Is it ever God's will for someone to be sick?

by Matt Slick
2/14/15

Yes, sometimes it is God's will that people be sick. As simple as this answer is, there's more to it.  Let's take a look at scripture and then theology.

  • "The LORD said to him, '“Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"' (Exodus 4:11).
  • "As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him,
  • '“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”' 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:1-3).

So, we have scriptures in both the Old and New Testament that imply that God is the one who, at least in these instances, appears to be responsible for the illness of people.  Of course, there are the natural consequences of sin in the world where illnesses come upon people so we cannot say that God causes every illness in every individual.

And, to get to the bottom of the answer, we are going to have to examine a little theology concerning the will of God.

When we talk about God's will, it is sometimes helpful to talk about different aspects of his will.  In theology some people divide God's sovereign will into three main aspects, in part to better understand how God works:

  1. Decretive will
  2. Prescriptive will
  3. Permissive will.

Let's expand on these:

God's decretive will refers to those occurrences that are directly caused by God's purposeful action such as the creation of the universe, putting Adam and Eve in the Garden, etc. His prescriptive will means that God prescribes certain moral behavior such as being honest, not stealing, etc. In God's permissive will he allows people to disobey his prescriptive will. In other words, he allows people to violate his moral will and so people lie and steal. In addition, it is the will of God to allow sickness, tragedy, natural disasters, etc., to occur.  Each of these three "wills" is the will of God.

So, we would say that if someone is sick it is within God's will because he has desired to let certain things happen in the world, which includes sickness. Take a look at Job as an example. It was the will of God to allow him to be afflicted by Satan and suffer various forms of sickness, though God was not the direct cause of those illnesses.

But the question is often raised, does God directly cause people to be sick? The answer is found in Exodus 4:11 where God himself declares that he makes people mute, deaf, and blind. It does not necessitate that he makes everyone with such afflictions by his direct action. The verse shows that God is, however, behind at least some of them. Why would he do this? Jesus tells us in John 9:3 that it was so that the work of God might be displayed. 

But, does God cause every sickness and every disease? I would say no because God permitted Satan to afflict Job but did not cause Job to be sick by his direct action.  The effect of sin in the world has its harmful hidden effects. Sin brings disease and sickness in the physical realm. This is why we die.  So, God may or may not be directly behind certain illnesses based on his sovereign purpose. But, if God were to be completely inactive in this regard, there would still be plenty of illnesses in the world due to the effect of sin within it and upon us.

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.