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Sickness

Sick­ness exists in the world only because of sin. There would be no sick­ness at all, nei­ther men­tal nor phys­i­cal, if man had not sinned. Accord­ing to Christ sick­ness is bondage to the dev­il. (Matthew 8:16, 12:22; Luke 4:40–41, 13:10–17) And Christ has come to “destroy… the dev­il.” (Hebrews 2:14) With Jesus the for­give­ness of sins, the heal­ing of the body, the destruc­tion of the dev­il and the rais­ing of the dead are all one and the same act of salvation.

For which is eas­i­er to say, “Your sins are for­giv­en,” or to say “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has author­i­ty on earth to for­give sins — He then said to the par­a­lyt­ic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. (Matthew 9:4–7, Mark 2:9–12, Luke 5:23–25)

In that hour He cured many of dis­eases and plagues and evil spir­its, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. (Luke 7:21)

Doing these things Jesus showed that He is Christ the Mes­si­ah, the ful­fill­ment of the prophets who brings the King­dom of God to the world.

…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lep­ers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news of the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scan­dal­ized at me. (Luke 7:22–23; cf. Isa­iah 29:1 8- 19, 35:5–6, 61:1; Matthew 4:23–24, 11:4–6)

When one is deliv­ered from sin and evil, one is also freed from sick­ness and death. In the King­dom of God there will be “no sick­ness or sor­row or sigh­ing, but life ever­last­ing.” (Requiem Kon­takion of the Church)

When one is vis­it­ed by sick­ness in this world, whether bod­i­ly or men­tal, he is a vic­tim of the dev­il and the “sin of the world.” (John 1:29) This does not mean that peo­ple are nec­es­sar­i­ly being per­son­al­ly pun­ished with their dis­eases. It means rather, as in the case of those born with infir­mi­ties and chil­dren who are ill, that where sin abounds, sick­ness and dis­ease are also ram­pant. It is the teach­ing of the Church that those who are inno­cent­ly vic­tim­ized by sick­ness, such as small chil­dren and retard­ed peo­ple, are cer­tain to be saved in the King­dom of God.

This is the teach­ing of the book of Gen­e­sis. God did not say to man, “Sin and I will kill you.” He said, if and when you sin, “you will die.” (Gen­e­sis 2:17, 3:3) Thus when man sins and ruins him­self by evil, he brings the curse of sick­ness and suf­fer­ing to the world for him­self and his chil­dren; and his life becomes toil until he returns to the dust out of which he is made — and which he is by nature with­out the grace of God in his life. (cf. Gen­e­sis 3:17–19) It is in this sense that the “prince of this world” is the dev­il. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11)

Giv­en the sin­ful­ness of the world, its bondage to the dev­il, its “groan­ing in tra­vail” (cf Romans 8:19–23) until its sal­va­tion in Christ, God Him­self uses sick­ness and death for His own prov­i­den­tial pur­pos­es as the means for man’s sal­va­tion. God is not the cause of sick­ness, suf­fer­ing and death; but giv­en their exis­tence because of the devil’s deceit and man’s wicked­ness and sin, God employs them that man might be healed and saved in the for­give­ness of sins. In this sense, and this sense only, can it be said that “God sends sick­ness to man.”

When a spir­i­tu­al per­son is sick he rec­og­nizes that his ill­ness is caused by sin, his own and the sins of the world. He does not blame God for it, for he knows that God has not caused it and does not wish it for His ser­vants. He knows as well, through the prov­i­den­tial plan of God and the sal­va­tion of Christ, that his sick­ness will be healed. He knows also that if God so wills, he can be healed of his sick­ness in this life in order to have more time to serve God and man on earth, and to accom­plish what he must accord­ing to God’s plan. He also knows as well that the very sick­ness itself can be the means for serv­ing God, and he accepts it in this way, offer­ing it in faith and love for his own sal­va­tion and for the sal­va­tion of others.

There is no greater wit­ness to the love of God and faith in Christ than sick­ness endured with faith and love. The one who bears his infir­mi­ties with virtue, with courage and patience, with faith and hope, with glad­ness and joy, is the great­est wit­ness to divine sal­va­tion that can pos­si­bly be. Noth­ing can com­pare to such a per­son, for God’s praise in dis­tress and afflic­tion is the great­est pos­si­ble offer­ing that man can make of his life on earth.

Every saint who ever lived suf­fered bod­i­ly infir­mi­ties. And all of them, vir­tu­al­ly with­out excep­tion — even when heal­ing oth­ers by their prayers — did not ask for or receive deliv­er­ance for them­selves. This is the case most evi­dent­ly of Jesus Him­self, the suf­fer­ing ser­vant of God.

He was despised and reject­ed by men, a man of sor­rows, and acquaint­ed with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces…

Sure­ly He has borne our grieves, and car­ried our sor­rows; yet we esteemed Him strick­en, smit­ten by God and afflict­ed. But He was wound­ed for our trans­gres­sions, He was bruised for our iniq­ui­ties, upon Him was the chas­tise­ment that healed us, and with His wounds we are healed…the Lord has laid on Him the iniq­ui­ty of us all.

And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man (i.e. Joseph of Ari­math­ea, Matthew 27:57) in His death…when He makes Him­self an offer­ing for sin…(Isaiah 53, cf. Psalms 22, 38, 41)

Christ “poured out His soul to death” (Isa­iah 53:12) when He was only in the third decade of His life. Many of the saints hard­ly lived longer, and vir­tu­al­ly all suf­fered, as did St. Paul, from some “thorn in the flesh,” nor­mal­ly under­stood as some bod­i­ly affliction.

…a thorn was giv­en me in the flesh, a mes­sen­ger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elat­ed. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, “My grace is suf­fi­cient for you, for my pow­er is made per­fect in weak­ness,” that the pow­er of Christ may rest upon me…for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthi­ans 12:7–10)

All spir­i­tu­al per­sons fol­low the exam­ple of Christ and Saint Paul and all of the saints in their appre­ci­a­tion of sick­ness. They say to the Father, “Thy will be done,” and trans­form their weak­ness, by the grace of God, into the means of sal­va­tion for them­selves and others.