Why are unbelievers often easily healed, while Christians are not healed so easily? Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, explains this phenomenon in his book “Messages for Building Up New Believers, Volume 2”:
It is interesting to note that unbelievers often are easily healed, while Christians are not healed so easily. The New Testament shows that when unbelievers went to the Lord, they were healed immediately. The Bible also speaks of the gift of healing. Both believers and unbelievers can be healed through the gift of healing. However, the Bible also shows that some Christians were never healed. Trophimus was one, Timothy was another, and Paul was a third. These three were the best brothers in the New Testament. Paul kept Trophimus in Miletus because he was sick and nothing could be done (2 Tim. 4:20). Paul advised the sick Timothy to take some wine because his stomach was not clean; Timothy was not healed. Even Paul himself suffered and was weak because of an eye disease or some other malady. This is why he said that there was a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). A thorn always irritates people. Even though a thorn is very small, it is very uncomfortable when lodged in the flesh. Even when it is lodged in the little finger, it can be very painful. Paul’s thorn was not a small one but a big one. This thorn caused discomfort to his whole body. In verse 9 he used the term weakness, which tells us how much he suffered! These three persons were the best brothers, yet they were never healed. Instead, they bore their illnesses.
Illnesses are different from sins. Sins cannot yield the fruit of sanctification, whereas illnesses can yield the fruit of sanctification. It is wrong to lump illnesses together with sins. There are some similarities between the two, but there are also many dissimilarities. The more a man sins, the filthier he becomes. But a man does not become filthier by becoming sick. In fact, he can become holy through his sickness, because God’s disciplining hand is with his sickness. Sickness can result in discipline. When God’s children are sick, they have to learn to submit to God’s mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6).