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Hi, friends! Welcome to this lesson on dealing with health problems. This is a big subject, but this short lesson will give you some important keys from a biblical perspective. The Bible has a lot to say that relates to health, healing, coping with suffering, learning lessons from our trials and learning to rely on God and even other people.

To begin with, let's distinguish between two subjects. The first is how to maintain sound health with healthful habits to help prevent illness, like good nutrition, exercise, rest and sleep, cleanliness, peace of mind, safety, avoiding contagious diseases, etc. The second is how to deal or cope with a health problem while you are suffering with it. The two subjects overlap, but this lesson is primarily about the second one.

This lesson mostly takes the point of view of your health problems, but much of it will also help you to help others with their health trials. (See also the related lesson "How to Help and Encourage Someone With a Health Problem.")

Lesson: Dealing With Health Problems

Bible Study - Dealing With Health ProblemsHealth problems hinder us, cause us stress and often generate intense emotions such as discouragement, fear, loneliness, anger or depression. Being encouraging and helpful to someone who is sick or injured is an extremely valuable service. May we all continue to grow in understanding about how to be effective helpers and encouragers.

A United Church of God member in Texas relates her excruciating trial with adhesive capsulitis ("frozen shoulder"):

"My journey through adhesive capsulitis (AC) began in April 2009 when my left shoulder started hurting. I immediately asked an elder in our church to anoint and pray for my healing, and soon after I saw my doctor. He explained that the muscles in my shoulder were growing scar tissue and becoming inflamed. Because of my allergies, I can't take cortisone to reduce inflammation. The doctor told me to keep moving my arm as much as possible without aggravating it. Early in July, I entered the second phase of AC—the painful swelling stage.

"I saw an orthopedic doctor who prescribed pain medicine and three weeks of physical therapy. It was torturous, but I went. Every time my range of motion was measured it was worse. The pain medication didn't reduce the pain at all.

"I cradled my arm against my chest throughout the day because the slightest bump or a reach too far would cause pain so intense that I would literally scream for several minutes until it subsided. This really scared and worried all three kids and my husband. The pain was tolerable as long as I was standing or sitting upright. However, the second I started to recline in any direction, the pain magnified one hundred fold. I tried propping up on pillows, but the moment my body relaxed and I started to slouch in any direction, sharp, intense pain would bring me wide awake again. From the first of July until about Sept. 19, I only got one to four hours of sleep a night.

"Not surprisingly, I became very depressed. I was so exhausted that the simplest decisions were totally overwhelming. I kept thinking of Job. He didn't know why he was suffering, but God wanted him to learn something from his experience. I kept reminding myself of this. I kept reminding myself that I was joining in the sufferings of Christ. I begged God for mercy. I asked for forgiveness of my sins. I asked for God's mercy for my family so that I could once again take care of them the way a wife and mother should. My constant yearning was to be able to sleep!   

"I finally got to see a shoulder specialist, a surgeon. I was so depressed and in so much pain that I cried in the waiting room. I asked the surgeon if he could do anything that would take away the pain enough for me to get one night of sleep. He said the next step was for me to see a pain management doctor.

"The pain management doctor prescribed morphine, the strongest pain medication he could prescribe. In less than two hours after taking the first pill, my stomach was in terrible pain. I was rushed to the emergency room where I received treatment that stopped the abdominal pain. I couldn't even take morphine to relieve the pain in my shoulder.

"However, shortly after that, the third stage of AC, called 'recovery,' began. With much less pain, I was able to recline slightly in bed and get about six blessed hours of sleep each night! However, I could hardly move my left arm at all. I depended on my wonderful husband and children to help me with practically everything, including getting dressed. They took turns cooking and cleaning. My daughters combed and fixed my hair because I could not lift my left hand higher than my nose.

"When I saw the surgeon again and he measured my extremely limited range of motion, he told me the only way to improve was through surgery.

"After surgery, I was to have seven consecutive days of physical therapy followed by three times a week for six weeks. However, I would not be able to drive myself, and we have no extended family in Texas to help us. We had to totally rely on God and our Church family.

"Two days before my surgery, two of my kids were still sick, and that morning the third one woke up sick! My surgery was in two days, and our regular babysitter didn't want to babysit sick kids. She had been sick herself. Emotionally, I 'hit the wall' and burst into tears.

"Then something marvelous started happening. Many members of our church started offering all kinds of help! One family took our kids to their home for the night before my surgery. Several people brought over home-cooked food. Someone different drove me to physical therapy each day. Many members called to check on me and to offer help. They were all being living sacrifices to help a sister in need.

"I have been very, very humbled by this experience. Plus, I've learned to trust in God more than ever, seeing He knows best even when His answer to some of my prayers is 'no.'

"To my huge relief, the surgery was successful! I am so relieved and happy! I feel extremely blessed!"

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The Bible on Dealing With Health Problems

Since God created us, He owns us and holds us responsible for taking excellent care of our bodies and minds(1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Because your body and mind are so interrelated, what is good for your mind is also good for your body, and vice versa.

What is the most obvious way to deal with a health problem?

3 John 1:2 (Good News Translation)
My dear friend, I pray that everything may go well with you and that you may be in good health—as I know you are well in spirit.

The most obvious way is to try to get well. God gave us an enormous advantage when He gave us an immune system, which enables our bodies to automatically repair themselves. Wellness is a huge benefit mentally and spiritually. We often don't realize how vitally important it is until we begin to lose it. When you get sick, you can help your body heal itself by diligently practicing all the same good health habits that prevent illness. That includes maintaining a positive attitude: "A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).

How important is it to obtain a correct diagnosis?

Proverbs 18:15
The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

For serious health problems, a correct diagnosis is urgently essential. It even helps you to know what to pray about! When you have a health problem, doing nothing or doing the wrong things allows the problem to get worse and more difficult to cure. Some people procrastinate about going to a doctor because they don't want to face reality. And some people make the mistake of trusting in a nonscientific, instant, "too-good-to-be-true" diagnostic technique.

If you are sick or injured, should you seek natural healing or divine healing?

James 5:14-15
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Luke 10:34
So he [the good Samaritan] went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Natural healing is identified here as all healing that is not supernaturally miraculous, no matter what treatments are used (medicinal drugs, herbal medicines, surgery, therapies, diet, etc.). But even when a medicine or therapy helps you to get well, the main credit for your recovery really should go to the Creator of your body's natural healing system: God! The medicine or therapy merely assists the body's healing in some way. Incidentally, Luke was a physician—in fact Paul called him "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14).

If you understand that God is able and willing to miraculously heal you, you should pray and ask for His healing, following the instructions of James 5:14. God very frequently heals people just as Jesus frequently healed people during His earthly ministry.

There are other spiritual tools to utilize in addition to the use of prayer. One if these tools is fasting. Fasting for spiritual strength can be included in any study dealing with a long-time, serious health issue. However, since fasting means going without food and water for a period of time, we should check with our doctor first to see if our health will permit it. For example, diabetics and people taking medication should definitely consult with their doctor before starting a fast.

Fasting, accompanied by Bible study and meditation, enables us to draw closer to God during a health trial, or, for that matter, any trial we mayface. King David said that he prayed with fasting when others were sick. His twofold approach—prayer and fasting—caused his prayers to become more fervent. Regarding the sick, he said: "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart" (Psalm 35: 13).  While fasting for the sick, his prayers became more heartfelt and, when  praying and fasting about our health problems, we should be studying God's Word and meditating (thinking deeply about what we are reading). The Bible reveals God's mind and therefore we can "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesian 5: 17).

We can be assured "that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5: 14). There are times in which God will intervene immediately, and there are  times in which He will wait for a while. But God always intervenes according to His divine will and timetable. God listens to our heartfelt prayers.]

Divine healing helps us better understand God's grace. God is described as He "who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:3). Having faith in God for healing also helps us to have faith in God for forgiveness of our sins and for life after death (Isaiah 53:4-6). On a related topic, the Bible does not teach that disease is always or usually the result of sin. In James 5:15, quoted above, notice the important word "if."

For various reasons, however, sometimes God's answer is "no" or "not yet." God always loves you, but He doesn't always say "yes" just like a parent doesn't always say "yes" to a child. If after being anointed for healing, God doesn't heal you immediately, then while you are patiently waiting for God, you can do whatever you are able to do to help yourself get well.

Please understand that God is not displeased with people for seeking medical treatment. Rather, God is displeased with anyone who lacks faith in Him and His power to heal (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Chronicles 16:12). So for a serious health problem, immediately seek divine healing. Then unless the illness is deemed incurable, it's wise to pursue a treatment plan while you are waiting for God's intervention.

Should we go the route of conventional medicine or alternative medicine?

Proverbs 15:22
Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.

The answer often depends on the nature of the health problem. There is good and bad conventional medicine (though it is generally tested and regulated), and there is good and bad alternative medicine (though this broad umbrella seems to provide many opportunities for money-hungry quacks to operate). Conventional and alternative medicine often overlap. Many people pursue some of both at the same time. Alternative medicine is not more godly than conventional medicine.

Once you get an accurate diagnosis, proceed to educate yourself about that health problem, the possible treatments and their effectiveness, side effects and costs. If you have a serious illness, you'll probably receive a ton of unasked-for advice. But your body is your responsibility above anyone else's. Do research on the Internet and elsewhere and perhaps with additional health professionals. You should be the one to make final decisions about remedies.

Beware of quackery. If something is "too good to be true," it's probably not true. Be especially cautious when someone is trying to sell you something. The cost/benefit ratio might be unreasonably high.

Where does God not want us to turn for health and healing?

2 Kings 1:2
Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, "Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury." [See also verses 3-17.]

In the New Testament, Baal-Zebub is spelled "Beelzebub" and is "the ruler of the demons" (Luke 11:15). God was extremely displeased with Ahaziah's blasphemy in seeking healing from Baal-Zebub through some kind of witch doctor.

God is our miraculous Healer, and Satan the devil has always been jealous of that. Satan knows that people tend to worship whoever or whatever they think has healed them. And because Satan hates people, he wants to lure them away from getting God's help. So throughout history, Satan has "inspired" many counterfeit methods of diagnosing and treating ailments as a hook to draw people into false religions. Satan's demons may give some temporary physical help, but their purpose is to destroy us spiritually (John 10:10).

Often if you ask someone to describe how some dubious cure works, he or she will reply, "I don't know why it works, but I know it works!" However, some things sometimes "work"—including Ouija boards, telekinesis and ESP—by the power of demons. Stay away from anything that might be a stepping stone to demon influence, because a step in that direction is spiritual adultery. Probably most health-care practitioners that use some kind of paranormal "healing" have good intentions—they just don't understand the Bible and the spirit world.

There is no spiritual problem in using a treatment fully based on true science, because science is truth. After all, science involves the laws of God regarding His physical creation. But as Paul warned Timothy, avoid "what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Timothy 6:20). Beware that nonscientific methods are often described with scientific-sounding jargon.

Should we ask for help from others when we need it?

James 5:16
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Matthew 7:7
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.

When we need help, we should ask. Always ask God for help, and when you need help from relatives and friends, ask them too. If we strive to maintain our relationships and to help others when they need help, they may consider it a blessing when they can help us too. A close friend can be as helpful as a relative (Proverbs 27:10).

Keep in mind that others may not always be able to understand your health condition, even after you reveal it to them. Chronic health problems seem especially difficult for some to grasp. But even if others can't identify with your illness, they can beseech God on your behalf for healing—very powerful aid indeed! So ask them to pray for you, and if you need their assistance, ask for that too.

Can health problems be a "blessing in disguise" to help us learn spiritual lessons?

James 1:2-3, New International Version
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

"Every cloud has a silver lining," the saying goes. Many scriptures show how God causes our suffering and personal trials to work together for spiritual good (Romans 8:28). When we suffer, we think more deeply. We learn to rely on God with faith and patience. We develop compassion for others. As God gives us comfort, we can extend that comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Overall, we experience more spiritual growth when we are "afflicted" by the trials of life than we do during easy times (Psalm 119:71).

Can we have hope and peace of mind during suffering and even when facing death?

Colossians 3:15
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

God wants us to give "thanks always for all things," including the spiritual lessons learned through suffering (Ephesians 5:20). Through every test and trial, God is with you to comfort, relieve and guide you, and give you endurance and deliverance (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even the prospect of death should not be terrifying. The Bible likens death to temporary sleep, and one day Christ will return to awaken us in a glorious resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Stay Encouraged!

Above all, try to keep a positive attitude and focus on those things that are uplifting (Philippians 4:6-8). It may not be easy to avoid negativity, especially when dealing with intense pain, but we are assured that our own Savior can identify with our pains, and He intercedes with God the Father on our behalf (Hebrews 4:15-16; John 17:20-26). We have one powerful Ally!


Apply Now

A very inspiring Bible study is to read about the miraculous healings performed by Jesus. It's not surprising that Luke, "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14), would be especially interested in this subject. He recorded more of Jesus' healings than the other Gospel writers did.

For a good start on this faith-building study, read five or more of the miracles Luke recorded in Luke 4:40; 5:12-15; 6:17-19; 7:1-10; 8:2; 8:41-56; 9:11; 9:37-42; 13:10-13; 14:1-6; 17:11-19; 22:47-51.

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Related Resources:

The Answer to Your Prayers

Anointing the Sick

Examples of Living Faith

Keys to a Long, Healthy Life

The Bible and Science

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Universal Healing Care Headed Our Way