Can Disease be a Gift?

“But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’  And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord.  “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

  • Malachi 1:12-14

“Our good Father Duffy said, ‘It is as I have said before, this disease, like all diseases, and all the troubles of man, is a gift of God.  It’s God’s way of testing a man, to reward him, maybe, or to punish him.  I do not fear the diseases, and I do not fear His will.  I will put myself in His care and all will be well with me.’
”’How can you say that, Father, you who have seen the dying men who were in agony and terror from their awful diseases?  How can you believe as you do?’
“’Surely, you must know this, but also feel in your heart that their suffering will be less if their God is greater.  If you’re less angry with God for making the men sick and more grateful to Him for this chance to show love for Him, do you not see?’  Father Duffy assured Clem.”

  • Abie Abraham, Oh, God, Where Are You?

The Scripture says that a diseased animal is not acceptable as an offering for sacrifice to God.  How, then, can disease be a gift from God as Father Duffy describes?

This may be a matter of semantics, but I think that it is important to look at the flaws in the good Father’s statements.

The problem at its center, in the way I read this portion of the book, is that God is not necessarily the source of the disease, in this case dysentery.  The men could be angry at God for not curing them, but being angry at God for making them sick is stepping too far.

I have written before that I am blessed in my meager resources, because I learn how to make do with little and trust in God so much more.  But being blessed in ‘suffering’ – here in quotes as a comparative term nowhere near the suffering of those in the POW camp – is not the same as being granted a gift of a disease from God.  Yet, if it is God’s method to relieve you from suffering, could not God be the source of the disease in you?

This is a slippery slope here.  Do you want to endure great hardship on Bataan, then the Death March, then more than a year or two in the POW camp before death, or do you want to die quickly?  The point is that none of us are too fond about dying, regardless of the heavenly reward.  But let’s settle on the idea that the disease was a result of the fall of mankind, whether it existed at the time of the Fall or mutated to the form of dysentery over the millennia since the Fall.  Dysentery then can be the method used to bring about death, but saying God made the men sick is too much and casts an incorrect slant on the attributes of God.

A disease as a reward does not make sense, and if we are saved and God has removed our sins from us, punishment is not on the table either.

Yet, the remainder, maybe half, of Father Duffy’s encouragement is beautiful, another message of Hope, like in yesterday’s post using latrine rumors.  Even in our suffering, and maybe more powerfully through our suffering, we can show God’s love.  Any test of faith should be accepted as such.  All of life is a test of faith.

Is it okay to grumble or groan?  I hope so, because I do that.  But, that should not be the focus of our existence even in times of pain.  I have been short with nurses in the past when bureaucracy becomes more important than patient care.  But when asked about the pain level on a 1-10 scale, I never say that I am a 9 or 10.  I have heard other patients say that they were a 12.  I am too much of a math purist to ever say that, but a nurse once said that the look on my face looked more than a 7 or an 8.  I said that I reserved the high numbers for that point in which I think death is imminent.  She smiled and wrote pain level 9 on the chart.  I guess the doctors base the dosage of medicine on the number.  As such, I was grateful.

No matter how hard I try, I will never show God’s love while in pain like my wife can.  I have told her that she must have a superpower in that regard, or maybe some pain receptors in her body just do not function.  She may not be lively as the center of attention when in pain, but she shows no pain in her face.  When she does, I notice, and I know this must be bad.

I know of other people who go through cancer treatments or multiple surgeries and then keep their schedule going as if nothing had happened.  To them, showing the pain draws attention to them, when they want the attention on God.  My hat is off to them.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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