Sickness—What Hope for Relief?
IT IS undeniable that, armed with a deeper understanding of the causes of human sickness, doctors have made remarkable progress in controlling some diseases. Yet social problems have prevented many from enjoying the benefits of these medical advances. Thus, there is much room for improvement.
However, there is an underlying cause of sickness and death that is beyond the power of doctors to deal with. Because of this, men on their own will never be wholly successful in battling disease. But if we can recognize that basic cause, it will help us to see whether we can hope for relief from this enemy.
WHY DO WE SUFFER FROM ILLNESSES?
The basic reason why men get sick and die is revealed in a remarkable promise God made to the ancient Israelites: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.” (Isa. 33:24) It is here that sickness is connected with “error,” or sin. And freedom from sickness is related to the forgiveness of sin.
IS SICKNESS A PUNISHMENT FOR SIN, THEN?
Sickness can be a direct result of sin. The Bible warns us: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) As we have already seen, those “sowing” immorality, those who are smoking, those guilty of drunkenness and gluttony are ‘reaping’ many diseases. It is true that not all sicknesses are caused by such things. Nevertheless, all sickness can ultimately be traced to “error,” or sin.
WHY DO GOOD PEOPLE GET SICK?
It is because the sin that is the root cause of disease is not our own. It happened a long time ago, right at the beginning of human history. The Bible tells us that God made the first man, Adam, perfect, healthy, and having the prospect of living forever. His continued enjoyment of all of this depended on his obeying his Creator. Adam chose to rebel and thus cut himself off from God, with whom “is the source of life.” Hence, the first man became imperfect, vulnerable to sickness, and eventually died.—Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19; Ps. 36:9.
It is well known that certain diseases can be inherited. Similarly, sin, imperfection and death are inherited. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The heritage Adam gave his children was an imperfect life with vulnerability to sickness and death. That is the basic reason why disease exists today.
IS GOD INTERESTED IN KEEPING PEOPLE HEALTHY?
He is indeed! For example, he told the Israelites: “Jehovah will certainly remove from you every sickness.”—Deut. 7:15.
HOW DID GOD PROTECT THE HEALTH OF THE ISRAELITES?
He gave them a code of laws that included provisions for protecting their health. Regarding these laws, one doctor said: “The best informed medical researchers now doing the best work are arriving at the conclusion that the Bible is a very accurate scientific book . . . The facts of life, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive medicine as given in the Bible are far more advanced and reliable than the theories of Hippocrates.” Hippocrates, sometimes called the “father of modern medicine,” lived about 1,000 years after God gave the Law to the Israelites.
DOES GOD HELP US TO KEEP HEALTHY TODAY?
Yes, the Bible contains commands for us today that serve to protect our health if we follow them. Drunkenness, gluttony, homosexuality, adultery and fornication, which lead to many emotional problems as well as physical sicknesses, are expressly forbidden in the Bible. (Prov. 23:20, 21, 29-35; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) Similarly, if we “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit,” we will avoid the diseases that come from smoking, drug abuse and the chewing of betel nut. (2 Cor. 7:1) Even regular washing protects our health.
Additionally, we are told: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” (Prov. 17:22) Today, the role that tension, depression, loneliness and other emotions play in disease is becoming recognized. One doctor said that about 90 percent of all patients coming to his clinic suffer from emotional stress. The Bible shows the importance of a ‘joyful heart’ and gives us practical help on how to keep our hearts joyful.
If we follow these and similar Bible principles, we will be protected from many of the sicknesses afflicting men today.
WILL WE EVER HAVE PERMANENT GOOD HEALTH?
Yes, we will, if we do what Adam failed to do—put full trust in God and obey Him. Our complete liberation from sickness is being accomplished by means of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born in a unique way, having his life transferred by the power of Almighty God from his glorious position in heaven to the egg cell in the womb of a virgin. Hence, having no human father, he did not inherit the imperfect life that Adam gave as a heritage to the rest of us.
Jesus was perfect. In an act of great love, he sacrificed his perfect life for us, so that we could get back that perfection lost by Adam. When the merit of that sacrifice is fully applied to mankind, sickness, death and all the problems brought on by imperfection will be removed.—Matt. 1:18-23; 20:28; Heb. 7:26.
DID JESUS REALLY HAVE THE POWER TO HEAL PEOPLE?
Yes, in front of innumerable witnesses Jesus cured “every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” (Matt. 9:35) He even raised the dead. (John 11:43, 44) Jesus accomplished this not by a study of medical science but in the power of God’s spirit. It was thus demonstrated that one day all sickness, and even death, could and would be removed. Of course, the healings performed by Jesus then were temporary. The healed ones could get sick again, and the resurrected ones died again.
WHY DO WE STILL SUFFER FROM DISEASE, SINCE JESUS DIED FOR US NEARLY 2,000 YEARS AGO?
The answer is that the removal of sickness is tied in with God’s other purposes—such as the settling of the issue of sovereignty, the removal of Satan the Devil, the judging of mankind, the salvation of those found faithful and the providing of a satisfactory government for this world. These purposes will all be accomplished by means of God’s kingdom through Christ. (Matt. 6:10) Such grand purposes need time to be worked out.—2 Pet. 3:5-13.
WHEN WILL SICKNESS FINALLY BE DONE AWAY WITH?
We know it will not be long! Jesus gave his followers a highly detailed “sign” so that they could recognize the time when he had started to rule as king in the heavens—the event that leads to the fulfillment of other purposes of God. That “sign” included world wars, intense fear of the future, widespread famine, pestilences and similar events that we see occurring today. Why not read Jesus’ words, and the further information added by the apostle Paul? See if you do not agree that we are living in the time to which Jesus referred.—See Matthew, chapter 24, Mark, chapter 13, Luke, chapter 21, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Now is the time for God’s kingdom to intervene in human affairs. (Matt. 24:14; 25:31-46; Dan. 2:44) If we learn about God’s will for us and carry it out, we can live to witness the fulfillment of some of the grandest promises in the Bible. Conditions such as those God promised to the ancient Israelites will be seen: “At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.”—Isa. 35:5, 6.
No more will parents grieve over the sicknesses of their children. Neither will the promise of youth be frustrated; nor will mature age be made difficult by bodily weakness. Rather, it will be as the apostle John saw in vision: “And [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
Will these things really happen? They will indeed. John heard Jehovah himself guarantee it, for we read: “The One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’” (Rev. 21:5) At that fast-approaching time, man will enjoy complete relief from sickness. In a wonderful way it will be true that “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.”—Isa. 33:24.