When Healing is Elusive

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Why do we have to deal with suffering? Why aren’t we miraculously healed when we pray for healing? Didn’t Jesus say, “Ask anything in my name and it shall be given you”? So are we not healed due to a lack of faith or the right prayers?

What Jesus did say was: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) He also said “… and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14) 

John later wrote, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (I John 5:14) And therein lies the key – asking in God’s will. But that begs the question… what is God’s will?

My husband, Ed, and I have traveled a long road with his disabilities. We’ve been told to pray and fast for healing, and trust that he will be healed. It sounds so easy, but a cure has not come. We have even been told it was our fault that he has not been healed because we did not pray right. Although I would never want to destroy a prayer of hope, the Bible does not teach that we can manipulate God into doing what we want just by saying the right words or having "enough" faith.

With his long-term illness, disabilities, and pain, my husband and I have wondered what’s wrong with us that healing has passed us by. Intimations by well-meaning friends that healing is simply for the asking has devastating effects, including guilt. While the “well” person can walk away emotionally and physically intact, how do we handle the seemingly raw deal we’ve been dealt? 

Personally, I think it takes a deeper faith to move forward without obvious answers and healing. Maybe there really is a purpose in our suffering. As we read in James, we are to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4). For “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial." (vs.12) Once upon a time I did not understand that concept and reacted poorly to adversity. Yet, even in that, I am not alone. 

Paralyzed from the neck down after a shallow dive soon after graduating from high school, Joni Eareckson Tada initially reacted negatively. She expected answers to prayers for miraculous healing. But healing never came. Disappointed and discouraged, she finally came to terms with accepting her disability. She has seen God work by changing her heart instead, and she praises God for the blessing her ministry has been in transforming the lives of others.

Despite his multitudinous losses of family and personal property, Job did not sin in his quest for answers. Learning of his losses, he worshipped God saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b) He did not blame or curse God. But, in questioning God, and hearing the Almighty’s queries of him, Job acknowledged an understanding of where he fit in the overall scheme of life. . . and that God was in control. And God eventually blessed him even more than before. I am impressed with Job’s humility as he learned to fully trust our loving, all-knowing and powerful God. 

In unbelievable circumstances that I can’t comprehend, others have struggled to regain normalcy after devastating losses, knowing their life will never be the same. I’m sure they wish their life stories were different. But, God knows why life has its rough roads. He knows our story from start to finish. (Psalm 139: 13-16) He hears our cries and pleadings. And, though God seems silent at times, I’m reassured by Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

As God draws us into a closer relationship with Him on a path we don’t like, Ed and I know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b) We understand the redemptive quality which pain and difficulty can bring to our lives. As Philip Yancey put it so well, “We’re concerned with how things turn out; God is more concerned with how we turn out.”  (“The Question That Never Goes Away – Why?”, p.105) 

When there are no answers to pleas for healing, may you, too, feel the Lord’s loving arms gently holding you with a comfort and peace only He can give.  May you feel His strength enable you to finish well the path He’s allowed you to walk. And, may you know His answer will yet be coming in His time…though maybe not until you stand face to face with Him. And may we each be found worthy at the end of our journey.

Attached below is a poem I wrote called "Answers." 

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  Once again we need to make the distinction between healing and cure.  What this couple did NOT get in answer to their prayers was a cure.  That does not prevent them from experiencing healing emotionally and spiritually.  I did not find a cure to my schizophrenia despite people praying for me.  That turned out to be because I could help people more by having the illness and living with the side effects of the meds I have to take to control the symptoms than by being cured of it.  Having this illness moved me to want to learn what it is, what are its symptoms, and how we can best cope with this illness in addition to striving to sensitize those who are healthy, so that they don't add to the burden of those who live with schizophrenia or other psychiatric illnesses.  

Maybe the Lord is waiting for this couple to find a purpose for their lives going forward in the fact that the husband has the particular disease he has.  It might give a new meaning to their lives.  Accepting this illness and striving to help other people with psychiatric illnesses and their relatives has led me to participate in stimulating and challenging activities.  I hope for Mr. and Mrs. Roorda that they can find this purpose for their lives.

Thank you for your comments, Michele - well said. 

Admin

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have recently struggled to gain a better understanding of these verses and how sometimes healing does not come in the way we think it will. I appreciate your soft heart and wise words. Your faith is an encouragement to me! 

Thank you for your kind words, Staci! I appreciate hearing this was encouraging to you, too.

Thank you for these encouraging thoughts. My husband became a Type 1 diabetic following a bad case of flu that affected his pancreas. The church we were attending at the time had "name it, claim it" leanings, and we were frequently told we were not praying correctly or that we should "take authority" over illness. Someone even offered to cast the "spirit" of diabetes out of him. Needless to say, we are no longer with that church but have found comfort in the scriptures you mentioned and in learning to be thankful for our many blessings. In addition, his illness has given my husband opportunities to encourage others, in ways that he might not have otherwise had.

 

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm so sorry about your husband's illness, Cindy. Yes, that's exactly the element within our small rural community that has affected us, too. But I'm glad to hear you and your husband can also encourage others from your journey, just as we're able to do. It's such a blessing to know God has grown us and uses us in ways we never could have imagined without the difficulties, just like He uses you and your husband!

Participant

Thank you for your understanding words Linda! While I would never "want" the disability I have, I have over the last years become thankful for the blessings I've received because of it. I am also amazed at how God uses my needs to bless others. God's world is certainly an upside down one. Some people are rather put out when I say I don't expect a cure but I have received healing. May you and your husband experience God's soft and kind grace in your lives.

Thank you for your kind words, Angela! and thanks for sharing how God has used you to reach others, and may He continue to bless you richly, too!

Guide

Linda, thanks for this. Your article wrestles with something that nearly all Christians have to confront at some point. I certainly have! I appreciate the way you have addressed this difficult topic so biblically and transparently. 

We were talking about this struggle at the ministry where I volunteer.
Our clients are often chronically ill, disabled and/or struggling with addictions.
When preparing for a study using Philippians, I understood that these chronic illnesses etc are like prisons for us, similar to Paul being in prison. (My own PTSD &chronic illness included.) So how do we act in our prisons? Can we find a way to be like Paul? Rejoicing in the hard circumstances, still being thankful, finding good things we can do to help people. . . Since I shared these thoughts with our group we have come back to them often. We ask Holy Spirit to enable us to apply our lessons in our own individual prisons.
A few weeks after this we had  a teacher come who taught and prayed for us about healing. Some people did receive a measure of physical healing. Some of us had questions about why not us.
The following week  the devotional was about Paul's thorn in the flesh. Which he asked God to remove 3 times and the answer was no.
This was encouraging and comforting because Paul -the amazing evangelist, teacher, leader- also questioned why he was not healed. He came to acceptance of it.
As you wrote here and as Michele responded God uses our 'struggles' to enable us to have compassion for others with similar struggles. And yes, raising awareness and encouraging sensitivity with those who are 'healthy'.

Thank-you Linda for sharing here and for being transparent.
Peace to you and your husband.
 

Thank you so much for sharing your experience here, too, Jill. I really like Paul's example of praying for his "thorn" to be removed; tho God told him no, yet Paul could share with the rest of us that in his weakness, Christ made him strong... and be an example for the rest of us. I've also leaned on that message during struggles. Thank you for your own encouraging words. Blessings to you too!

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