Sick, Sinful, or Both?

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Are we sick, sinful, or both when we hurt? Medical researchers have recently expressed the opinion, that destructive emotions are caused by a chemical imbalance in the body. But I ask the question, is it possible that a chemical imbalance in the body could have been caused by destructive emotions? It seems obvious to me that since sin is so easily cleansed, the presence of sin should be explored first.

A pastor questioned me about this issue. Someone in his congregation had suffered from severe anxiety attacks. His physician prescribed a drug that corrected the problem. After three years of treatment, it was clear that the patient was fine as long as he took his pills. Was I implying that the cause of these attacks was sin? (I had used the term “destructive emotions.”) I asked him, “Shouldn’t everyone be open to the possibility of sin in their lives?”

Later that day I was chatting with several people. A man interrupted our conversation. He wanted to talk to me immediately. He seemed disturbed, and paced the floor while he waited. When we were finally able to talk, he wanted to know if I thought that anxiety was caused by sin. I replied that we can be both sick and sinful at the same time. I told him that if he cared to make an appointment, I would be pleased to talk with him more. We set a time and he left in a huff. When we met again I reviewed his reason for wanting to see me. He said he was on medication for stress and that it solved his problem. I then asked why he wanted to see me. He seemed abrupt and annoyed, and then it dawned on me. This is the man that the pastor asked about the one who had been under treatment for three years.

I asked if he wanted to explore his spiritual life. Yes, he did.

I asked if there were any tensions in his marriage, family, church, or at his children’s school. His answer each time was a testy no almost before I finished the question. I remarked that he couldn’t possibly have given any thought to my questions. He admitted that was true, so I chided him for brushing off my questions. He left, again in a huff.

The next time we met, he seemed lighthearted and radiant. He decided I had been right. He had been nursing some nasty grudges in his heart, but now he had given them up. His wife wondered what happened; she hadn’t seen him so cheerful in a long time. Clearly, his response to the people he held grudges against-bitterness, resentfulness, anger-was sinful, and repentance brought immediate relief. Whether or not he was also sick was a matter for his physician to determine.

You may be thinking that to explore the possibility of sinfulness is a harsh approach. If so, be assured that most people I talk with think the same as you do. Let me simply remind you that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and that if your problems are linked to sin, you are just a prayer of repentance away from wholeness and restoration. Is it not heartless cruelty to treat people for sickness if they are only sinful? When a Christian is suffering bodily affliction, exploring the possibility of sinfulness should have priority.

Kerry L. Skinner

* This article is taken from our book: Breaking Free from the Bondage of Sin published in 1994.