That is a good question.
But what happens when healing doesn’t come?
Or at least, not healing as we’d like it.
It’s been almost a year since I began feeling consistently unwell. This is the second year since my husband, Brendan, and I have been married. Two yearlong illnesses in less than five years. Not quite how I envisioned our newlywed life.
I can point at all the underlying issues: mold, stress, a driven way of life; but I also still believe God holds my health as well as my life in his hands.
He can heal instantly.
I’ve experienced him healing me a few times pretty much within minutes of someone praying for me. But I’ve also struggled with illness for more than a few weeks. He has healed my emotional wounds both in the moment I realized them and asked, and in decades of slow motion. I’ve known people who have been healed from debilitating diseases like cancer, and those who have died from them. All those folks believe God is sovereign and holds their life as precious and valued.
So what gives?
Here are my current conclusions:
- God cares most about our relationship with him. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world—someday purposed to spend eternity with him. While he cares immensely about our illness, wounds and brokenness, he most cares how it will draw us and others closer to him, and show him to those who haven’t yet met him. Is my illness bringing me closer to the Lord? Absolutely. I have a friend who suffers from a life-long illness. He claims he is a different person as a result, and while he would love to feel well all the time, he is grateful for the way God has used his illness to change him. I’m grateful too. For both of us.
- God wants to heal us. And he will. Whether today, in two months or in heaven, we will all be whole and with new bodies someday. The question isn’t whether God can or will, it’s what will I do with my illness in the meantime? Continue to ask for healing, while asking what I can learn in the process. Look to the Lord for what is most important today. Thank him for whatever he is using my illness to accomplish. I must keep focused on the good, the positive, the hopeful, all the way to the grave whenever that day comes. I can easily get discouraged from day to day based on whether I feel well or not if I don’t keep my eyes and heart on Jesus.
- Sometimes well-meaning people don’t see the big picture. Remember Job’s friends? I have to be willing to listen to advice, but ultimately God is my leader. I have to keep asking him what he wants for me in each given day, or hour or sometimes moment. I can’t do something because I’m concerned about what other people will think. Last night I planned on attending an event at our church. I wanted to be there to serve, support my family, see my children and grandchildren, and interact with my church family; but midway through the day, I knew I shouldn’t go. I prayed, hoping the little nudge I felt to stay home and rest was imagined. But the more I wrestled over it with the Lord, the more I knew the answer. I kissed my husband and children goodbye and curled up with a bowl of veggie soup, praying for the event to make people feel safe and welcomed by the Holy Spirit on a night filled with evil. I worried briefly about what others might say about my not being there. I felt a little sad to not partake of the creative way our church campus was transformed into an adventure in space. But I knew I was where God wanted me. Resting and praying.
- I want my time of being ill to glorify God. My faith has been so strengthened and encouraged by people who have battled or continue to battle in the face of terrible illness or heartbreak—most far worse than mine. When I see the way those people carry on, loving Jesus with abandon, trusting him with each moment of each day even in the pain and tears, I feel empowered. I feel the spirit of God. Thank you Jo, Jeff, Margaret, Ashli, Dabney, Bill, Brian, Jen, Pamela, Ariana, Sharon, and so many others. Your lives testify of God’s goodness in the midst of a broken world.
I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t been fully healed—yet. But God is good and is teaching me to be more like him. Isn’t that the point?If you disagree with me, or have some of your own conclusions, I’d love to hear about them.