In addition to the spiritual principles given in His Word (see parts one, two, three, four), God has also provided medical aids we can use to seek healing. Doctors and medicines can often help us determine the physical cause of our suffering, remedy various problems, and help alleviate some of the symptoms.
Even when we cannot discern the spiritual purpose for our illness, these medical means can often help us find a physical cause for whatever we are suffering — and thus provide a way of relief from that suffering.
And as long as we seek our Creator’s help first, we can certainly take advantage of other legitimate aids that He has provided through His marvelous creation! Let’s take a look at the Scriptural basis for this…
Physicians are a Gift.
During His earthly ministry, Christ spoke of mankind’s need for physicians. Our benevolent Father has provided us with those physicians, and given them necessary skills to help us. He expects us to take advantage of their wisdom, knowledge, and ability. In fact, their expertise provides a very practical means of physical improvement!
We find examples throughout all four Gospels of men and women who visited doctors in search of healing (Mark 5:26). They were not condemned for such a practice. Even Luke, the author of one of the Gospels and the book of Acts, was a doctor — Paul called him the beloved physician. Surely, if doctors were not to be sought after, these examples would not have been included in our New Testament.
Medicine is a Gift.
We have also been given the gift of medicine! Consider the creation of herbs and fruits in the first chapter of Genesis: these plants are used not only for daily nourishment, but also for their medicinal properties. God called His creation of these things good, essentially advocating our use of them.
He also includes examples throughout His Word of using medicine to attain healing. In 2 Kings 20, we read that King Hezekiah was sick unto death due to a malignant disease. When he begged God for healing, he not only recovered from his illness, but even gained fifteen additional years of life. God chose to heal him through the use of medicine: “And Isaiah said, Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.” He recovered as a result of both prayer and medicine.
Moving to the Gospels, Luke 10 shares the parable of the good Samaritan. As he was traveling one day, he discovered a man who had been beaten, stripped, and left for dead by the side of the road. Although the main point of this parable was how to love our neighbors, Christ also advocated the use of medicine for physical ailments. As we know, the Samaritan traveler chose to care for the wounded man: “he had compassion. He went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.” Oil eased the pain and wine cleansed the wound. If we were not to use such aids available to us, surely He would not have included their use within His parable.
Continuing on to the epistles, we read Paul’s instruction for Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” The question of drinking wine aside, we once again find encouragement for the use of medicine as a remedy for physical ailments.
The book of Revelation even suggests that medicine is useful in the New Jerusalem, the final dwelling place of all the saints. John’s heavenly vision describes the Holy City, including the tree of life “with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (see also Ezekiel 47:12). While there won’t be any sickness or pain present there, we will still somehow make use of this physical means of health and well-being.
These Gifts Must Be Used as Intended by Their Creator.
First, refusing to use doctors and medicine may selfishly challenge God.
Consider Luke’s account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. Each time Satan proposed a temptation, Christ responded with Scripture. His final response was a command, quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16: “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.‘”
How does this apply to the rejection of medicinal help in time of illness?
As one theologian explains: “to expose myself to any danger naturally destructive, with the vain presumption that God will protect and defend me from the ruinous consequences of my imprudent conduct, is to tempt God.”* The Geneva Bible’s notes on Deuteronomy 6:16 further illustrate the action of tempting God as “doubting his power, refusing lawful means, and abusing his graces.”
In other words, rejecting the help God has provided for us is foolish and sinful. He has given us common sense and He expects us to use it! He has provided us with various forms of medical care, expecting us to seek it out in times of physical need. To do otherwise is to reject His gifts, doubt His goodness and provision, and unnecessarily challenge His character and His Word.
Second, God’s help must be sought alongside medical care.
Scripture is very clear: we are not condemned either for suffering physically or for using available medical help. However, neglecting to seek God’s divine care during those times is a blatant rejection of Him.
We find this illustrated in 2 Chronicles 16, when King Asa was suffering from a condition similar to gout. It began in his feet and traveled throughout his body, intensifying and worsening. Yet, he chose to seek only the help of his physicians: “his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.”
King Asa’s decision to seek medical care is not censured! Rather, it was the manner in which he sought the care — refusing to seek God’s help before and alongside the physician’s abilities. The consequence of this refusal was “Asa slept with his fathers.” His sole focus upon the human ability of his physicians, his neglect and rejection of the divine ability of his Creator, led to his death.
Of course, fulfilling a set of criterion does not automatically guarantee physical healing. Praying, exercising faith, seeking doctors, and using medicine do not compose a magic formula to make illness disappear.
God is the One who chooses whether and how to heal our diseases. He is the One who chooses what means to use, how long it will take, or whether He would be more glorified through our continued afflictions. He alone can choose to use medicine to provide healing.
Any healing that comes from medical means
ultimately comes from the hand of God.
Question: How do we need to adjust our thinking about God’s gift of medicine? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Note: this post has been adapted from my book, Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering. Want to learn more? Visit the website to learn more about the book, download the free study guide, and find related reading recommendations. Or buy your own copy of the book here!
* Adam Clarke, The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, note on Matthew 4:7.