Training and discipline from the Lord’s hand: part one

Some years ago, I attended a conference for church workers with the theme of “Holy Health and Wholeness,” or something along those lines. The featured speaker was a pastor/theologian who was considered an expert on the topic of health and how to be healthy according to spiritual principles. Much of his message centered around maintaining a positive attitude, dealing with stress instead of succumbing to stress, and being good stewards of our physical health.

On the one hand, I agree that each Christian is responsible for being a good steward of his or her body. We all should make good decisions about nutrition, sleep, exercise, and hygiene. We should avoid harmful substances and bad habits. Negative thoughts and poor stress management can lead to physical symptoms. On the other hand, I am skeptical regarding claims that we can be in charge of our own health, that we can be healthy and happy simply by replacing bad choices with good choices. Whether those claims are made by a Christian, a New Age practitioner, or a secular source, I believe that things are more complicated than those speakers picture them. The Bible says more about life than how to be healthy, wealthy, and comfortable in this world. In fact, the Bible more often deals with the problem that, in this sin-polluted world, often the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer.

To provide full disclosure: the week of that conference I was suffering from an ear infection. Symptoms included pain, lightheadedness, and distortion of sounds. In that condition, I was hostile toward any suggestion that I was responsible for my discomfort—that if I made better choices, I would not have been battling an infection and needing to take painkillers and antibiotics to make the problem go away. In fact, I was seriously considering questioning the speaker about blaming the victim and making things worse instead of better.

Instead, I began searching the Bible to see if I could find verses that would support the speaker’s point of view. Here are some of the verses I found: “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same…. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause…. Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty…. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation…. If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning…. Agree with God and be at peace; thereby gold will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and our precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows.”

Before anyone rushes for a concordance to find these verses, I will reveal where I discovered them. They are written in the book of Job—namely 4:7-8; 5:6-8; 5:17; 8:5-6; 11:13-17; 22:21-27. These are the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, friends of Job who came to comfort him in his suffering but ended up accusing him. Confident that God makes no mistakes, these three friends told Job that he needed to return to God; if he was being chastened by the Almighty, then surely the purpose was to wake Job from his spiritual slumber and restore him to a right relationship with God. The Lord responded to Eliphaz saying, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” God called for a sacrifice to atone for their sin and promised to hear Job when he prayed for their forgiveness (Job 42:7-9).

To be continued…. J.

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6 thoughts on “Training and discipline from the Lord’s hand: part one

  1. Love this, Salvageable. Love the book of Job too, it’s my favorite. I wrestle with some of these issues too, because I really do believe that God heals. I’ve seen it and I’ve received it myself.

    It is never a person’s “fault” when they get sick, physically or emotionally. Never. We don’t make “bad choices” and deserve it. God doesn’t send us boils to punish us. That was satan, in Job’s case.

    Jesus speaks of man being blind not because it is his fault, or the fault of his parents or demons, but because his condition exists to give glory to God. Our afflictions are not necessarily “bad.” Job was righteous, he had the Lord’s favor, He was chosen. One might even say he was blessed.

    Conversely though, I worked in healthcare for many years and I watched us just make people sicker. The opioid crisis is what finally broke me. I watched us prescribe opioids to people who didn’t need them, they became addicted,and they eventually died of an opioid addiction. Every last one of those people had a spiritual issue, an emotional issue. Some of them had headaches, knee pain, bad backs, but that wasn’t their primary problem at all. They needed the Lord, they needed love, they needed to be healed of what was creating the physical symptoms. We failed them all and I was powerless to do anything about it. They came to doctors for help, and week after week we just gave them pain pills,basically the equivalent of heroin.

    I’m not ready to scratch Western medicine entirely, I’m just saying our attitudes towards people’s health and well-being need to change. We really are mind, bodies, and spirits, and often what we truly need is some soul care. The Lord is called the Great Physician for a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, IB. We should be faithful stewards of our bodies and health as well as our time, money, and possessions. But God does not punish us for our sins of poor stewardship, because the punishment landed instead on His Son.
      Medicinal pain management has a place, but more attention should be paid to side-effects, long-term consequences, and quality of life issues. As with so many things, a perfect balance is hard to find. J.

      Like

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