Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- More Thoughts About Healing

I have to admit that "healing" is a bit of a sensitive topic for me.  I sometimes have a hard time whole-heartedly singing along with praise choruses with lines like "He is the healer of all our diseases" or "Jesus is my healer." 

Intellectually, I know that He is a God of healing, and that sometimes the healing occurs on earth and sometimes it takes place in Heaven.  In my mind, I know that He is the healer of broken hearts. 

But sometimes, I just can't seem to silence that little voice in my heart that asks, "But why didn't He heal Hannah in the way we asked Him to?"

I'm still working my way through Randy Alcorn's book "If God is Good:  Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil."  He does a really good job answering questions like the one above.  In fact, he does such a good job, I'm not even going to try to paraphrase him.  Please bear with me as I quote from Chapter 36.  He begins with this striking statement:

"Asking God to always heal us and remove adversity is like asking Him to afflict us with spiritual apathy."

And then he continues....

"Scripture's prayers deal far more with spiritual growth than with physical health.  Notice the focus of Paul's prayer for the Colossians:

'And we pray this in order that you may life a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthed with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.' (Colossians 1:10-12)

It's striking what Paul doesn't pray for:  an elder's bout with cancer, the flu bug going around Colossae, an Asia Minor recession, kidney stones, back problems, and good weather for the church picnic.  Did they have these issues back then?  Sure.  They had diseases, discomforts, financial strains, and bad weather.  And did they pray for them?  No doubt.  But Scripture's recorded prayers seldom concern such things. They involve intercession for people's love for God, knowledge of God, walk with God, and service to God.

We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering.  "God, please heal this cancer" is appropriate.  "God, please use for your glory this cancer, so long as I have it" is equally appropriate.

When you pray only for healing, what are you praying to miss out on?  Christlikeness?  Shouldn't we learn to pray that our suffering causes growth, that God will give us little glimpses of Heaven as we seek to endure, and that he would use us?  I've mentioned Jim Harrell, a friend and ALS sufferer.  Jim wrote me,

'As I contemplate what it would be like to be healed of this disease, God has caused me to focus on my own sinfulness and human condition.  If healed, I genuinely fear that within a year at the latest I would begin to forget what it was like to be in this condition.  I would fall into the trap of allowing life's distractions to divert me.  While I realize these distractions are not bad in and of themselves, a clear and distinct advantage of suffering is its ability to sharply focus one on what's important....  The wonder of being healed would be indescribable; however, I seriously question whether or not that would be the best for my soul.  I don't have an answer, but I do know my own heart.'

Hmmmmm....This really made me think.  I have no doubt that God uses suffering for His purposes, which often are far beyond our understanding.  Think about this ... Have you ever heard someone say, "I grew closest to God when my life was free of pain and suffering"?  Most of the time (if not all of the time), it's exactly the opposite. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts...


Cathie said...

I really appreciate the Thoughtful Thursdays and feel I owe you for the e-mails that chronicled Hannah's illness and homegoing. They impacted me as well as many on our staff. I can remember going through a traumatic division in our family when I was in my early twenties and I remember telling someone at that time, who was assuring me that pain leads to spiritual growth, that I'd rather be a spiritual pygmie... yet I would have to agree that most - not all - of my spiritual growth has come through hard times. Yet it seems to me that when I'm in the vortex of the pain, I always come close to losing it - just curling up into the fetal position and giving in. To me, this is the scary part. A wise person told me that at every crisis in your life, you can chose to walk away from your faith or you can choose to grow stronger. I think God sometimes risks a lot when He allows tsunamis to come into our lives, if that makes any sense.

Kelle Patterson said...

This post really hit home for me. First, please let me say that I am very, very fortunate. I was diagnosed with M.S., Multiple Sclerosis in 1998 at the age of 34~ and I must admit I have asked God many times, “Why me?“. However, I believe the disease was “caught” just time. I was diagnosed very promptly and started medication to the slow the progression and I am still on medication at this time. My most recent MRI in 2011 is exactly the same as the first one in 1998. Since there is not a cure, this is a good thing. As I mentioned, at the present time I am doing VERY well. However, I do know this could change at any time. I believe God HAS everything to do with this. And I will also admit, sometimes I forget to thank the Dear LORD above.
Please know I think about your family often and I pray God will continue to touch other lives through “Hannah’s Storm”.