Spirit of Infirmity

Gospel Message & Recording

We are now in the fifth week of the Great and Holy Lent. The Holy Church ascribes the Gospel of Luke 13: 10-17. Here we see that a woman who had a “spirit of infirmity” for eighteen years, that is, was bent over and could not walk straight, was brought to the synagogue where Jesus was teaching. When Jesus saw her, He told her that she was “loosed from her infirmity.” Immediately following, He laid His hands on her body and was made straight. What is interesting here is that there is no request made to Jesus by the woman (at least we are not made aware of it by the Gospel writer). He sees her in her condition and has compassion on her.

On the outset, for the sake of this write-up, we should be clear that infirmity, sickness, ailment are synonymous. In addition, spirit, the demonic, demons, Satan, evil are synonymous.

The narrative says she had a “spirit of infirmity.” “Spirit” is referred to in the Bible as having a “personality” which can think and understand and even have feelings (1 Timothy 4:1, James 2:19). Here, the spirit that is referred to is one that is attached to the woman causing her body ailment. (The question as to whether it is inside her or attached outside of her—the evidence is inconclusive.) What is conclusive is that the spirit is causing her ailment.

The Fathers of the Orthodox Church are clear in their teaching that we should never focus on demons (or the devil) in any way; but rather, focus on Christ. Satan and the demonic spirits have been defeated (Isaiah 14:12-15, 2 Peter 2:4). However, they have been given permission to tempt and cause harm. Evidence of this is when the Satan tempted Jesus (Luke 4:2). Whatever the case may be a Christian should never become overly interested or concerned with demons or spirits. Such curiosity may cause spiritual harm. When we have Christ in our life He overcomes all things.

That said, focusing on Christ does not mean disregarding the existence of demonic activity. The more we are closer to Christ the greater our sensitivity toward sin—and areas of life that can possibly be influenced by demons. The woman with a spirit of infirmity finds herself in such a position. Her body was somehow being influenced or controlled by a spirit.

For us Christians, sickness either can be a stronghold that is laid upon us by a demonic spirit (as in the Gospel narrative herewith) or it can be for the glory of God (as the blind man in Luke Ch. 9).

First, whenever a Christian becomes ill/sick or suffers with a disease, they should come to the understanding that all things, even illness or disease, are for the glory of God. Secondly, an awareness of our fallen-sinful condition should become apparent. Sickness is a result of sin existing in the world from the fall of Adam. The reality is we all have to die and the most common form of death is by sickness/disease. Thirdly, we should understand that there is a possibility that our sickness may be a result of our own sin, that is, sin that we commit in thought, word or deed. Such sin(s) either committed personally or toward others, can result in a “spirit of infirmity.” Therefore, as a general rule, an Orthodox Christian, if sick or having disease, should recite Psalm 51 and ask God for forgiveness of all sins, private or against others. Additionally, we can take the sacrament of Confession. Overall, throughout the whole process of sickness (whatever the duration may be) we are to get closer to God.

Sickness also provides a different perspective on life. In other words, it allows us to see the world differently. We cherish the moments we have with our families. The little things become more meaningful. What once frustrated us, now is “not a big deal.” We, through the process, realize that life is not about materialistic gain but about God, family, love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. In the end, we end-up become a “bit nicer,” kinder, and giving, because life is too short to live frustrated, angry, hateful, and vengeful. Today take a deep breath and thank God that you are alive. Praise God for the blessings in your life.