Sickness happens. We’re sure of that.
The question is: at whose hand does it happen? Is sickness merely part of the human condition in which all of us are victims? Is my sickness caused by sin, present or past, and a consequence for what I’ve done or failed to do? Is it the diabolical curse of Satan that brings us into physical ruin and weakness? Or is sickness from God, a part of His sovereign purpose and plan that is brought for my good and His glory?
The answer is Yes.
That requires an explanation, but I’ve been working on this question for a while. When I was a six-year-old boy, I contracted rheumatic fever and in the midst of that had a chemical reaction that resulted in a fever reversal and inner ear nerve damage. I’ve had profound deafness in both ears since that day. At whose hand did that happen? And why?
As a pastor, I’m acquainted with many who face critical and debilitating illness. I’ve seen cancer in far too many, horrible automobile accidents that bring permanent injury or death and children born with severe defects. Recently I spoke with a young mother who lost the baby she’d only been carrying for a few weeks. At whose hand does all this take place?
Simply, God is Sovereign. He is the Supreme Ruler of the universe and according to Scripture, “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3). My answer must take this into account, but I’m also aware that how God exercises that Sovereignty is beyond our ability to comprehend. I’m left to simply ponder His revelation and allow my answer to fall within what He tells me there.
Other truths are indisputable. Sin is present in the world and from the very first day of the sin in the Garden of Eden, death made its presence known. The serpent was there in that garden and from that day forward has been known as one who is able to exercise his ability to rob, kill and destroy. Free will is plainly present alongside all these things. Man’s free will is limited to the boundaries a Sovereign God allows but it is there nonetheless, undoubtedly complicating the picture of human events.
One of the ways I am able to picture all these elements operating in our world is to envision a huge umbrella overshadowing every created thing. That umbrella would represent God’s sovereignty and beneath His sovereignty are all the elements mentioned previously. God is assuredly in control and there is no question that: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
This means that all those factors are present in the world, but they are n0t random and running wild. God has not allowed the universe to simply move in whichever way it will as He responds to fix what’s broken because of sin, Satan and natural calamity.
The Bible steers us away from believing that God sends all sickness and commissions Satan to create havoc, causing two cars to crash into one another resulting in tragedy. There are those whose view of God’s sovereignty causes them to struggle with this.
“How can God be in control if He did not directly decree something?” they say. God’s sovereignty is even more amazing in that He is able to take all He has allowed to be freely active and cause it to work toward His purpose.
There are times when God forthrightly declares and decrees what we would consider to be bad. Moses is one of God’s great leaders, but learned a lesson of dependence this way. He felt he was “slow of tongue”. Joseph had evil committed against him by his family that gave him the opportunity to save thousands from dying in a famine. Purpose comes from God.
So the answer is Yes.
Sickness, pain, and heartbreak come from all directions, but are ultimately resting with the purpose when we are His children in the plan of God. We sit under the protective hand of His sovereign umbrella whether we can see it or not.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.