I rarely write about healing. It’s probably because I have a logical mind and I gravitate to logically consistent things. Miracles, especially physical healings, aren’t logically consistent. There is no formula because miracles belong firmly in God’s domain, not ours, He decides when, who, where and how. I am aware of the promises in the Bible and my favourite is “…by His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. I know that promise isn’t limited to physical healing but it does include physical healing. However, the fact remains that some Christians don’t experience physical healing despite praying for it.
Philip Yancey in his bestseller, Where is God when it hurts, discusses this conundrum in-depth as he explores the lives of Joni Eareckson Tada and Brian Sternberg. It’s an excellent read. I also remember watching a family friend die of terminal cancer. She had beaten cancer 7 years earlier but it came back much more aggressively. She was one of the sweetest Christians you could ever meet. Almost 5 years on, her smile is still etched in my memory. She prayed, her family prayed and the church community prayed. We believed that God could heal her and many expected Him to heal her until the day she died. She was a wonderful wife and mother, and she played a crucial role in the community. We needed her around, couldn’t God see that?
You probably have your experience of unanswered prayer. If you haven’t, don’t be surprised if it happens. My experiences have left scars. If I were to sum up my position, it would be this: “I know God loves me and I know God has promised me healing. I also know that God has the power to heal but I do not know if He will intervene when I ask Him to in the way I want Him to”. Today, I am learning to trust more in who God is and not lean on my understanding [Proverbs 3:5-6]. My relationship is with God, not His promises.
Last summer, I had an interesting experience. I suffered from hayfever, an allergic reaction to pollen. It usually caused itchy eyes, incessant sneezing and a runny nose. It was such a nuisance because it affected my sleep and any outdoor activities. Curiously, I’d had it for years but I had never asked God to heal me of it. However, last summer, my 6-year-old began to suffer from hayfever symptoms. I took him to a playgroup one Saturday morning and we had to leave early because his hayfever was preventing him from participating in the activities. When we got home, my wife was moved to pray a prayer of healing for both of us. Afterwards, she anointed us and then told my son that Jesus has healed him and daddy of hayfever. Both of us got on with our day largely untroubled by hayfever which was unusual for me in the summer.
The following day, as we drove back from church, my wife asked my son if he was experiencing any of the symptoms from the previous day. He said he “kind of” experienced some symptoms. My wife insisted that he had been healed and he should ignore the symptoms. She did the right thing but I found myself disbelieving. I knew this was my problem because Jesus has the power to heal. My wife had the faith to believe it and my son’s faith knew no different. So, I found myself praying for the faith to believe that God had healed us both, especially my son.
Amazingly, my son hasn’t complained about hayfever since that weekend. I went through the rest of that summer without needing hayfever medication. Every time I experienced the symptoms, I would pray: “by His stripes, I am healed” and the symptoms would eventually disappear. By the end of the summer, I had forgotten that I suffered from hayfever. A year on, I started experiencing symptoms again and recalling what happened last summer. I have resisted the urge to use medication. My son is fine but I find myself reflecting on my faith in comparison to his own, he seems to have no issues with unbelief.
It appears I have allowed my experiences with unanswered prayers to create some doubt in my mind. I suspect I’m not alone. Since there is no logical consistency to how God heals, we try to rationalise our reasons for not believing He will intervene in our current situation. Sometimes, we see our circumstance as too big for God to redeem, so we don’t pray with hopeful expectation. At other times, we think our circumstance is too small for God, so we don’t bother asking Him to intervene. Yet, the truth is all our circumstances, whether we think they are big or small are tiny before an all-powerful, sovereign God. His love for us means that He cares about every single detail of our lives. He wants to be involved even in those minor details because it’s experiencing Him in trivial situations that will give us the confidence to trust Him in overwhelming situations. Consequently, I pray that my son’s experience of being healed from hayfever is etched in his mind.
In the gospel of Mark, a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus for healing. After explaining his son’s plight, He says to Jesus, “if you can do anything…help us”. “If you can?” Jesus responds, and then He adds “everything is possible for the one who believes”. This remains the case for us irrespective of how hopeless the situation is. If like me you struggle with unbelief, remember that faith is a gift from God, not something we generate ourselves. Let’s embrace this father’s response to Jesus and pray with him: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24 NIV].