Saturday, June 06, 2015

Why Doesn't God Heal Everybody? Some Thoughts.



(Last weekend in New Jersey, at the conference I spoke at, I saw some people healed, including two elderly people who have had chronic shoulder pain for months, came to the conference suffering pain, and after praying for them their pain went entirely away [the first time in months they have felt no shoulder pain].)

Over the years I’ve seen some people healed of cancer. One of them was my grandmother. She lived with my family 6 months out of every year when we were growing up. When she was in her mid-80s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided not to have it medically treated. The cancerous tumors in her breasts grew. My mother used to bathe her, and visually and physically saw the hard tumors growing.

Grandma knew she was going to die. She had lived a long life, and was ready to leave this world for another one. She even bought the dress she wanted to be buried in.

When Grandma had spent what we assumed would be her last 6 months in our home, she went to live with my aunt and uncle, who cared for her during the other 6 months. One day my aunt called. She told my mother that, while bathing Grandma, she noticed that the tumors did not appear to be there. My mother could not believe this, yet wanted to believe it. Mom personally traveled 400 miles to visually inspect Grandma and confirm this.

Grandma lived for 12 more years, and bought two or three more dresses to be buried in. She died at age 97. What happened? How can we explain this? I, and my mother, concluded two things:

- Grandma once was cancer-filled, and then one day the cancer was gone
- God healed Grandma

I’ve heard of and personally seen other things like this. (For some really good, current, encouraging stuff see Eric Metaxas's new book Miracles.) 

I’ve also been part of praying for people with illnesses whose illnesses have not gone away. Which raises the question: Why? Why do we not see everyone healed when we pray for them? Why doesn’t God heal everybody we pray for? I’ve thought long and hard about this over the years. I not only don’t have all the answers, I don’t think I can, given my quite-limited point of view, expect to have all the answers. Nonetheless, when I am asked this question, here’s how I respond.

1. Sickness and disease are not caused by God. God hates sickness and disease.
2. Sickness and disease are in this world because we live in, as Jesus referred to it, “this present evil age.” We live in a fallen world that’s ruled by Satan, who is called “the Prince of this world.”
3. Some diseases are part of living in this fallen world. The entire world is crying out for redemption (release) from this bondage.
4. Some diseases are caused by demonic forces. For example, Jesus sometimes heals a person by casting out a demon that is the cause of a person’s illness.
5. Some diseases are caused by our own choices.

Why did God create a world like this? Why a world where such suffering was even allowed? For me the answer is this:

- God is love. That is, God, in His essence, IS love. God cannot not-love.
- Therefore love is the highest value for God.
- God created persons (and spiritual beings) out of love.
- Genuine love is only possible if created agents have free will.
- Therefore God gave created agents free will.
- This is risky, since free will implies that one can choose to not love God.

From God’s end, giving created agents free will is worth it, since God is love, and love is the highest value for God. Hence, much of this world’s suffering happens because of this.

For me this is no mere theory, no abstraction from reality. It is an explanation of reality. As a pastor I’ve been around a lot of death and dying, to include in my own family, even to include my son David. How do I continue to find hope in such a world?

My understanding of what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God provides answers for me. Jesus talked about “the age to come” where will be no sickness, no struggle, no tears. When God invaded earth in the form of a Person, the “age to come” invaded this present evil age. Jesus once said that, “If you see me cast out demons by the finger of God, you can know that the kingdom of God is in your midst.” That is why I pray for the sick to be healed today, and will continue to do so. 

I am part of a faith community. Personally, this makes a huge difference. I know people (even Christians) who would never pray for someone to be healed. In a faithless community one should not be shocked that healings are not seen. 

Sometimes a deeper spiritual healing is needed. Some illnesses are, at root, spiritual and emotional. I have found that, for example, a person who lives for years with bitterness towards others and refuses to forgive others can be especially subject to physical illnesses. The account of Jesus' healing the lame man let down through the roof (Mark 2:1-12) implies that the forgiveness of the man's sins had some connection with his ability to pick up his mat and walk.

Don't lay blame on the person who is sick. When Jesus prayed for sick people he never blamed them for their sickness. For example, Jesus rejects his disciples’ assumption that the blind man in John 10 was blind because either he or his parents must have sinned.

Persist in prayer. When some sick people are not healed through prayer, it may simply be because we haven't prayed long enough to bring the healing to completion.