You sit in the doctor’s office, nervous and uncertain. She recommends a treatment, medication, or procedure to address your medical condition. However, you hesitate. As a Christian, you want to make a decision aligned with your faith and God’s will. What guidance does the Bible offer about refusing medical treatment?
This question requires wisdom and discernment. The Bible does not directly address many modern health care options. However, its principles apply to medical decisions today. As you seek God’s direction for your health, consider what Scripture says about life’s value, trusting God, serving others, and more.
- Human life has intrinsic value because we bear God’s image. However, earthly life is not ultimate – eternal life matters most.
- Pray for wisdom and discernment. Seek godly counsel. Consider factors like treatment efficacy, quality of life impacts, and stewarding resources.
- God can miraculously heal. But also utilize medical means. Scripture affirms medicine’s proper place.
- Refusing treatment could show lack of faith. But so could insisting on every possible treatment. Consider motivations.
- Serving others brings meaning. Even amid illness, seek to minister to others.
- Trust God’s sovereignty. His plans may differ from ours. But He faithfully guides those who seek Him.
The Value of Human Life
Your life matters immensely. Why? Because you bear God’s image. The creation account affirms humans’ special status:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Bearing God’s image distinguishes humans from animals and other creation. It gives human life inherent dignity and significance. You matter because God crafted you to reflect His character and rule over creation.
The Bible affirms the value of human life in many other passages. When discussing murder, Scripture equates killing a person with destroying God’s image (Genesis 9:6). James condemns cursing others because they are “made in the similitude of God” (James 3:9). Because humans uniquely bear the Creator’s image, taking a human life destroys a unique reflection of God’s glory.
Does this mean preserving earthly life at all costs? No – for several reasons. First, theFall marred God’s image in humanity. Second, our present lives are not ultimate. Death awaits all, and eternity follows. As Paul says, “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:42). Your soul will receive an imperishable body at the resurrection.
So while you should steward life wisely, extending your earthly existence is not the highest good. Absent a compelling reason, refusing treatment that could significantly prolong or improve life shows disregard for God’s gift of life. But you need not pursue every speculative treatment option regardless of cost or side effects. Ultimately, your focus should remain on eternal life. As Paul said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Prayer for Wisdom
Seeking medical treatment (or alternatives like prayer and fasting) requires wisdom. As James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). God promises to answer prayers for wisdom generously.
Besides prayer, seek the counsel of mature believers, especially those who have faced major medical decisions themselves. Their insights and experience can supplement your own limited perspective. As the proverb says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Ask your doctors to explain all options thoroughly so you understand possible benefits, side effects, costs, and uncertainties.
When weighing treatment options, consider factors like these:
- Likelihood of benefit – does evidence clearly show this will help?
- Impact on length or quality of life
- Side effects and risks
- Costs – both financial and other burdens on you, your family, and community
- Availability of resources – could another patient benefit more from costly or limited treatments?
- Alignment with your values and priorities
Also examine your motivations. Do fear, lack of faith, desire to control outcomes, or other factors drive your decision? Proceed from faith, not fear.
God’s Promise of Healing
In considering treatment, remember God’s power to heal. Scripture records many miraculous healings. For example:
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)
We regularly pray for God to heal sick people today. Sometimes He does, even in medically unexplainable ways. God still miraculously heals in response to faith and prayer.
At the same time, Scripture affirms medicine’s proper role. Luke, a doctor, traveled with Paul. Paul instructed Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). This medicinal use of wine dates back over 5000 years. Clearly, the Bible does not condemn medicine.
We should pray for supernatural healing. But we need not eschew ordinary medical treatment while awaiting a miracle. Nor does trusting God’s healing power mean refusing all medical care. Rather, good stewardship uses available means for preserving health.
Refusing Treatment and Faith
Some believers refuse medical treatment because they believe it shows greater faith in God’s power. Is this true biblical faith?
On one hand, radical trust displays profound reliance on God’s ability to heal. Scripture affirms this faith. A Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her demon-oppressed daughter. When Jesus tested her faith, she persisted:
“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:27-28)
The woman’s faith that Jesus could heal even from a distance resulted in her daughter’s deliverance. Biblical faith produces results. As James wrote, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Genuine faith manifests through actions. Refusing medical treatment could demonstrate deep faith that God will heal supernaturally.
However, insisting on every possible medical intervention could also show faith. It reveals trust that God works through both natural and supernatural means. Just as God can miraculously provide, He also gave us doctors, medicine, and modern hospitals. Availing ourselves of medical knowledge displays proper stewardship of God’s provision. As Proverbs 18:10 states, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.” For some matters, medicine represents that safe tower.
Consider your motivations. Does refusing treatment reflect faith that God will heal miraculously? Or does fear, pride, avoidance of suffering, or lack of resources drive the decision? Biblical faith acts from confidence in God, not fear of man. Pray for wisdom to discern God’s guidance for your circumstances.
Serving Despite Illness
Even amid illness and facing mortality, you have opportunities to serve God and others. In John 21, Jesus predicted the suffering Peter would eventually face:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. (John 21:18-19)
Despite his own future hardship, Peter’s death would bring glory to God.
Consider how you can serve God and fulfill your purpose despite medical challenges. Stephen ministered powerfully before religious leaders shortly before his death by stoning (Acts 7:1-60). Paul wrote many New Testament letters from prison. At the end of his life, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished his mission despite great suffering.
God’s purposes for you include more than just a lengthier life. He desires to refine your character and use you to minister to others. Though illness and pain restrict you, look for small but significant acts of service. Write notes of encouragement to others facing trials. Let your godly example inspire people around you. Use health struggles to build compassion and deepen prayer life. Even terminal illness can glorify God. Trust that He will accomplish His perfect will even through your suffering.
Trusting God’s Sovereignty
Ultimately, God remains sovereign over your health and life circumstances. His ways and thoughts differ vastly from yours: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). You naturally prefer healing and extended life. But God may choose sickness and suffering to refine you and use you in powerful ways.
When facing difficult medical choices, humbly acknowledge your limited perspective. Pray God will guide your decisions to align with His sovereign plan. Submit your preferences to His lordship. His purposes will prevail regardless of whether you live or die. So God calls you to trust Him unwaveringly. As Proverbs 3:5-6 declares, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Though the future remains uncertain, you can rest in God’s constant presence and promises:
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Despite any suffering, God faithfully walks with you. He will never abandon His beloved, adopted child.
So approach medical decisions with prayer and wisdom. Seek to steward your life well. But ultimately, trust the sovereign God who knows you thoroughly and loves you perfectly. He promises to guide those who acknowledge Him. So whatever path He directs, walk in hope and confidence. Our good Father works all things – even illness and death – for good (Romans 8:28). His purposes cannot fail.