is sickness or illness discipline from the Lord?

Answer:

The answer to your question is a little more complicated than you might think. On the one hand, all of our physical afflictions are as a result of our fall with Adam into sin (Gen. 3:17-19). We almost begin to die the moment we are born! Yet by his grace the Lord sustains us with a measure of health that allows us to fulfill his plans for our lives. Sometimes we do suffer sickness and illness simply because our frames are but dust (Ps. 103:14). He has determined the boundaries of our habitation (Acts 17:26; we will die from something!). In this case, no, sickness and illness are not specific forms of discipline from the Lord but rather reminders that we are flesh and await his call to go to him to face the judgment for our lives. Be sure then that you have confessed your sin and trusted in Christ before that day.

On the other hand, if we are not careful to preserve our health by proper nutrition and exercise, or if we are deliberately harming our health by bad habits (overeating in spite of the doctor’s warnings, drugs and drunkenness, or deliberately and unnecessarily risking our lives and health by our actions) then, yes, it would be appropriate to see sickness, illness, the loss of body parts, etc. as his discipline—the consequences of our sins.

At other times he may send such illnesses into our lives to draw us back to him when we wander, to remind us of how much we need him, how much closer we need to be to him (see the Westminster Confession Chapter 5, paragraph 5, on God’s providence). These would be instances of instructive discipline, times when he teaches us by affliction.

In any of these cases, if you are a believer, do not mistake God’s discipline for a lack of love. Those he loves he chastens (see Heb. 5). Rejoice, because then you are being treated as a son of the Father. This is confirmation of your adoption—your salvation!

I have only touched the surface of your question. I leave it here to stimulate you to meditation and further study of your Bible.


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