“Jehovah will sustain him on his sickbed.”
SONGS: 23, 138
1, 2. What may we at times wonder, and what examples in the Bible come to mind?
HAVE you ever wondered: ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’ Or you may have wondered if a beloved family member or friend will recover from an illness. It is a normal concern when someone faces serious health problems. Similar concern was expressed by two kings in the days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. King Ahaziah, son of Ahab and Jezebel, had a bad fall, so he asked: ‘Will I recover from this injury?’ Later, King Ben-hadad of Syria was very ill, and he asked: “Will I recover from this sickness?”
2 We hope, of course, that there will be a good outcome for us and for those whom we care about. Still, many have wondered what God will do to help. During the lives of those kings, God occasionally performed miracles involving the life and health of humans. By means of his prophets, Jehovah even performed resurrections. (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:17-20, 32-35) Is there reason to expect that he might do something similar in our time?
3-5. What power do God and Jesus have, leading to what questions?
3 There is no doubt that God has the power to affect someone’s health. The Bible confirms that. At times, he punished individuals with sickness, such as the Pharaoh in Abraham’s day and later Moses’ sister, Miriam. (Gen. 12:17; Num. 12:9, 10; 2 Sam. 24:15) God warned that if the Israelites proved unfaithful, he would afflict them with “every sickness or plague.” (Deut. 28:58-61) On the other hand, Jehovah could remove diseases or prevent sickness. (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 7:15) Also, he could heal people. After Job had been so sick that he longed to die, God healed him!
4 Yes, God definitely has the power to intervene and heal a sick person. It is similar with his Son. We read that Jesus miraculously cured lepers, epileptics, and blind or paralyzed ones. (Read Matthew 4:23, 24; John 9:1-7) How strengthening it is to think that the healings Jesus performed are a foregleam of what he will do on a grand scale in the new world. Then “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”
5 But should we look to God or Jesus for a miraculous cure now? How should we view grave illnesses or infirmities, and what should we do about them?
SUSTAINED ON A SICKBED
6. What do we know about the “gifts of healing” that some early Christians had?
6 We know from the Bible that in the first century, God enabled some anointed Christians to work miracles. (Acts 3:2-7; 9:36-42) Among the “different gifts” of the spirit were “gifts of healing.” (1 Cor. 12:4-11) But those and other gifts, such as speaking in tongues and prophesying, would soon come to an end. (1 Cor. 13:8) They are not available today. Thus, we have no basis for expecting God to perform miraculous healings for us or our loved ones.
7. Psalm 41:3 provides what encouraging assurance?
7 Still, if we are ill, we can look to God for comfort, wisdom, and support, as did true worshippers in the past. King David wrote: “Happy is anyone who shows consideration to the lowly one; Jehovah will rescue him in the day of calamity. Jehovah will guard him and keep him alive.” (Ps. 41:1, 2) We know that an individual living in David’s day who showed consideration to a lowly one did not keep living without end. Hence, David could not have meant that such a considerate individual would be kept alive miraculously, thus gaining everlasting life. We can take those inspired words to mean that God would help the loyal considerate one. How? David explained: “Jehovah will sustain him on his sickbed; during his sickness you will completely change his bed.” (Ps. 41:3) Yes, an individual who showed consideration to a lowly one could be certain that God was aware of him and his faithful course. And the recuperative power of his God-given body might help him to get better, to recover from his sickness.
8. According to Psalm 41:4, what did David seek from Jehovah?
8 David spoke from experience: “I said: ‘O Jehovah, show me favor. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.’” (Ps. 41:4) He may have written that regarding the time when Absalom tried to usurp the throne while David was ill and unable to handle the situation. Despite having received God’s forgiveness, David did not forget his own sin with Bath-sheba and its consequences. (2 Sam. 12:7-14) Still, the king was sure that God would sustain him on his sickbed. But was David asking for a miraculous healing and an extension of life?
9. (a) How did David’s case differ from that of King Hezekiah? (b) What could David expect from Jehovah?
9 Years later, God chose to heal King Hezekiah, who “became sick and was at the point of death.” In that unusual case, God intervened. Hezekiah recovered and lived on for 15 years. (2 Ki. 20:1-6) David, on the other hand, did not pray for God to heal him miraculously. The context suggests that David asked Jehovah to help him in the same way that He would help an individual who showed consideration to a lowly one. That included being sustained “on his sickbed.” Because David’s sin had been forgiven, he could ask that God would comfort and support him and that the physical resources of his body might enable him to recover. (Ps. 103:3) We can do likewise.
10. What can we conclude from the experiences of Trophimus and Epaphroditus?
10 Just as David did not receive a miraculous cure and a greatly extended life, neither did Trophimus, one of the apostle Paul’s coworkers. We know that Paul was on occasion empowered to heal the sick. (Read Acts 14:8-10.) He did so for “the father of Publius [who] was lying in bed sick with fever and dysentery.” Paul “prayed, laid his hands on him, and healed him.” (Acts 28:8) Yet, Paul did not do the same for Trophimus, who had traveled with him on a missionary journey. (Acts 20:3-5, 22; 21:29) When Trophimus fell ill and could not continue on with Paul, the apostle did not heal him; he left him at Miletus to recover. (2 Tim. 4:20) Similarly, when Epaphroditus fell “sick nearly to the point of death,” there is no indication that Paul used some miraculous power to heal his good friend.
TAKE REASONABLE STEPS
11, 12. Why was Luke able to be of genuine help to Paul, and what can we say about Luke’s qualifications?
11 “Luke, the beloved physician,” writer of the book of Acts, also traveled with Paul. (Col. 4:14; Acts 16:10-12; 20:5, 6) It is reasonable to believe that Luke gave Paul medical advice and rendered medical services to him and to others in his missionary group. Why would Luke need to do that? Because even Paul got sick while traveling. (Gal. 4:13) Luke could provide medical help that was in line with what Jesus had said: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”
12 The Bible does not indicate where or when Luke received his medical training. It has been suggested that Paul mentioned to Christians in Colossae the role of Luke as a physician because they knew him. Interestingly, there was a medical school in nearby Laodicea. In any event, Luke was not some untrained layman spouting health recommendations; he was a physician. That is evident both from the specific medical language that Luke used in his Gospel and in the book of Acts and from the way he focused on Jesus’ healings of others.
13. What balanced view of health recommendations is advisable?
13 We do not live at a time when a fellow Christian can use “gifts of healing” to cure us. But some well-intentioned brothers give unsolicited health recommendations. Granted, someone might simply offer general, practical suggestions. Paul did so when Timothy was experiencing stomach problems, perhaps because the local water was polluted. * (Read 1 Timothy 5:23.) That, however, is quite different from trying to persuade a fellow Witness to use some herb, remedy, or diet that may not be effective or in some cases may even be harmful. At times, some have tried to persuade others with an explanation: ‘My relative had a similar disease, and he took . . . Then he got well.’ No matter how sincere the suggestion, we do well to keep in mind that there may be risks even with widely used medications and treatments.
THE WISDOM OF CAUTION
14, 15. (a) Some people view the sickness of others as an opportunity to do what? (b) How is Proverbs 14:15 helpful when it comes to health recommendations?
14 We Christians have a normal desire to be healthy so that we can enjoy life and share fully in God’s service. Nonetheless, we have inherited imperfection, as shown by our being subject to illnesses. When we get sick, there might be various approaches or treatments. Each person has the right to choose which to accept or employ. Sadly, in this greedy world, there are those who seize on people’s illness as an opportunity to make money. Some sell “treatments” or “cures” backed with false claims or supposed testimonials. Other individuals or companies stress the use of products that are high-priced in order to make large profits. To a sick person who desperately seeks relief or a way to stay alive longer, these “cures” may seem appealing. Let us not forget, however, that God’s Word advises us: “The naive person believes every word, but the shrewd one ponders each step.”
15 “The shrewd one” will be particularly cautious if the “word,” or recommendation, comes from someone whose qualifications are questionable. “The shrewd one” might reason: ‘He says that this vitamin, herb, or diet supposedly helped someone, but are there adequate witnesses to establish the matter? People differ. Is there valid reason to trust that it will help me? Should I do more research or even consult with some who are known to be trained or qualified in this field?’
16. Considering what questions could help us to demonstrate “soundness of mind” regarding health recommendations?
16 God’s Word admonishes us “to live with soundness of mind . . . amid this present system of things.” (Titus 2:12) Having “soundness of mind,” or being sober-minded, should certainly come into play when the explanation of a diagnostic method or therapy seems strange or mysterious. Can the practitioner or the one promoting it explain satisfactorily how it works? Is it in accord with known facts, and do numerous qualified people view it as credible? (Prov. 22:29) Or is the main appeal to the emotions? Perhaps the claim is that it was discovered or used in a distant or remote place, as if hidden from modern research. Does such a claim prove anything or even seem reasonable? Some diagnostic devices or forms of treatment are described as using a ‘secret substance’ or ‘body force.’ That warrants serious caution because God warned against “the use of magical power” and spirit mediums.
“GOOD HEALTH TO YOU!”
17. We should have what reasonable desire?
17 The first-century governing body sent an important letter to the congregations. After listing things that Christians must avoid, the letter concluded: “If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:29) The final words, a type of complimentary close, can also be rendered “be strong.” We definitely want to prosper in “good health” and be strong as we serve our great God.
18, 19. What can we look forward to in the new world?
18 As long as the present system of things remains and we are imperfect, sickness is a fact that we must face. We cannot expect now to be cured miraculously. However, Revelation 22:1, 2 points to the time when we will be healed completely. The apostle John saw in vision “a river of water of life” and “trees of life” with leaves “for the healing of the nations.” This does not refer to any herbal remedy now or in the future. Rather, it points to Jehovah’s provision through Jesus for giving everlasting life to obedient mankind
19 As we await that glorious future, we know that Jehovah is interested in each of us personally, even when we are ill. We can be confident, just as David was, that our God will sustain us during any time of sickness. And with David we can say: “As for me, you uphold me because of my integrity; you will keep me in your presence forever.”
^ par. 13 The book The Origins and Ancient History of Wine reports: “It has been shown experimentally that living typhoid and other dangerous microbes rapidly die when mixed with wine.”