Not Enough Faith? Is It My Fault I'm Still Sick?

Hebrews 11 is a marvelous chapter known to many as the Hall of Faith. The first half of the chapter lists great heroes of the Old Testament. Then verses 33-35a are enough to make you cheer; subduing kingdoms, obtaining promises, stopping lions and escaping fire and sword. Victory in battle, and even having the dead brought back to life again.

How did all this happen? "Through faith," says verse 33. The faith that moves mountains.

That faith has not been extinguished over time. Believers still see God do mighty things. Cancer disappears. Alcoholics get deliverance. Battles are won.

What about us? We who are sick, and have been sick for years? We who have prayed and asked and hoped for healing, but not received it?

Beautiful British Girl Wishing  Stock Photo

Many would say our chronic illness or disease is representative of our lack of faith. That we failed in our battle. We lost. If we could only believe more, condemn the sickness, declare ourselves healthy, we would be free. (I've heard those; you likely have too.)

Those people did not heed the rest of the chapter on faith. Look on, starting right after those believers who had the ultimate visual victory--the dead coming to life again--as a representation of their faith:

...and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance...
they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, 
were tempted, were slain with the sword...
destitute, afflicted, tormented... (Heb. 11:35b-37)

Wait a minute. How can words like afflicted and tormented be in a chapter celebrating faith? Many would say those people didn't have enough faith. If they had, they would have been delivered to live a comfortable and healthy and victorious life, right?

Not according to God. Read on. The chapter ends this way:

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith... (vs 39)

Sometimes faith results in healing or victory, in what looks to us humans like what faith should look like. As Jesus said, If you have enough faith, you can tell a mountain to move and it will (Matthew 17:20). That a pretty obvious way to show your faith.

Does that mean that people whose mountains move are closer to God, and people who have mountains still in their backyard aren't?

Not necessarily.

I could list many examples in Scripture, but let's go straight to our ultimate example of perfect faith and oneness with God--Jesus Christ.

First, Jesus never told a mountain to move so we could "see" His faith. In fact, He rejected the suggestion every time His disciples, skeptics, or even Satan suggested He do an obvious sign to prove Himself to the world. We should take that to heart. Faith shouldn't be about the show.

Second, Jesus prayed a prayer that God said "no" to. Jesus even asked God "why?" Both were during the time of His greatest suffering. Both were during a time when religious people questioned His faith (the faith of the Messiah Himself!) and mocked His lack of "ability" to get off the cross. Both were also on the path to the greatest glory and victory history has ever witnessed.

At one point, Jesus said He could have made the problem go away. He could have instantly summoned legions of angels to deliver Him (Matthew 26:53). Take away His pain. Give Him health and wealth.

Instead, He let the mountain remain. He asked God, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). 

For some of us, God wants the mountain to remain. Moving it might impress people and make them feel like we have faith, but sometimes it takes more faith to let God be glorified through our suffering rather than being delivered from it.

As in Hebrews, sometimes God is glorified by delivering His children from the trial. Other time, He is glorified by not delivering them.

I live right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those beautiful peeks have been there for millennia, despite the fact that this the Bible Belt and there are many people with great faith here. Why do they remain? Is it because no one has had enough faith to move them? Or because God wants them there? They glorify Him to the world. When I see them, I am filled with awe, given peace, reminded by lifting up my eyes to hills that my help comes from God (Psalm 121).

Mountain Cook Newzealand Panorama Stock Photo

For some reason, God has chosen not to move my mountain of chronic illness. He has moved many others in my life--I have seen Him do amazing things--but this one He has allowed to remain.

If I love Him, if I care more about His glory than my own comfort (or with convincing people like Job's friends, which is usually a waste of verbiage), then I will pray like Jesus. I can ask God to move the mountain--remove the suffering--but end that what I want most is for His will to be done, not mine.

Sometimes it take more faith to not get what you want....but more on that tomorrow.

Related Posts: Joni Earekson Tada Video-Don't Waste Your Suffering

Tomorrow's Post: If Jesus Delivers the Captives, Why Won't He Deliver Me?
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  1. Thank you for this, Kimberly! Chronic illness is hard enough without the added burden of guilt, especially when it comes from others. I saw this quote this morning: "God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers."

    It's not from the Bible, but it does have a ring of truth. Thank you for easing the burden. :)

  2. Amen. I have seen so much hurt inflicted with that incomplete theology. I felt the same way with my kidney disease--God clearly was going to walk through it with me, not take it away. It would be faithless to deny his ability and sovereignty to do that. Praying for you and your ministry.

  3. It's hard to keep going when it's just us and our illness...but when the 'helpful' misquote the bible, or say things like, "I know this would cure you- let me know if you really want to get well" our burdens can increase and doubts wheedle in. But when we're living in submission to Him, He can do amazing things. Jesus is so good to carry us along. And because of where I am, I have no doubt He's the one doing the carrying. Thanks for this article :-)

  4. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I needed this today.

  5. " sometimes it takes more faith to let God be glorified through our suffering rather than being delivered from it." Yes. Exactly. This thought has crossed my mind as to why I don't pray for my own healing, yet I always pray that way for my friends.

  6. You all are so precious. I love your perspective and know God loves being glorified by His children, even if/when others don't understand. Just think of all the people who would not have been comforted had Job given in to this lie. Instead, God Himself pointed Job out. His friends were judging, but God was honoring Him in heaven. You will reap if you faint not!
    Please feel free to pass this post along anytime a sick friend needs it, or a not-sick friend who wants to understand, or anybody!
    Grace and Peace to you today,

  7. This is so real. When I hear and read about preachers and teachers who espouse that if you have great faith, you will be healed, I cringe. My faith has been quite small, yet God has done big things in my life. On the other hand, I don't attribute the fact that God hasn't answered some of my prayers the way I wanted to my lack of faith. God is trying to teach me something, or take me somewhere, or work something out of me. This is a great post, Kimberly.

  8. Thank you, Kay. I love what you said, "God is trying to teach me something, or take me somewhere, or work something out of me." Isn't it wonderful knowing there is some purpose behind all this! We may not know till heaven what that purpose is, but we can trust it's there! God bless you.


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