Is God Punishing Me?
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:15-16
It’s not uncommon for us to blame God when we encounter sickness or injury. Why would God do this to me? If we believe in God and if we believe that he’s all-powerful, then at some point, he must at least allow – if not directly cause – bad things to happen. So, when they do, it’s natural for us to ask why. Then, it’s not a great leap for us to imagine that every illness or injury is caused by our sin. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of, so it’s quite easy to think, God must be punishing me.
Today’s passage seems to reinforce this idea. In it, James said that when we’re sick, we should turn to God in prayer. Then, he went on to say that if we’ve sinned, we’ll be forgiven. If there is a connection between our sin and our sickness, we’ll be healed. It’s a tough passage.
Sometimes there is an obvious connection between my self-destructive behavior and my health. When I was using drugs, I became depressed. Also, my muscles got weak due to lack of exercise and I injured my knee several times. Those illnesses and injuries were directly related to my self-destructive behavior. Does that mean that all depression and knee injuries are related to sin? Of course not. We live in a fallen world where sickness, injury, and death are a guaranteed facet of life.
Still, some Christians will blame every illness on sin and use this as a weapon against those who are sick. You got cancer because of some secret sin and if you don’t repent, you’ll die. They’ll even use passages such as today’s to back this up. This passage clearly doesn’t say though, that all sickness is a result of sin. In John 9:3, Jesus explicitly stated that one individual’s illness was not a result of his sin.
So, what do we do with the passage? If we believe in God, it’s natural for us to turn to him in times of suffering – and that may be the point. Because of our spiritual deafness, God often uses pain to get our attention. When we’re suffering, we should go to God in prayer. We should use it as a time to grow our faith. Does that mean that we cause all our own illnesses? No, of course not. Does it mean that we should turn to God in our pain? Absolutely.