Faith And Chronic Illness: Why Hasn't God Healed Me?

Faith And Chronic Illness

Marissa watched as her two sons left for a baseball game with their father. As soon as they were gone, she broke down in tears on her bed. She wept bitterly, thinking of years past when baseball games were treasured family outings.

Now, they were something her sons did with their father because she was too ill to leave the house. She’d been to doctor after doctor and received no diagnosis despite invasive—and sometimes painful—medical testing.

In the quiet of her room, Marissa called out to God: I wish You’d heal me! I wish You’d take this sickness away! Why haven’t You healed me? Is it me? Have you abandoned me? Is it sin in my life or heart that’s causing this?

Why Is Chronic Illness So Draining?

One of the hardest trials that anyone can face is a chronic illness. Often, these illnesses come with no definable end date. Some people, like Marissa, don’t even have a diagnosis for why their bodies are malfunctioning.

It’s easy to get through something when you have a belief that it will end. For example, if you’ve ever had the flu, the thing that kept you going was that you knew you would become healthy or “normal” again. That hope enables you to see beyond your present miserable circumstances.

With a chronic illness, you don’t have that comfort and assurance it will end…at least not on this side of eternity. Instead, you’re faced with the prospect that your suffering may last for years or decades in some cases.

But it’s not merely the physical or emotional aspects of a chronic illness that’s hard. There’s also a spiritual side that can be difficult to endure. You may wonder if God has abandoned you. You might think you’re being punished or worry you brought this on yourself. You may begin to doubt your faith or try to bargain with God.

Where Is God Right Now?

All of these reactions are normal. What you’re experiencing is grief. Grief is the pain we encounter when we lose something.

For many, it’s not only the lost health that causes grief. You may also feel like you’re missing out on your loved one’s lives like Marissa fears she is with her boys.

Grief is not unique to humanity. God knows it, too. Jesus also experienced it.

3“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3) NIV

The NLT translation explains that Jesus was “acquainted with deepest grief.” Since Jesus knew grief, He understands exactly what it is to experience loss. On the Cross, His cry echoes our own:

46“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

It doesn’t make you weak or a failure to wonder where God is. It only means that you are human, and your understanding is limited to the things of this world.

While it’s normal to feel alone, it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. In Psalms, David proclaims:

18“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Have I Caused This Illness By Sin?

In John 5, Jesus heals a man at the pool of Bethesda. This man has been ill for 38 years but has continued to hope for healing.

Jesus grants the deepest longing of his heart. When He spots the man again a few verses later, he extends a warning to him: 

14“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John5:14)

This verse clearly indicates that a chronic illness can be caused by our sinful choices. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that many chronic illnesses or disabilities are not caused by anyone’s sin. In fact, Jesus has a totally different explanation when His disciples wanted to know about a blind man’s sin…

3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

This verse proves that sometimes God uses a chronic illness to showcase His glory. It could be that God intends to cure you at some point in a miraculous way. But it could also be that God wants to show the world His strength through your weakness, as Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, concluding:

10“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Understand that while sin can be the cause of chronic illness, it is rare. Most illnesses are merely the result of living in a world ravaged by sin and darkness.

Additionally, we can reap illnesses as the result of someone else’s sin. It’s easy to judge the woman at church with AIDS without knowing it was her husband’s unfaithfulness that caused her disease.

Even when a chronic illness is caused by sin (whether your own or someone else’s), it doesn’t mean that God has forsaken you. Consider what David wrote about repentance after his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah:

17“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

When David had sinned, God wasn’t looking to crush him. He was looking to restore David. But that could only happen after David confessed his sin and sought to walk in true repentance.

Regardless of the cause of the disease or illness in your body, God is always compassionate. As His child, His heart is tender toward you. He longs to bring you into His presence and enjoy sweet fellowship with you.

How Can I Stay Encouraged When I Feel So Bad?

One of the challenges of being chronically ill is staying spiritually and emotionally strong when you feel terrible each day.

Tarah explained her struggle to her mother by saying, “It’s like I start my day with an empty gas tank. I don’t wake up feeling refreshed or energized. I feel like I have the flu every morning.”

Some Christians believe they should “push past it” or “smile through it all” or “tough it out” when they’re dealing with a chronic illness. Instead of trying to paint a smiley face over those feelings, stop! Go into God’s presence and share these deep emotions.

In Psalms, David instructs God’s people to be honest about what they’re feeling: 

8“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)

The emotions you’re going through may not always be pretty. It’s OK to say, “God, today I’m missing out on another milestone in my child’s life because of my chronic illness and it’s breaking my heart.”

Or even, “God, I’m angry today. I’m sick, and none of this feels fair, and I don’t understand why You haven’t healed me.”

Our emotions are not sinful. God gave us feelings so we could enjoy our lives and experience love, affection, and intimacy. But the flip side of living in a sinful world is that we also experience painful emotions—sadness, guilt, fear, or shame.

Besides talking to God, some people with chronic illness find it helpful to deal with their emotions through artistic activities. Often the act of creating will give you space to express your feelings, so you finish feeling uplifted.

You don’t have to be an “artist” to take up a creative hobby. All actions of creation are acts of worship. Because when we create, we honor our Creator.

Your “art” may take many forms – it could be knitting, drawing, painting, embroidery, rubber stamping, coloring, writing fiction, crocheting, scrapbooking, pottery, gardening, taking photographs, or hand lettering.

These are just a few examples to get you started. If you don’t have one, consider choosing a hobby that appeals to you. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You might try a few artistic endeavors until you find the one that cheers you up.

When you’re dealing with a chronic illness, it can also help to look for a way to minister to others. You don’t have to do something huge.

When George suffered a stroke, he lost the ability to speak, but he could still knit. After hearing a local hospital needed blankets in the neonatal unit, George began knitting as a way to give back. It soothed him to know that even though his ability to communicate was gone, he could still show others the love of Jesus.

You don’t have to take up knitting to be a blessing. You can do something simple like writing a note to a hurting friend, call an elderly neighbor, take a meal to someone in need, give a book that spoke to you during a dark time to someone from church, or leave flowers on a stranger’s car along with a Bible verse.

It’s easier to cope with chronic illness when you’re bringing sunshine to other people. As you lift up those around you, don’t be surprised if you feel encouraged, too.

What Can I Do to Keep Bitterness at Bay?

Faith And Chronic Illness

Kyle had been a police officer who was shot in the line of duty. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that made everyday tasks difficult. He wasn’t able to keep working, and his wife became the primary breadwinner. She worked long hours at a demanding job that didn’t pay enough.

As time went on, Kyle became resentful. He wasn’t just angry over what had happened. He was frustrated at how his wife was mistreated at work, how she struggled to keep their bills paid and how his children suffered because of the stress and chaos at home.

One of the hardest parts of living with a chronic illness is watching how it affects those you love most. Maybe that means your children don’t get as much of your time or, your spouse is overworked and exhausted all of the time.

These are understandable frustrations but left unchecked, they will become bitterness. When Kyle reached out to a supportive friend, he suggested that Kyle’s resentment was rooted in a lack of forgiveness.

Kyle realized he needed to forgive his shooter all over again. Paul encourages Christians to do this in Ephesians.

31“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Often, we think of forgiveness as an activity that we do once. But many times, forgiveness is a choice we must make again and again. Although it wasn’t easy, Kyle made it a habit to say “I forgive you” every time he or his family suffered as a result of that shooter.

What If I Blame God?

Sometimes, chronic illness comes into our lives with seemingly no cause. In these situations, it’s tempting to blame God. As humans, we want to understand the “why” behind our suffering, and without a clear answer, we turn on the One who created us.

But consider Job. Upon hearing that he lost everything, his response was…worship (Job 1:20-22). Worship is the one activity that can drive away bitterness, soften a hard heart, and remind you of the Holiness and Majesty of God.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t express your feelings in worship. God longs for us to worship in Spirit and in truth. That means being honest about our feelings but also meditating on truth.

Some Biblical truths that can be helpful include:

  • God is working this for your good (Romans 8:28).
  • God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God’s ways are perfect (Isaiah 55:9).
  • Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
  • You will receive an eternal reward for your present suffering (James 1:12).

How Do I Show Love, Grace, and Mercy to Those Who Are Unsupportive?

Living with a chronic illness is hard. But when you lack a loving support system, it’s even more challenging. Maybe your parents don’t believe you’re really sick, or your spouse doubts that you could be “in that much pain.”

In these moments, it’s tempting to lash out. You’ve been hurt, and you want to respond with the same carelessness or malice. But consider this: you’re standing at a beautiful crossroads. It’s the one between “they deserve this” and “this person is precious to my Heavenly Father.”

The natural human response is to choose the first path. But the response that honors God? The one that makes Him cheer? It’s to see you extend the very same grace that you are being denied.

When those around you are cruel, when they’re thoughtless, when they fail to comfort you in your pain, or even openly mock your suffering, this is grace: to look at them through God’s eyes of love.

You cannot do this on your own. To see another human being through God’s eyes requires supernatural vision. It starts with a humble prayer and a genuine desire for more of Christ in you.

Let this prayer be your plea: Dear God, I’m hurt. My spirit is heavy. I long for human comfort, and I receive none. Be my Comforter! Be the Source of my joy! Give me the grace to see this person through Your eyes. Remind me again that they are beautiful and precious and cherished by You! Give me the compassion to love them the way You love them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You can’t make someone believe that you’re sick or bully them into being nice to you. But you can show up and grant them grace. You can be supportive, kind, and loving…because that’s who Jesus is to you!

38“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Grace and peace,

Alicia

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