Rick Toh• Timely Word •

What causes sicknesses and disease?

By 5 May 2019 May 7th, 2019 No Comments

In recent months, I have been approached by members enquiring about the teachings of Dr Michelle K. Strydom. Dr Strydom is a Christian medical doctor. In her book, she claims that no diseases are incurable. Quoting some research findings and bible verses, she suggests that 87% of all diseases are the result of what is going on with our thought life. She proposes that to achieve the best health possible, one needs to live by God’s principles in the following three domains: thought life, diet and rest.

I find there is some truth in linking physical wellbeing with one’s thought life. Proverbs 17:22 (NLT) say: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” It is a known fact that anxiety can lead to outbreak of eczema. Stress and lack of sleep lower one’s immune system.

Scripture teaches us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19); we are therefore to abstain from sexual immorality and glorify Him with our bodies. I believe glorifying God with our bodies includes being good stewards of our bodies so that we may live to know, love and serve Him. Observing a balanced diet and healthy dose of exercise will help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes. Observing Sabbath rest also allows the body and soul to be renewed and refreshed.

Nevertheless, I struggle with Dr Strydom’s approach of linking every disease to some negative thought pattern. For example, she suggests that the spiritual root of autoimmune diseases is low self-esteem and self-hatred. In another case, she suggests that “people who have breast or ovarian cysts or systolic acne have deep resentment towards their mother, sister or some other female.”

By over-emphasising the negative effects of one’s thought life, Dr Strydom falls into the trap of over-simplifying the root of sickness and disease.

Scripture teaches us that there are other causes for sickness and disease:

  • Attacks from the evil one

In the gospels, we read of several accounts of Jesus healing those whose diseases were caused by demonic oppression (see Lk 16:13; Matt 12:12).  We also read how the devil sought permission from God to inflict Job with terrible diseases to weaken his faith in God. Surely Job’s physical ailment was not the result of negative thought patterns, lack of sleep or a balanced diet.

  • Discipline by the Lord because of sin

In 1 Cor 11:29-32, apostle Paul explained that God had struck some members in the Corinth church with sicknesses because of their careless approach towards partaking the Lord’s Supper. Paul was quick to highlight that such are not under God’s condemnation but under His chastisement because He treated them as His children.

  • Consequence of the Fall

Rom 8:20-22 tells us that all of God’s physical creations (including us) are subject to the bondage of decay and death due to the Fall. This means that even if one is able to achieve a good diet, a good rest and a good thought life, he/she will still experience decay and corruption in his/her body due to this fallen world that is filled with viruses and contaminants.

From Dr Strydom’s book, I come to see that her theological persuasion belongs to those who claim that we are healed by the stripes of Jesus on the cross (Isa 53:5). In other words, it is the belief that all believers are saved by Christ to enjoy divine health on earth. Such beliefs are propagated by the Word-of-Faith movement and Health-and-Wealth gospel.

I am always puzzled by this claim. I wonder what believers will die from if it is true that Isa 53:5 is already fulfilled. If all believers are to experience divine health and never to suffer sicknesses on this side of heaven, how should we think of those spiritual giants who died of old age diseases? Have they lost their faith?

On the contrary, Scripture implies that Isa 53:5 will only be fulfilled when Christ returns for His church. On that day of resurrection, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, we shall be changed. Our perishable body will put on the imperishable, and our mortal body will put on immortality. (1 Cor 15:52-53).

We live in the shadow of the Fall. While Christ has redeemed us so that we will not taste second death, we will experience physical decay and death on earth. As long as we are on earth, we will experience sicknesses and diseases.  We can minimize but not eliminate these experiences totally from our earthly life.

So I find Dr Strydom’s claim that there are no diseases that are incurable as theologically incompatible. Her interpretations of various Bible passages are not in context and therefore contestable. Her questionable claim may lead to one having false hope, clinging on his/her earthly life for fear of physical death.

Therefore, I think Dr Strydom’s contribution, though helpful in understanding there can be a link between our thought life and physical wellbeing, is not a complete guide to handling sicknesses and diseases. We will do well not to rely wholly on her formula of pegging specific diseases to specific negative thought patterns.

The next time we are struck by a sickness or disease, I believe a more well-rounded approach would be to ask these questions:

1. Is this the result of careless living (bad diet, bad habits, lack of sleep or exercise)? 

2. Am I plagued by negative thought patterns and emotions (e.g. stress, anxiety, anger, bitterness)?

3. Is the Lord disciplining me because of sin?

4. Is this the consequence of the Fall?

5. Is this an attack by the evil one?

These questions have often led me to a time of prayerful self-examination, confession, repentance, surrender and dependence. It is in this context that I have experienced God’s healing time and time again.

To be clear, God does heal on this side of heaven. He may do so medically, naturally and supernaturally. Yet, know that all healing on earth is temporal. We will all have to deal with physical decay, until that Day when this perishable body of ours will be exchanged with an imperishable one.

By Rick Toh, Lead Pastor/Elder (YCKC Bulletin 5 May 2019)