Psalm 38 – Sin and Sickness

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Does God punish people with sickness for their sinful behavior? This Psalm seems to answer “yes” to that question.

The Book of Job presents a different point of view on the question of sin and sickness. First, we will consider the Psalm and then address the issue from Job’s perspective.

Punishment for Sin

The Psalm begins with an appeal for mercy in the face of sin and sickness.

O Lord, don’t punish me in your anger!
You have wounded me with your arrows;
you have struck me down.
Because of your anger, I am in great pain;
my whole body is diseased because of my sins.
I am drowning in the flood of my sins;
they are a burden too heavy to bear.
(Psalm 38.1-4)

In what way is there a connection between sin and sickness?

If we disregard God’s laws, we run the risk of ruin. For example, if we ignore the law of gravity and jump from a tall ladder, we are apt to break bones or worse.

If we abuse drugs, alcohol, food, sleep, and exercise, we place ourselves at risk. The old spiritual that says, “Ain’t nobody’s fault but mine,” describes our situation.

Paul sums up this reality well when he writes, “Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. You will reap exactly what you plant” (Galatians 6.7).

A Plea for Mercy

Interwoven between the lines of this Psalm are pleas for mercy.

O Lord, you know what I long for;
you hear all my groans.
(Psalm 37.9)

We should never presume on God’s mercy. However, God’s mercy is a part of his character, just the same.

Four friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. They had to dig a hole in the roof of a home to get the man into Jesus’ presence.

Jesus knew the man’s problem and said, “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2.5). Jesus knew the man’s illness was a result of sin and touched the root cause of his problems.

Praise God that he knows our longing and our groaning, even when we are sinners. When we come to him, it opens the door for him to tell us we are forgiven and to say “Get up and walk” (Mark 2.9).

One of my greatest joys is to see God heal people, even though their illness is a direct result of their sin. His love is absolutely magnificent.


We are living in an unprecedented time when people are dying in ICU wards completely isolated from family and friends because of the corona virus. Many people around the world can identify with the words of the speaker.

My heart is pounding, my strength is gone,
and my eyes have lost their brightness.
My friends and neighbors will not come near me,
because of my sores;
even my family keeps away from me.
(Psalm 38.10-11)

Words are totally inadequate to describe the pain of corona virus that is compounded by isolation from the support of family and friends.

Job knew the agony of illness, plus the pain of the loss of friends. In fact, his friends used the belief that his sin had caused the misfortune that had come upon him to accuse him.

Job cried out to God about his own innocence. Over and over, he asked God, “Why is this happening to me?” God didn’t answer the “why” question, but he did give Job his presence – and that was enough to bring him peace.

God also told Job’s friends that they were wrong. Job’s suffering and illness was not a result of his sins. As we read this Psalm, let’s keep Job’s story in mind. It will help us consider our own situation.

A Relationship of Trust

Often, the designation “Lord” in the Old Testament means more than “Sir” or “Master.” “Lord,” in our English translations it describes the covenant relationship that people have with God.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
and you, O Lord my God, will answer me.
Don’t let my enemies gloat over my distress;
don’t let them boast about my downfall!
(Psalm 38.15-16)

Even when we are suffering from our sin, God is so gracious that we can rely on our personal relationship with him.

Don’t get me wrong. We can’t rely on a false belief that says, “God and I have a deal. He likes to forgive and I like to sin.” That won’t work.

However, when we come to God in genuine repentance, he is ready to meet us as our Father in heaven. The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 describes a son who suffered greatly, repented, and returned home. He was met by a loving father. That is the story of God’s abundant love for his people

Desperate Prayer

There are times, when the only way God can get our attention is through pain and difficult circumstances. Confession and prayer for helps bring God’s mercy.

I am about to fall
and am in constant pain.
I confess my sins;
they fill me with anxiety.
Do not abandon me, O Lord;
do not stay away, my God!
Help me now, O Lord my savior!
(Psalm 38.17-18, 21-22)

Our sin is a deliberate separation of our lives from God. When the results of our sin produces illness and pain, God becomes the only One to help.

Whereas, at one time we didn’t want God in our lives, pain drives us back to God. Praise God that he comes to us with help and deliverance.

Confession of sin is the key to re-opening the gateway to God’s presence and healing.

The words of James are important as we consider the role of confession, prayer and healing. He wrote, “Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord.”

“This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven.

“So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect” (James 5.14-16).

May We Pray for You?

If you have a prayer request, please email me at or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the prayer team at Maywood Baptist to pray, too.

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