Does Going To The Doctor Show A Lack Of Faith?

There are some Christians who think that if you go to see a doctor when you’re sick, that  you have a lack of faith in God, that you don’t trust God to heal you. A person who truly has faith in God, they will argue, will pray to God to heal them and He will if it’s His desire for you to be healed. Are they right? No, I don’t think so.

There was once a guy who was in the midst of a terrible flood. The water rose higher and higher until he was forced to climb on top of the roof of his house. But the water kept on rising. The man prayed for God to save him from drowning. A man in a boat came by and said to the man "Climb in the boat! I'll get you to safety!" but the man on the roof said "No, I trust in God. He will save me." so the man in the boat rowed away. Then another man in a different boat came along and said "Get in my boat! I'll save you!" but the man on the roof said "No, God will save me." so the man in the boat rowed away just like the man in the previous boat. Then a helicopter came by and a man dropped a ladder down from the helicopter. He said "Climb up the ladder! I'll get you to safety!" but the man told the man in the rescue helicopter "No. My faith in God is strong. I asked Him to save me, and He will."

The waters rose higher and higher....and the man drowned. Then he was standing before God. He was very angry with God. He asked Him "I begged you to save me! I trusted in You! Why didn't You rescue me like I asked?" and God responded "I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What more did you want?"

The moral of the story is that God doesn't always answer our prayers in the way we think He will or expect Him to. God doesn't always snap His fingers to make things better. Sometimes He works through means. In the case of the man's rescue from the flood, God attempted to answer His prayer by sending two boats and a helicopter to get him to safety. I think the man in the story's reasoning was that God would just miraculously transport him to some other location where he'd be safe. But that's not how God chose to answer his prayers.

So when we're sick , we should definitely pray for God to fix it, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to fix it too. God's way of answering our prayer may be to work through the hands of a trained medical professional, or a surgeon, or through medicine you pick up at a pharmacy. Going a doctor shows wisdom, not a lack of faith. God may heal you by guiding your doctor to the correct diagnosis, and the correct medicine to treat your illness.

As St. Augustine once put it "Pray as if everything depends upon God. Act as if everything depends upon you."

This post is really directed towards my Christian readers, but as I write this, it occurs to me that a non-Christian reading this might wonder why God doesn’t always heal people, or why He allows some people to die from horrible diseases and doesn’t answer people’s prayers to heal them (either through medicine or a miracle). Or why miracles happened so much in The Bible, but not much anymore. For the first question, I would refer you to an article I wrote earlier titled “The Problem Of Evil and Suffering (revisited)” and then perhaps “Why Doesn’t God Reveal The Reasons Why He Permits Suffering”.

To answer the latter question, I would say a few things. First, it is a wide misconception that “miracles happened all the time in biblical times, but they don’t anymore”. The fact of the matter is; miracles didn’t happen that much in biblical times either. Say what!? Yeah. The vast majority of the miracles recorded in The Bible were bunched up around the lives of a few individuals; Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and The Apostles. But throughout much of the Old Testament we only see divine providence rather than divine miracles (i.e God intervening and working in history, but not performing any acts that are inexplicable by the laws of nature). There are reasons for this. Number 1, God’s purpose in performing miracles, and number 2, the ability of miracles to stand out.

Number 1; God’s purposes for performing miracles is to affirm a message from a messenger claiming to be sent by Him. Whenever someone claimed to be a prophet from God, his claim was vindicated in two ways. The first way was whether his prophesies came true. The second way was through miraculous acts. People had good evidence that these people were telling the truth through both of these means (yes, God doesn’t expect to have blind faith). God validated the content of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Jesus through these acts surrounding their ministries. Since the canon of scripture is closed and since God has no new revelation to give us, there are therefore no (true) prophets stepping forth the messages of which need to be validated by such law defying evidence.

Number 2; our ability to recognize miracles. If miracles happened all the time, they would cease to get our attention. One of the ways we recognize a miracle is that it contradicts how the universe normally functions. The universe functions in a relatively uniform way. The laws of nature create regularities. The sun rises, the sun sets, the sun rises, the sun sets, the planets circle the sun, gravity causes objects in mid-air to not remain there for long, but plummet to the ground, dead people stay dead, and so on. Whenever a miracle occurs, if they ever occur, they would be very easy to recognize precisely because they rarely happen.

So I don’t believe God performs miracles very often today so that if and when He wants to perform one, it’ll catch our attention. We’ll know “This is not how nature works. Nature doesn’t make things like this happen.” And we’ll know “God has done this”. But also, no new prophet needs his message confirmed by such awesome events. If you want to go further on this, I’d suggest you check out Frank Turek’s and Norman Geisler’s book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist”. In Chapter 8, they deal with the topic of miracles.

It should be said that I don’t think God cannot or has not performed any miracles in the last 2,000 years. It’s just that He doesn’t do them as frequently anymore, and these are the reasons why.