As we approach Passover, we begin to think of the miraculous steps that G-d took in bringing his people out of Egypt. We think of the plagues, the blood, the sea swept aside so millions walked across on dry ground. It is ancient news that our G-d is in the business of miracles. The Bible is filled with them from cover to cover.
As “good” believers, when we face the trials and darkness of Olam haZeh, we cling to the recounting of impossibilities overcome, sicknesses healed, men and women brought back to life. We pray fervently and stand on the promises of Psalm 30:2, Psalm 103:2-5, Jeremiah 17:14, We lay our prayer requests before G-d and seek the prayer support of others in our faith community, as directed in scripture:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:13-16 ESV
We know that prayer can bring about miracles, healing, and breakthroughs, but what about the times that G-d doesn’t heal you? How do we explain the loved ones, stricken with illness, their lives prayed over in earnest by many of people, who succumb to death and never receive their healing? What about those who live with devastating chronic illnesses and pain? What about people held in the grips of mental illness? Where is their miracle?
Perhaps they lack faith. Maybe they don’t truly believe that G-d can heal them and so their healing is delayed? Maybe they are not “righteous” enough for their prayer to produce a miracle. Perhaps there is hidden sin in their life that caused this illness or is preventing their healing. This may be a judgment upon them from G-d for something bad they did in their life.
If you considered any of these things to be a possibility, I want to stop you right now. Is there precedent for sickness or disease to be a tool of judgment by G-d? Absolutely. But in looking to that as the first answer for why someone is not healed, you are placing yourself in the seat of judgment – a dangerous place to be. If we begin to judge someone’s reasons for not being healed, scrutinizing their life, actions, and faith, we are guilty of the very warning that Yeshua gave:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
Instead, let us consider another teaching of Yeshua – that of the blind man spoken of in John 9.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2 ESV
We are so predictable! When we see something wrong, we immediately believe that someone has brought it upon themselves by their action or inaction. If something is going wrong, it must be because they are not in G-d’s favor, because G-d only wants good things for us. Right? In this case, we see also that the disciples questioned whether the man’s blindness was a result of a “generational curse” – the sins of the father visited upon the child. Yeshua’s answer is one facet to the answer of why people are not healed immediately.
Yeshua answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of G-d might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 ESV
What proceeds is a “typical” tale of Yeshua healing this man’s blindness. He spits on the ground and mixes the dirt with the saliva to make mud that he rubs on the mans eyes. Yeshua tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam and when he does, his blindness has been healed. This miracle becomes a testimony to his neighbors, those who witnessed it, the man’s parents, the Pharisees, which ultimately brought about the salvation of the man himself. His story is chronicled in the book of John and has been read and preached on for over two thousand years! The man’s blindness was the tool that Yeshua used to work a miracle and bring forth spiritual truths to his followers. I think it is easy to say that the “works of G-d” were displayed in the (no longer) blind man!
Maybe your healing is forthcoming – as the blind man’s was. I’m sure after a lifetime of blindness, he couldn’t imagine that he would ever see. He was surely resigned to his situation in life. Your healing could be just around the corner – maybe this very day. All that may be waiting is the perfect time for G-d to use your healing as a testimony to his greatness.
We live in a sinful world, a broken world, a world that is not even a shadow of the perfection and glory that we lost in the Garden. We are surrounded by brokenness, hurt, disease, poverty, evil. But the beauty of the Father is that he can redeem the mess of this world – not by removing it – but by helping us overcome it. We are not promised a life free from pain, persecution, and poverty. We are given a lifeline – a way up out of the darkness through Yeshua.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV
Though we all like to talk about the miraculous healings, the truth is that for every one healing, there are many, many more that don’t receive a miracle. We don’t know why G-d chooses to heal one and not another. That falls under the “sovereign will of G-d” – a sometimes hollow phrase for those who desperately need that miracle. What sets apart the follower of Yeshua from the world is how he responds to situations like these. How do we face life with chronic pain, a cancer diagnosis, a debilitating illness?
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:13-18 ESV
Of course we know how the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ends (spoiler alert). They emerge from this blazing furnace unscathed and not even smelling of smoke! But the amazing thing to me is their statement – “But if not…we will not serve your gods…” They were 100% committed to following G-d. Their life meant nothing. A fiery flaming death meant nothing. The testimony of a committed follower of Yeshua is in our willingness to follow him no matter the cost to ourselves. That “loss” can come in a very physical way.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about his own physical ailment that he prayed to be healed from. This was G-d’s answer to him:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me. For Messiah’s sake, then, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 TLV