Psalm 107:17-22 (NRSV) Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
We live in a relatively libertine society—by that, I mean we are far less interested in forcibly repressing people’s behaviors than most societies have been throughout history. That’s generally a good thing, as people tend to develop disdain for heavy-handed institutions, be they secular or religious.
As we value our freedom, however, we Christians can sometimes forget to deliver a basic warning found in Scripture. Freely chosen sins can do a lot of damage to our bodies and our souls, hustling us along toward death.
I’m not saying that all sickness is a direct result of sin. Jesus made that clear enough in John 9, where we find the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. The disciples, caught up in the fallacy that all infirmities had a direct tie to sin, asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
There’s no doubt, however, that many sins are capable of dissipating us, leaving us less than what we should be as God’s creation. And we should always remember that what we might perceive as the smallest sin separates us from God, putting us in need of Jesus Christ as Savior.
There is physical illness tied to sexual sin, of course, diseases we cannot get as long as both husband and wife remain faithful in marriage. There also are the heightened physical risks we face when sins like pride, greed, wrath, envy, gluttony and sloth lead us to encounters where injury becomes likely.
When I read this portion of Psalm 107, I also get a deep sense that the psalmist is thinking of turmoil within the soul that may manifest itself as mental illness, as well as physical. We are broken in ways that allow us to sin, but made in God’s image, we were not designed for sin. The internal overpressure has to manifest itself in some way.
As we see further along in the psalm, there is a way out, a path back to wholeness and wellness. God wants that for us. God made that possible through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.
Belief brings healing.
Lord, we pray specifically today for those among us who suffer mental or physical illness because of sin. We petition our risen savior to grant healing wherever it is needed. Where bodies cannot be fixed, may the souls within find full repair through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen.