Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).
Everyone reading this has been affected in some way by sickness—some sicknesses that are quite serious. We know people who have COVID-19, others who have cancer, some who have chronic pain, dementia, or autoimmune diseases. The list could go on for days.
These bodies we live in get broken, sometimes mangled and twisted, often irreparably so. I think it ought to remind us—like it did Paul—that these tents as they are aren’t suited for permanence (cf. 2 Corinthians 5).
But James’ words also remind us to pay attention to physical needs. When people are sick, pray for them. Do what you can to help them, to heal them, to ease their suffering. Maybe we can’t offer much direct help to many of the sick people in the world right now, but we ought to pray hard for them. Pray that God eases their pain and heals them completely. Ask him to let his mercy and compassion be seen through the response of believers.
But there’s another point in James’ message, and it’s a little more difficult to grasp (or swallow): there’s sometimes a connection between physical suffering and sin. That doesn’t mean that people who suffer are suffering because of their own sin; suffering often happens because of the sins of others.
But we live in a world in which bad things happen, and it’s because of sin. From the time that Adam and Eve took those forbidden bites, our world started suffering.
The good news is, Jesus is in the process of fixing it all. He’s bringing his people a new heaven and a new earth—one with no viruses, no terrorism, no racism, and also no cancer, pain, loneliness, or suffering.
But until that day comes, this is the world we live in. And when times get hard, we pray hard, and we try to help people heal, and we also hope that they’ll embrace the only One who can make all things right. —Chuck