Seeing True Faith Displayed in the Lives of Those With Chronic Conditions
Often, people who are suffering from illness are treated as if we are sick, because we are weak and unassertive. Many are unable to work and are in a position of asking for help, so we are looked at as if we are lazy and lack ambition. The world tells us to be “independent” and to “look out for number one;” but, this is just the attitude that has brought society where it is today… cold, uncaring and extremely selfish.
Society tells us that we must be self-sufficient, independent and to lean on no-one else. Yet, by this way of thinking, we become self-centered beings, unconcerned with who we have to run over to get to our destination. In its attempt to avoid God, it claims that self-faith is supreme, as it measures our character by our material possessions and physical condition.
On the other hand, God is not interested in our worldly successes and material accumulations; in fact, it repulses Him. The good news is that when the world is looking at us like slackers who do not contribute to society, God still sees us as just as valuable to Him as we always were.
A heartbreaking tragedy occurs when even Christians gauge faith by worldly prosperity or good health. They think their successful lives are evidence that their faith is strong and is a fruit of their own influential character. So, when they come across someone who is ill, they claim it is because we “must not have enough faith.”
They think that if we had their faith, we would not be sick; thus, people who are suffering are somehow afflicted, because we lack the willpower, determination and attitude that supplies their faith. Most likely, they are blinded by their own desire to avoid personal difficulty; therefore, they claim we lack belief that we do not have to be sick if we do not want to be and that God could heal us, if we had more faith.
This can be devastating to the Christian who loves God and continues to worship Him despite circumstances. It cuts right to the very heart of our souls and beings when someone accuses us of having a shallow relationship with God. Fellow believers may think our loss of health is proof of our lack of faith; but, when our faith survives and even prospers, despite our losses and condition, God sees a stronger faith, not the weaker faith that people think they see.
It is human to dread hardship and struggles; nobody honestly wants to go through hard times. Many Christians want to believe that their faith with keep them from harm or will somehow make them immune to troubles; therefore, many falsely believe that their faith is some kind of ticket to a healthy, financially prosperous, trouble-free life. So, they measure someone else’s faith by their physical and material status.
Dr. Jeffrey Boyd wrote, “We tend to take health, family, food, and other blessings as being our birthright. The thought does not come easily that these are blessings that we don’t deserve, that God is free to either give or withhold” (Boyd, “Tribute to an American Heroine,” 2001).
Alarmingly, many think of faith as force that is captured when we believe hard enough that we can move God. But, how is this any different than people who try to use their mental powers and belief to try to bend a spoon? Aren’t we doing the same when we try to claim that God must be moved when we force Him to with our thoughts and certainty that He will have no other chance, but to comply?
Our faith is not a guarantee that we will sail smoothly throughout our days; our faith cannot be measured by worldly success and fleshly conditions; faith is not a magic combination of words, emotions and positive thoughts that grant us our every demand; and, faith is not a potion that tells God what to do.
We are being prideful, arrogant humans when we think we are allowed to command things from God. We treat Him like a Santa Claus, saying, “Okay, God, I have been good and have done all of the right things, now you must grant me the desires on my wish-list!” No, if we were supposed to tell God what to do and He was obligated to comply, who would be God?
Are we having faith in God or in ourselves when we demand to have our way? Doesn’t that show how much faith we actually lack when we cannot trust in His will, plan or decisions? To have faith is to pray for His will, put it into His hands and know that He is God. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (NIV, 1 John 5:14). Faith is not thinking that God has to do what we tell Him to do; faith is still worshipping Him and believing in His plan, even when He tells us, “no.”
The Greek noun for faith is pistis; it means: a firm persuasion, trust and “Its chief significance is a conviction respecting God and his Word and the believer’s relationship to Him” (Vines, 1985, pg 61). And, when we say that we believe in God are we merely saying that we believe that God exists? James says, “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shutter” (NIV, James 2:19).
No, when the Bible uses the phrase, “to believe,” it does not simply mean to acknowledge that God is real. The verb form of pistis, is pisteuo; it is the word that is almost always translated as, “to believe.” The definition of pisteuo is, “to believe…to be persuaded of… to place confidence in, to trust” (Vines, 1985, pg 61).
Even the Roget’s Thesaurus, defines the word believe its verb form as: “confide in, believe in, put one’s trust in; take one’s word for, take at one’s word; pin one’s hope on” (Roget’s College Thesaurus, 1985). When John said, “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish…,” (NIV, John 3:16), “John is not speaking of momentary beliefs and doubts but of continuing, settled attitudes” (NIV Study Bible, pg 1598).
Finally, to have faith means to have trust; and; to believe in means to put trust in our Lord. Therefore, believing in God, means believing in His word and His plan, knowing we can have hope in Him, confide in Him and place our confidence in Him. It is easy to have faith in God when we can see what He is doing and agree with His design; but, when we put our own understanding aside to permit God to move as He wills, even when we think our way is best, that is true faith.
The Bible is very clear that this earth is full of sin, disease and trials. This world is fallen and imperfect and we, as Christians are neither immune to illness nor live in a bubble of protection from tribulation. Max Lucado said, “We’re not supposed to feel at home here. In fact, pain on earth is God’s reminder that we’re not made for this world (Lucado, 2000).”
After all, If we were guaranteed a perfect existence on earth, how would Heaven be set apart from this life? If earth was devoid of troubles and free of worry, would we still long to be with God or would we be content living here? No, we would be even more content to make earth our home than we already are!
Yet, many who suffer from chronic illness are told that their illness is a sign that they arelacking faith. Instead of being seen as courageous in the midst of a storm, they are looked upon as failures due to their situation. However, “no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity” (Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, 1991).
A true, Biblical test of faith does not measure our accomplishments, health and lack of affliction to prove its existence and depth.
Success does not = faith
Good health does not = faith
Lack of trials does not = faith
No. A lack of adversity does not prove you have faith! Instead, faith is apparent in tribulation. It is measured when trials occur and the person continues to praise and follow God.
Faith = perseverance in adversity
Faith = triumph despite tribulation
Faith = seeking God’s will in all circumstances
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith. It is likely to remain stunted as long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers as well as when all things are against her” (Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, 1997).
How lovely is a person to our Lord, who is battling an illness, but continues to praise Him and study His word? It is a travesty when our brothers and sisters do not see their faith through the eyes of God; He sees us loving and praising Him through the pain, loss and tears. What faith is shown during such times of raging storms! After all, how difficult is it to exalt Him when our waters are calm?
Faith is tried as tribulations arise and it is those very trials which make us choose to trust in our Lord and grow closer to Him or curse Him and walk away. When we choose to stay and have faith in God, it is faith in knowing that He will hear our case and suffer with us, so we can grow closer and more dependent upon Him and not upon ourselves. If He chooses not to heal us in our timing, we will still mourn our losses and will even go through times of being hurt or angry.
Our Lord understands. He allows us to cry and tell Him how much we are torn apart by our lost dreams; He wants us to be forthcoming, admit our difficulties and lean Him. Sometimes, we may even have a tantrum or give God the silent treatment for a while; but, ultimately, we fall on bended knee in reverence, because of our faith.
Yes, it is okay to be saddened by our circumstance and it is okay to reflect on our sorrow; that does not mean our faith is being shaken, but we run to Him for our every comfort, strength to persevere and gift of courage to triumph. It is our faith in God’s purpose, plan and His hand that helps us to get through the storms of this temporary existence. We know that we cannot prevail without God’s hand and we know that He gives us that power.
Yes, sometimes people are ill, because of sin and an illness can be a consequences of their actions. For instance, if someone is cheating on their spouse and trying to act right with God, their misalignment with God’s will is going to cause them stress and unrest, which can lead to ulcers or heart attacks. Also, if a person purposefully ate a high cholesterol diet and ended up with clogged arteries, then their illness is obviously a consequence of their own choices; and, many times people are ill, because of the sin and consequences of this fallen world.
Therefore, just because someone is ill, it does not mean that it is directly related to their own sin. It is essential to address these issues, reflect on one’s life and confess all sin, but once that has been done, others must realize that illness is not always an outward sign of personal, hidden sin and is it not a punishment from God.
Job’s friends wanted him believe that the only reason God would not heal Job was because of his sin. They wanted to believe that God was somehow required to produce miracles at their every whim and if He did not, it was because of something the person was doing wrong. Otherwise, why would Job worship a God who simply refused to heal him, unless it was of his own fault? We are still put into a similar position as Job, when we are told God must be a God that we can tell what to do and when or we must be doing something wrong.
When our fellow believers come to us with advice about God, telling us that we must be in sin or doing something wrong, otherwise God would not be punishing us with illness, we sometimes feel like Job when he told his friends, “My eyes have seen all this; my ears have heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God” (NIV, Job 13:1-3). Job was telling them, I will talk with my God about this situation and if He does not heal me, I will still trust in Him. Job went on to challenge his friends about their own sin and their insistence that he was sick, because of sin, by saying, “Would it turn out well if he examined you?” (NIV, Job 13:9).
Job continued to have faith in God, even though his wife told him to turn from this God who would not heal him. Job knew that God had the power to heal him and he continued to worship the Lord even though he was still afflicted. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” (NIV, Job 13:15a). Job fully trusted in God, His will and His power to heal him, even though he was still suffering. Job had so much faith in God, despite his circumstances that he knew God was hearing his case and that God was in control. And, that is true faith!
Job clearly showed that we can suffer, be frustrated with our situation and still have faith in God, all at the same time when he added, “I will surely defend my ways to his face” (NIV, Job 13:15b). At the same time that Job had faith in God, he had not given up, as he plead his case to God, because he still wanted to be healed. It is okay to tell God how you are feeling about your situation and to plea your case, but it is not okay to say that God must grant our every wish on our own terms and in our own timing!
So, was Job sick, because he lacked faith? No! Job showed he had an enormous amount of faith, because he continued to serve God, even though he had yet to be healed. A sign of faith is not an outward appearance of financial success or good health! Instead, a sign of faith is someone who praises and worships God in adversity. They are a person who asks for God’s healing and grace, but knows that His will is what is best. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight” (NIV, Proverbs 3:5&6).
Someone with a lot of faith knows that God is almighty, powerful and able to move mountains. Yet, they also know that they are not God and for them to expect to fully comprehend His omnipotent ways, would be expecting to be equal to Him. God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (NIV Isaiah 55: 8&9).
So, where do we get our faith? God wants us to be solely dependent upon Him for our every fortification. He wants our every strength, peace and purpose to come from Him. We must read His word, be in His teachings and pray without ceasing. We must come to God with a humble disposition and void of self in order to be lifted by His hand. Further, we must have an awareness of our unworthiness and be willing to admit our weakness without Him.
The Bible says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (NIV, Matthew 5:5). Does this mean that we should be doormats and pushovers? Should we be frightful wimps who cower in the corner? No! The word, meek in the Biblical context means to have a “disposition before God, namely, humility” (NIV Study Bible, pg 1449) or reverence to God. When we come before God devoid of pride, self-exaltation and boasting, we allow Him to fill us with His power and might.
You see, God is telling us that He wants us to be strong, but He wants all of our strength to come from Him and not ourselves. The world derives its strength from within, only creating a selfish, self-centered race. On the contrary, we must find our strength from God, focusing on Him in order to become selfless, God-centered people. Thus, for us to receive His strength, we must come to Him in humbleness, admitting our weakness.
God does not tell us that when we are weak or sick to “pull up our own bootstraps;” and, contrary to popular belief, “God helps those who help themselves” is not a quote from the Bible! He does not mock us for being weak and in need of help; instead, He tells us to come in our weakness, devoid of our-selves and He never wants us to come to Him with our own wherewithal. In fact, we cannot be filled with God until we are emptied of self (Matthew 5:1-12), because He wants us to come to Him in our weakness and not by our own capability.
Furthermore, God does not want us to hold tightly to our own plans for our lives. Just as a toddler thinks running into the street is fun, so do we think gallivanting in the world is delightful? We as parents, try to prevent our children from darting out into the road, just as God tries to save us from our own dangerous desires.
We must not grip onto what we think is best for our lives, but put our arms around what God wants for us. What we may see as a fortress, blockading us from what we think we need, may be a simple yard to keep us safe. If we are willing to trust God with our lives, that means we must want what He wants for us; sometimes, that means giving up our own desires for His. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (NIV, Matt: 16:25).
Faith allows us to believe with our heads and trust with our hearts. Having faith means relying upon what God thinks is best, not what we think is best. It is not believing that He has to do what we want, but what He wants. If you are telling Him that you know what is better for your life, who are you trusting in? God or yourself?
It takes a stronger faith to believe God knows best, even when we cannot see it, than it does to demand our own way. After all, it is easy to trust in God’s and His plan, when we can see for ourselves how it is working to our advantage and lines up with our own desires; but it takes true faith to trust in God’s plan when we cannot see the benefits with our own understanding and we are not getting our own way.
God wants us to seek Him in our weakness, with a disposition of meekness, so that He can be the sole provider of our fortitude. Jesus said, “…my power is made perfect in weakness” (NIV, 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we come to Him with no strength of our own, He fills us with His might and our faith is multiplied by His grace. Spurgeon added, “You would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the flood waters” (Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, 1991).
Only then, will we know the true supplier of all our strength is not of ourselves. After all, what better than to be filled with courage, perseverance and confidence from our Lord, rather than from our own self-serving, inadequate, human-ness?
Copyright 2004 – Where Is God Ministries