Embracing Hope Amidst Death and Disease

Embracing Hope Amidst Death and Disease

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
C. S. Lewis
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie Ten Boom
In a previous blog, Understanding Suffering: Debunking Misconceptions and Embracing God’s Character, we explored the common misconceptions about suffering as being a punishment from God. Suffering should be attributed to human fallibility, the impact of sin, and Satan’s influence rather than divine retribution. Instead, God is incapable of wickedness, always acts in love, and brings comfort in trials. Today, we must acknowledge that it is universally true that in life, we will inevitably confront the harsh realities of death and disease, painful reminders of the brokenness in our fallen world. Yet in these challenging times, we can seek comfort and strength in God’s redemptive work. Indeed, it is God’s glory and truth that shines light into our darkness and instills hope in us amid grief.

Sickness and Divine Punishment
Historically, people believed that sickness was a punishment from God for personal or familial sins and this was especially true for the Hebrews. According to the Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, Hebrews saw illness as divine punishment for individual sin, ancestral sin, or demonic attack. However, other scriptures show that disease does not always stem from a simple moral cause or such a simple explanation for disease (pg. 459). As explained in our previous blog, Understanding God’s Discipline: Separating Punishment from Correction, suffering for the sins of others is inconsistent with Scripture. Jeremiah 31:30 (ESV) notes that “everyone shall die for his own iniquity.” Ezekiel 18 discusses how each person is responsible for their own sin, not the sins of their ancestors or their children. Of course, this is distinct and separate from having to bear the natural consequences of poor decisions and sin, which can impact others, including children. Instead, God’s nature is characterized by perfect justice, faithfulness, and righteousness. Moreover, the belief that illness and disease is a punishment from God conflicts with the actions of Jesus, who set captives free and healed the sick. Matthew 4:23-24 affirms Jesus’ commitment to doing the Father’s will and always acting in accordance with His righteousness. Moreover, God’s justice and righteousness prevent Him from inflicting suffering, such as causing sickness, as a form of punishment. Thus, it is inconceivable for God to act wickedly or do wrong, as confirmed in Job 34:10 and Genesis 18:22-26.

Understanding the Brokenness
Death and disease starkly display the consequences of humankind’s fallen state. Genesis 3 reveals how Adam and Eve’s disobedience fractured the perfect harmony God intended by allowing sin to enter the world and infect all creation, bringing suffering, brokenness, and death into the human experience. Romans 6:23 makes clear, “The wages of sin is death.” Therefore, we know that every loss is a consequence of living in this flawed, marred realm and death divides us from loved ones, and evokes a profound grief and a longing for restoration. Likewise, disease manifests brokenness through physical, emotional, and spiritual afflictions. While these struggles were not God’s original design, it does highlight our vulnerability and need for His healing and redemption. Scripture reveals the hope we have in Christ where His earthly sojourn, provides the perfect gift of salvation and a promise of a future flawless creation. Though brokenness is inevitable in our lives in the here and now, we can find meaning and purpose in our lives. Romans 8:18 (ESV), “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Therefore, we can know that our afflictions are temporary and are far outweighed by the hope of eternal glory in God’s presence.

The Hope of Resurrection
Despite the brokenness, Scripture reveals the profound message of hope. 1 Corinthians 15:20- 22, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (ESV). As followers of Christ, we find comfort in knowing that death does not have the final word. The resurrection of Jesus assures us of victory over death and just as Christ conquered death through His resurrection, we also have the hope of eternal life in Him. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (ESV) says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The hope of resurrection goes beyond defeating physical death to encompassing the promise of eternal life in God’s presence. In John 11:25-26 Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Jesus’ resurrection ushers in a new state of being, one which transcends earthly existence. Knowing our destiny in eternal life with Christ can transform how we live with purpose, joy, and confidence. Our lives should reflect this resurrection hope as we strive to honor God, love others, and serve His Kingdom. Motivated by the assurance of eternal life in Jesus, our actions become living testaments to His resurrection power.

Finding Purpose in Suffering
The book of Job offers profound insights on suffering as Job endured unimaginable affliction and agonized over making sense of his pain. Yet in his dialogues, Job chose to cling to faith in God’s sovereignty and goodness. Even in our doubt and despair, we can and should orient our hearts toward God. By persevering in faith and seeking God’s comforting presence, we gain strength to endure life’s trials until the promised day of redemption. Job says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2, ESV). While we may not fully comprehend His ways, we can be assured that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). James 1:2-4 encourages us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Therefore, it is crucial to anchor our trust in the unchanging character of God. Even when we cannot comprehend His ways, He is loving, merciful, and compassionate and we can find comfort in His presence and promises. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) assures us that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” so we can know that we can bring our pain and questions before Him, because He understands and deeply cares for us.

The Ministry of Compassion
As we navigate the realities of life, we are called to emulate the compassionate ministry of Jesus. He healed the sick but He also offered comfort and hope to the sick, the marginalized, and those grieving the loss of loved ones. We can lean on Him and trust Him to bring healing and imitate His ministry of compassion, by extending love and support to those affected by death and disease. James 1:27 (ESV) reminds us that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Romans 12:15 also encourages us to weep with those who weep; this in no way implies a time for theological debates or attempts to reason the why of suffering. Instead, through prayer, kindness, and comfort, we become beacons of hope pointing others toward Christ’s healing and restoration. By coming alongside the grieving and ill, we reflect Jesus’ love, assuring sufferers they are not alone and directing them to the ultimate Healer. As Matthew 25:40 reminds, our actions, however small, have eternal impact: serving the vulnerable is serving Christ Himself. In pursuing compassion, we must anchor to the hope in Jesus, recognizing true redemption stems from unbreakable unity with Him. This spiritual truth reflects devotion not just in belief but action. Our compassion for others mirrors our devotion to Christ. We must offer more than temporary relief; we must point others to the hope of eternity and the promise of everlasting life in Him.

Embracing God’s Healing
While physical healing may not always be the outcome we experience, Revelation 21:4 paints a powerful picture of our future hope: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (ESV). James 5:14-15 teaches us to call upon the elders of the church to pray over the sick: “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 one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (ESV). While healing may not come as swiftly or in the forms we anticipate, we can find assurance in knowing God’s benevolent touch extends beyond physical renewal to our emotional landscapes. In a world shadowed by physical and emotional pain, God’s ultimate promise of healing soothes our weariness and kindles optimism. We can trust in the fact that His touch works in myriad ways according to His infinite wisdom and perfect timing. Though we cannot fully comprehend God’s greater plan, in times of distress we cling to faith in the Healer, finding solace in His sufficiency and hope in His promised redemption. Yet to attain true wholeness, we must release our assumptions and embrace complete reliance on God’s design for our lives. Through His Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God weaves restoration into the very fabric of our souls, a transformation that unfurls from the core outward. As we face life’s hurdles, transcending our earthly troubles, a profound sense of wholeness is found in Christ alone.

Amidst the realities of death and suffering, we seek consolation in God and His Word. Christ’s resurrection stands triumphant over death, revealing a ceaseless, radiant existence beyond this fallen realm. Despite our earthly afflictions, we trust God’s purpose and wisdom at work and we follow Christ’s ministry by extending compassion to the suffering. Though physical healing may not come quickly, may we cling to the ultimate hope of renewal in God’s presence. May we find strength in Scripture’s promises, knowing our momentary troubles pale in light of awaited glory (Romans 8:18). As we walk through the valleys of death and disease, may we lean on the unchanging truth of God’s eternal Word, discovering hope and solace in its depths.

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