A friend, who has been suffering from a painful illness for the past few years, was recently advised that healing had not yet come because of a lack of faith, and a lack of speaking as though the illness had already been cured. I was asked for my perspective on healing.
It’s a difficult topic, and one I struggle with myself sometimes, but here’s what I’ve concluded:
I absolutely believe in healing, because I absolutely believe in miracles.
My dad witnessed a murder many years ago, and God did miraculous things to protect him during that time. What strikes me about this is that God performed a miracle to protect my dad, but does not perform miracles to protect everyone, even those with faith that is arguably much greater. He did not perform a miracle to protect Stephen from being stoned to death, nor any of the other thousands of martyrs who’s faith in God was so strong that they were willing to die for it. I do not see healing as being so different from other miracles. If God makes no guarantee that he will perform a miracle to protect someone with the faith of a martyred apostle, then why should we feel like he is obligated to demonstrate a miracle healing based on having enough faith?
As another example, Paul mentions what most scholars agree was a physical affliction. Paul literally wrote the book on faith, so if his faith was not enough to guarantee a miracle healing, then why should we assume we are more deserving than him?
I also believe that we are not saved by works, but by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus. But if we turn the desire for faith into a vague, moving target that must be attained at a certain level in order to earn God’s favor, we’re essentially turning faith INTO “works,” and worse than that, we’re turning a relationship with God into a formula: if I do X, then God has to do Y.
Imagine if I applied that approach to my marriage: I did X, therefore Esther must do Y. That’s not going to go well. God desires that we have a fluid relationship with Him, based on getting to know him better. If we do anything for the purpose of getting a miracle or healing or any other material benefit from him, then we’re making Christianity about ourselves and how to control God, rather than how to serve Him.
Unfortunately, I’m very familiar with the belief that you must speak as though you are already healed. I would not pretend to know your friend or his experiences, or discount what sort of miracles he’s seen. But it is a lie to state something as true that has not happened. It is not an act of faith to proclaim that God has done something He has not done. I have known people to die because of this belief, and I have known people to have their faith damaged because of this belief failing them, and I have known people to be judged and chastised for not receiving the expected miracle they were told they would receive if they’d simply had more faith.
And I have known people with a Christ-centered faith who received a taste of miraculous healing, and their faith went from being about following God to following whatever new snake oil miracle worker claimed to have figured out the secret to experiencing more miracles. Jesus said a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after miracles. I don’t think he meant that we should not want or desire miracles. There is nothing I want more than to see my son miraculously healed. But I will not let that desire be the basis for my faith in God, nor the formula for my relationship with Jesus.
I don’t hold in high regard the faith of those who claim to receive exactly what they want. I hold in highest regard the faith of those who run the race with endurance, facing trials and challenges, trauma and ailments, and still can sing “How Great Thou Art.” The transformation and redemption we receive when we experience the Gospel is the only miracle God promises us personally in this life, and although the problems of this world seem so permanent, when we enter eternity, and my son can walk and talk, this life will seem like a mist that was here for a moment and then gone.
Again, I do believe in healings. A friend was trampled by a horse and was healed, and another friend was anointed with oil and his leg was healed. God is still living and active, and I even believe that as we place more of our faith in Him, we are given more opportunities to witness and experience miracles. But we don’t put our faith in God so that we can get what we want. We put our faith in God because we know that He is trustworthy.
It’s not really faith if we only trust Him to do what we expect. True faith is demonstrated when we keep on trusting through things we don’t understand. That’s what I think Paul is talking about when he says faith is the evidence of things unseen. Not that we have no evidence to support our faith, but that there are things we must believe, there is hope we must hold on to, even when we don’t know where God is taking us, and don’t have the whole picture.
And in the end, God will heal of all diseases when He heals us of the greatest disease of all; death.