Healing is a touchy area with me. I spent two years with an unhealthy Pentecostal church back in college, where I witnessed firsthand how the Bible can be twisted oh so subtly to make Chicanery Soup. I had grown up in churches where Christ was talked about but seldom experienced. I wanted His Power and Presence. When I finally crossed paths with a group of people who claimed to have it, I dove in with both feet. Only to learn in time, as Bono once sang, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Still I’m grateful for those two years, for it did show me that following Christ is not all something you just have to take “on faith”. We can taste and see that the Lord is good, as the Bible says, it’s just not a continual experience, one warm-fuzzy after another as I was told. Even Paul for all his mighty experiences still came round to saying “we walk by faith, not by sight”.
I developed a rule for my life as I transitioned from that church into another that was far more balanced and biblical: Let God be God. In other words, if God shows up, then you’ll know it. It’ll be obvious. I won’t have to conjure something up, or twist the facts to convince myself that it was Him.
Take healing for example. I have no doubt that I have experienced God’s healing in my life on occasion. I’ve had nausea vanish through prayer. A food poisoning episode I went through once dramatically and suddenly ended. One April morning in Minnesota, I flew off the back step after an overnight ice storm and landed hard, three steps down, on solid concrete. A “Voice” or something immediately welled up inside me and said, “Praise me!” and as I did, my head cleared, the pain went away, and I spent the rest of the day trying to conjure up some sort of injury so I could get some sympathy from my wife, but I didn’t have even a broken nail to show for it.
I have no doubt that these were moments when God showed up, and gave me a little gift of his love. But then I’ve had plenty of the other. Bowing weakly and heaving mightily before the Porcelain Throne. Colds that took weeks to dry up. Years later after that ice storm, I blew out my back snow-shoveling and that injury has been a constant companion ever since. I have suffered from psoriasis my whole life, and rather than dramatically heal me, God has essentially said to me, “Use your medicine.”
We see the same mixed bag through Scripture. Elisha did more miracles than any other prophet, yet died of a sickness. Paul did more miracles than any other apostle, yet carried a “thorn-in-the-flesh” in his body that God would not heal, because he wanted his power revealed in Paul’s weakness.
Jesus taught that faith can heal, and his brother James taught that prayer could raise up the sick person (so therefore our attitude in facing sickness can make a huge difference, and we certainly should talk to God about the creaks and moans our bodies make.) But Jesus didn’t heal everyone, couldn’t heal some, and the book of Hebrews tells us that sometimes our faith can lead to mighty deliverances from God, and sometimes it can lead to a prison cell or torture or scarcity or worse.
Let God be God.
There’s just no way to package this into a nice, tidy theological sound-bite, where we can confidently proclaim God will do this if we do that. (And if you run into somebody who has God all figured out, best to run the other way.)
What do we do then? Well, we do what we should always do. We seek him. We run into his big, fatherly arms. We don’t go and sin our heads off. We lock eyes with our Maker, our Lord, our King and our Friend, and we don’t break the gaze. And we say like David over and over again, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”