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Question and Answer

Is sickness God’s discipline?


Is sickness or illness discipline from the Lord?


The answer to your question is a little more complicated than you might think. On the one hand, all of our physical afflictions are as a result of our fall with Adam into sin (Gen. 3:17–19). We almost begin to die the moment we are born! Yet by his grace the Lord sustains us with a measure of health that allows us to fulfill his plans for our lives. Sometimes we do suffer sickness and illness simply because our frames are but dust (Ps. 103:14). He has determined the boundaries of our habitation (Acts 17:26; we will die from something!). In this case, no, sickness and illness are not specific forms of discipline from the Lord but rather reminders that we are flesh and await his call to go to him to face the judgment for our lives. Be sure then that you have confessed your sin and trusted in Christ before that day.

On the other hand, if we are not careful to preserve our health by proper nutrition and exercise, or if we are deliberately harming our health by bad habits (overeating in spite of the doctor’s warnings, drugs and drunkenness, or deliberately and unnecessarily risking our lives and health by our actions) then, yes, it would be appropriate to see sickness, illness, the loss of body parts, etc. as his discipline—the consequences of our sins.

At other times he may send such illnesses into our lives to draw us back to him when we wander, to remind us of how much we need him, how much closer we need to be to him (see the Westminster Confession Chapter 5, paragraph 5, on God’s providence). These would be instances of instructive discipline, times when he teaches us by affliction.

In any of these cases, if you are a believer, do not mistake God’s discipline for a lack of love. Those he loves he chastens (see Heb. 5). Rejoice, because then you are being treated as a son of the Father. This is confirmation of your adoption—your salvation!

I have only touched the surface of your question. I leave it here to stimulate you to meditation and further study of your Bible.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

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The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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