Causes of Sickness

15 possibilities

An examination of the fifteen causes of sickness as found in the Scriptures

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Deut. 32:39

For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. Job 5:18

We all understand that death came through sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23a); that’s an easy one. What’s difficult to understand is why there’s sickness. That’s much harder for us to fathom and absolutely more relevant to us personally, for it’s something we deal with all our lives. From the common cold to appendicitis and from skin cancer to heart attacks, we all have to suffer with some sort of sickness in our lifetime.

When we’re sick, there are a number of things that we can do (besides call in sick from work, stay in bed, and binge watch old television shows). Clearly, a great option is to make an appointment with a doctor and get checked out. Certainly, seeking and receiving healing from those in the medical profession is not outside of God’s design. After all, even the Apostle Paul prescribed medication (wine) for Timothy’s frequent stomach ailments (1 Tim. 5:23).

When it comes to being sick, one important thing that we often miss is… prayer. We have an open line to call out to our Heavenly Father who loves us dearly and watches over us with the greatest of care. He’s the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb and has more than enough wisdom, knowledge, and power to fix anything that might be wrong with us. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, cured everything from fevers to leprosy, healed a withered hand, enabled the lame to walk and the mute to speak, and even raised three people from the dead. You can take confidence that he is more than able to heal you of whatever disease or affliction you may be dealing with at the moment.

  • For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. Ps. 139:13

  • Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Ps. 50:15

Another option to pursue when you’re sick is to call for the Elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray for you. For some reason, people typically use this as a last resort – when nothing else seems to work; but that really doesn’t make any sense at all. The Apostle James seems to imply that it was something completely normal to do in the early church –- you get sick, you call for the elders to pray for you, you receive healing, and then you go on with your life. It was as simple as that.

  • 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. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. Jas 5:14-18

The Fifteen Possible Causes of Sin

While you’re praying, taking some medication, and waiting for the Elders to come and visit you, you most likely have the time to ponder not what is wrong with you, but why something is wrong with you. The Bible reveals a number of causes of sickness. In no particular order, here are the possible causes of why a person may be suffering from a sickness or disease. Please note that they are arranged in four major categories: Ourselves, someone else, Satan, and God.

A. Sickness could be caused by us.

1. Our own personal sin.

Sometimes our sickness is directly related to a sin or a combination of sins that we commit. Disobedience to God’s principles and commands as found in his Word does have consequences. Sickness and even death can come about as the direct result of our own sin. The remedy for this type of sickness is four-fold. It starts with humility, moves on to the confession of sin, goes on to include repentance, and ends by asking for forgiveness.

  • There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. Ps. 38:3

  • As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!" Ps. 41:4

  • Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Cor. 11:28-30

  • Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” John 5:14

  • 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. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. Jas 5:14-16a

  • And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” …”Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Matt. 9:1-2, 6b

2. Sickness is common to man.

The fall of man in the Garden of Eden opened the door to sickness, death, and disease. From that account, one can conclude that ultimately, sin is at the root of all sin. Man is not destined to live forever. From catching a common cold to twisting or breaking an ankle, and from rupturing an appendix, to the damaging impact of high cholesterol, our bodies seem to be falling apart. We try to be good stewards of our bodies (washing our hands, sneezing into our elbows, etc.) but no matter how much we try, we still catch germs and get sick. Eventually, our bodies wear out; they’re only temporary earthly tents anyways. The bottom line is the sometimes, not only does the rain fall on the righteous and unrighteous, but germs do as well.

  • In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matt. 5:45

3. Death is common to all men.

As a result of sin, our bodies wear out and we eventually die. Lke it or not, our days our numbered. Should we pray for someone’t health when he or she is 115 years old and on the edge of life? That‘s a good question, especially considering that Methuselah, the oldest man in the Bible, couldn’t reach his 970th birthday.

  • The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, and numbered are the years stored up for the

ruthless. Job 15:20

  • The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever. Ps. 37:18

  • The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Ps. 90:10

  • So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Ps. 90:12

  • Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Ps. 139:16

4. Poor stewardship of our bodies.

Sometimes we become sick simply because we‘re poor stewards of our bodies. Examples vary from not washing our hands often enough to over-consuming alcohol or drinking way too many Cokes. Sickness and disease can also overtake us when we have a terrible diet, don‘t exercise or don‘t get enough sleep. When someone gets sick because of not taking care of one‘s body, we should pray for healing and that they commit to a lifestyle change.

5. Unknown causes.

There are some sicknesses that happen for well,... only God knows why. Understanding that sickness and death are a result of the Fall and are common to all men, we need to find space in our theology for the simple and mysterious fact that God’s ways are higher than our ways and trust that he is sovereign in all matters.

  • For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:9

  • Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 2 Kings 13:14

  • And the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. 2 Kings 15:5

  • No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 1 Tim. 5:23

  • Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 2 Tim. 4:20

B. Sickness could be caused by someone else.

Though it’s hard to understand or accept, sometimes our sickness is a ripple effect and result of someone else’s sin. Whether it’s a parent, a relative, or even a king or president, the cause of your sickness could be them, not you. There’s not much you can do with this one except pray for God’s mercy, wait out the sinning person’s repentance, or allowing generations to pass.

6. Someone else’s sin.

  • “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Ex. 20:4-6

  • David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die." Then Nathan went to his house. 2 Sam. 12:13-15

  • And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem. Jer. 15:4

  • The word of the Lord came to me: You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth. Jer. 16:1-4

  • As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3

C. Sickness could be caused by Satan and his minions.

7. The wiles of Satan.

Sometimes Satan is the instigating culprit or direct cause of our sickness. While he can and does cause sickness, he is also bound by the authority, decrees, and will of God. Through prayer, fasting, and/or even rebuke, this type of sickness can be overcome, and one can find complete healing.

  • Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job 2:1-7

  • And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" Luke 13:16

  • You yourselves know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:37-38

8. The oppression or indwelling of an evil spirit.

There are times when sickness is the result of an evil spirit oppressing (a believer or unbeliever) or even indwelling an individual (never a believer). This type of sickness can be overcome by the power of God though prayer in the name of Jesus.

  • As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. Matt. 9:32-33a

  • And he rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Matt. 17:18

  • And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Acts 19:11-12

D. Sickness could be caused by God.

To no one‘s surprise, God uses sickness, disease, famines, plagues, and even death to accomplish his purpose and will in the lives of individuals and/or to impact entire nations.

9. God can use sickness in our sanctification process.

To keep us from being conceited, arrogant, or prideful, sometimes God brings about a sickness. A sickness like this can be prayed for to be taken away but needs to be accepted if God so chooses to have it remain with us.

  • So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. The said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10

10. God can cause sickness in the hope of bringing about repentance.

Sometimes God uses sickness and disease to catch people’s attention so that they might repent of their sins and turn back to him.

  • “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. Amos 4:10

11. God can cause sickness to ensure the furtherance of the Gospel.

On one occasion, God caused a man to be blind so that he wouldn’t interfere with the proclamation of the gospel.

  • But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Acts 13:9-11

12. God can use sickness as a sign of his power & presence.

On one occasion, God used the disease of leprosy as a confirming sign of his power.

  • Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. Ex. 4:6-8

13. God can use sickness to accomplish his will. Remedy = be in alignment with the will of God!

God poured out the Ten Plagues upon the nation of Egypt so that Pharaoh would let his people go. The sixth plague, the “boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt” (Ex. 9:9) certainly qualifies as a disease brought about by God.

  • And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. Ex. 7:1-6

14. God can use sickness (and/or death) as an instrument of judgment.

Without a doubt, God judges those opposed to his will, ways, and Word. Whether it‘s striking the offender dead, pouring out ten plagues, or causing a sickness such as boils, tumors, scabs, itching, diseases of the bowels, leprosy, being eaten by worms, experiencing blindness, or “extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sickness grievous and lasting,” God certainly knows how to bring about serious discomfort and judgment upon prideful, rebellious, and unrepentant men.

  • Boils: So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. Ex. 9:10

  • The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. Deut. 28:27

  • The Lord will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head. Deut. 28:35

  • Tumors: The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 1 Sam. 5:6

  • Leprosy: But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow. 2 Kings 5:26-27

  • And they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.” Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the Lord had struck him. 2 Chron. 26:18-20

  • Wasting disease and fever: “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. Lev. 26:14-16a

  • The Lord will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. Deut. 28:22

  • Wasting sickness/burning: Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. Isa. 10:16

  • Plague and severe sickness of bowels: And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel and have enticed Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom, as the house of Ahab led Israel into whoredom, and also you have killed your brothers, of your father' s house, who were better than you, behold, the Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day.’” 2 Chron. 21:12-15

  • Sudden sickness to death: Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick. 2 Sam. 12:15

  • A plague: Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made. Ex. 32:35

  • Death of the firstborn: At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Ex. 12:29

  • Extraordinary afflictions, lasting sicknesses, and the diseases of Egypt: “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. Deut. 28:58-61

  • Eaten by worms and death: On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. Acts 12:21-23
  • Sickness or death for not doing communion right: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Cor. 11.29-30

15. God can use sickness to further his glory.

There are times when illness is something that God allows, causes, or brings about so that he will receive glory when someone is healed.

  • And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:2-3

  • But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." John 11:4