Thy Will Be Done
If life was fair, we would only attend funerals of those who had lived a long, full life. Just a couple of days ago, as I attended the funeral of a young man who, at just 20 years old, died in a roll over car accident I was reminded that life is not fair. This past week his death has reminded me of others I have known who left this world way too early. The young dad who couldn’t beat cancer. The little girl who would never to go to school because her heart needed too many repairs. The flaw in genetics which prevented a little boy’s body to grow as it should.
But life isn’t fair. We live in a world where it is impossible to escape the effects of sin. We all know what it means to experience sickness and pain. We all have all wished that life could be different for ourselves or someone we love. We have all wished at some point to witness, firsthand, the gift of healing. At this moment, I wish I could instantly heal the eyes of my uncle to restore his full vision back to him. I wish I could rid a young girl I know of the many tumor’s her body insists on growing as hobby. I wish I could rid my dad of the need to take seizure medication. I can think of several friends who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses which result from a chemical imbalance in the brain and I wish I could heal them so their brains would create the right amounts of each protein to function as they were designed to function.
Perhaps more than any other gift we will talk about in this series, the gift of healing is a gift which is undeniably subject to the will of God.
Let’s start with the way this gift is presented in 1 Corinthians 12. While healing is mentioned many times throughout the Gospels and in the book of Acts, in this chapter is the one place where it is referred to as a gift from the Holy Spirit. While almost all English translations of the Bible use “gifts of healing,” most scholars agree that Paul uses the plural of both nouns in the original Greek meaning he intended to say “gifts of healings.” Additionally, healing is the only one listed with the plural “gifts.” Fun and interesting facts to note, but what does that mean for our understanding of the spiritual gift?
There are a couple of implications which are important. First, Paul’s use of plurals suggests that one person wouldn’t be able to heal all aliments. Author and Pastor Sam Storms talks about witnessing the prayers of those who seem to have an anointing for one particular affliction. “Some are able to pray more effectively for those with back problems while others see more success when praying for migraine headaches.”
Additionally, it is easy to make an assumption that is someone is able to pray for healing successfully once, they will always be able to do the same. With other gifts, such as teaching or preaching, someone may be spiritual gifted but still be able to teach or preach even when not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Someone can be generous in volunteering, leading one to believe they have the gift of service, because of a sense of obligation or in an attempt to earn their salvation. But healing is different. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit working through you that you will be able to successfully pray for a blind man to suddenly see or a lame man suddenly walk.
Finally, like all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing is meant to build up the Church. If the healing of a particular ailment in a specific person doesn’t build up the Church, doesn’t ultimately point people towards Jesus, it isn’t in God’s plan so won’t happen through the Holy Spirit. In the years just after college, I watched as the only grandparents I had known as a child struggled with, and eventually died from, cancer. My grandmother had struggled with various health issues for several years so losing my grandfather first came as a bit of a shock to the entire family. After my grandmother’s diagnosis, about a year after my grandfather had passed away, she found herself asking why she had to be the one to deal with cancer on her own. She came to the conclusion that God still had people he wanted to her to pray for and talk with, that her ministry was not yet done. While I wish my grandparents would have been healed and here still here on earth, both of them, in their own way, had a powerful witness of faith and trust in God during the hardest times of their lives. It was a testimony which many who came to know them in the last weeks and months were deeply impacted by.
As I wrap up, I want to be make one point clear about when there is an absence of healing. Just because God doesn’t heal someone does not meant there is a lack of faith or unconfessed sin in their lives. In her book, “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” author and Professor Kate Bowler talks about the desire we all have to make sense of the pain and suffering, the unfairness of the world. I don’t have room to fully summarize the book here but I will say it directly challenges the primary message of the prosperity gospel so prevalent in the American church today. It is a message which says that if you are a good person, a good Christian, God will reward you with great things on this earth. If you aren’t seeing God’s rewards in the dreams of your life coming true, then you aren’t doing what God wants you or has called you to do. You just need to get your relationship with God sorted out and you will experience earthly success.
This prosperity gospel mindset flows over into healing by assuming that those who are not healed have angered God in some way. Perhaps they are working the wrong job or living a sinful secret life. It could be that they have not truly forgiven someone and are harboring bitterness in their heart. Those who believe this line of reasoning too easily forget about the Apostle Paul’s story. In both 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and Galatians 4:13, Paul refers to a bodily ailment he struggled with throughout his ministry. In 2 Corinthians, Paul even notes that he has pleaded with God on multiple occasions to have it removed only to have God respond, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” If the person whose writings would eventually become a large part of the Bible wasn’t healed, how can we then presume that a person’s faith entitles them to be healed today?
- When have you prayed for healing that didn’t come? How has it affected your faith? The faith of others?
- Have you ever witnessed or known someone who experienced healing? How does their story point to Jesus?
- If you are struggling with questions about why someone hasn’t experienced healing, I would encourage you to check out Kate Bowler’s TED talk below. It’s a great introduction to her story which she goes into more detail about in her book.