Archives for posts with tag: healing

This week I have been posting on what it means that Jesus is our Healer. I talked about why we get sick, why we sometimes are — or are not — healed by God in a miraculous way. But sometimes sickness comes for reasons we can’t understand, and sometimes we are not healed, even when we do everything “right.” Because sometimes sickness has something to do with how God is going to be glorified in our lives, or God’s priorities for our lives. And when we live on the finite plane of existence, while God is on the infinite, there are often things He sees that we do not see, or things for which we can’t understand the significance in our little corner of time and space.

Paul, the great apostle who wrote much of the New Testament and participated in many people receiving divine healing from God, this same man experienced something in his life which he metaphorically called a “thorn in the flesh.” He tells of it in 2 Corinthians 12

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What was it? What was that thorn? It is kept intentionally vague in the Bible, I believe, so that we can all relate to it better. There are as many theories about what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was as there are people who have unique challenges. We do have a few clues:

  • He writes to the Galatians and mentions an illness which in some way had the power to be revolting because he praises their kind reception of him even though he was sick (Galatians 4). Is this the same thing he refers to as a “thorn”? We don’t know.
  • He didn’t write his many letters by himself ― In some of the letters he mentions “see with what large letters I write” (Gal 6:11) or in several places he adds “I write this with my own hand” at the end of a letter, to authenticate it really was from him. Was Paul going blind? Did he also have rheumatoid arthritis and his hands didn’t work very well anymore? We don’t know.
  • Luke the physician traveled with him in later life. Luke himself mentions this, and also Paul mentions it in his letters. Did Paul travel with a physician because Luke was now helping him spread the gospel — or because he needed frequent medical care? We don’t know.

One thing we do know, though, is that sometimes our physical healing is not the greatest priority God has for our lives. Sometimes inexplicably, God will take someone and it just seems like “IT WAS TOO SOON.” And for reasons that we may honestly NEVER understand.

God has created us for eternity, but in the finiteness of our little minds and how bound we are by time and space, it’s easy to forget that this world and this life is not the end goal or the greatest glory.

In the church I attended in college, there was a widow whose husband had once been the pastor there. Sometimes people would ask Pastor Lilian, “Are you mad at God for taking your husband away so soon? He was such a good man who served God so faithfully.” Lilian shared with me that she would tell people that she was not mad at God, and though she may not know the reasons he died young, she did know this: “God doesn’t owe me anything.” Jesus has already paid the price for our eternal life! He doesn’t OWE US anything: not an explanation, not a husband, not a healing. She would say, I enjoyed my life with my husband and I am thankful. I continue to bless God and live for God now, while I still have life.

Pastor Lilian knew that healing in this life isn’t the real goal.

Eternity is the real goal. And she knew her husband had eternity with Jesus. That was enough. That IS enough. If we will embrace that possibility that Jesus with me is enough for THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT, then any blessings in this life are not what we are owed, they are bonuses.

But sometimes God has another priority first. I have so many stories I could share, but I bet you already know these stories, too. Stories of people who found something beautiful out of a pain they would never have chosen, yet they see how God is at work through it. Stories like my friend whose car wreck gave her lots of chances to share Jesus’ love with people… like the one in the wheelchair who knows if it wasn’t for that accident, he probably wouldn’t be walking with Jesus right now… like the girl who lived her first ten or so years with scoliosis, and then was instantly healed at summer camp before a few hundred kids who will forever remember that miracle.

Our Foursquare movement was founded by a woman who some would say had more boldness and faith than wisdom. When it was time to build a church, they only had enough money to dig the foundation. She said, “Dig a hole, God will fill it.” And God did. And when it came to healing, she knew that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If He could heal then, He can heal now. And she had an amazing healing ministry.

Why am I ill? I like to think it’s because God is going to get some glory out of this thing.

Is he going to heal me? Or is this my thorn in the flesh? I don’t know. But I am going to ask. Paul prayed “three times” and God said “my grace is sufficient, and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Basically, God said, “this is something you are going to have to live with so stop asking.”

I want to keep on asking until God tells me to stop asking.

But in the meantime, I’m not going to get mad at God for my body’s failings. And I am not going to let fear of what it could mean interfere with what I feel God is calling me to do. 

On the one hand it can seem like “God designing people to be disabled or chronically ill is just mean.”

On the other hand, Who am I to say that differently-abled means defective? We ALL have some way in which we are differently abled than everyone else. I’m short – my husband is tall. Good for me on airplanes, good for him on reaching high shelves. We all have things we don’t like about our bodies.

I was part of a playgroup in California. There were kids there who were so smart and everything you’d think a kid ought to be. And there was a little girl in the group who had Down Syndrome. Kid #1 will maybe get a college scholarship and wind up making lots of money but he might also be the biggest arrogant, entitled jerk you ever saw. The girl with Down Syndrome was the sweetest, most loving, light of your life and make your day child  ― full of faith in Jesus and bringing his encouragement ― that you could ever meet. Both kids have equal potential to shine the light of Christ and make the world a better place.

I don’t care if you live in a wheelchair, have rheumatoid arthritis, a learning disorder, are blind, or live with an injury …

There is NOTHING THAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM AN AMAZING LIFE but your own attitude. Sometimes it is the attitude that really needs to be healed.

God has given us so many tools at our disposal for our healing.

Even in Leviticus we see things God told Israel to do, which we would call nutritional therapies or germ management or naturopathic remedies. God has given us therapies and healing foods and herbs and essential oils and things we can do to promote our own healing.

God has also given people incredible wisdom to create medicines and do surgeries and things to bring about healing. Often, these are things God uses for our healing.

But we often forget that there is a third option, which is divine healing.

There is a balance, I think we need to find, between “All I can do is pray” – when often that is NOT all YOU can do. And on the other end of the spectrum, we might say, “I guess I’ll just have to take medication forever… or die…” when there IS the possibility that GOD will show up miraculously.

I think that God likes to show up miraculously when we are ready to say, “this is way beyond me” and we are willing to stand up and say “I need a move of your Holy Spirit.”

Ultimately, the goal in this life is to be able to sing “It is well with my soul” no matter what kind of problems we face. No matter what kind of healing we are seeking– until it comes– God wants us to learn how to sing “It is Well With My Soul.”

But don’t forget that there are a lot of other songs we can sing, about God bringing healing, and doing miracles.

I need healing. How long do I want to do experimental treatments with my doctor and experiment with whatever lifestyle changes I can make…??? I mean, I want healing NOW! I want to be healed NOW. Can God do it? YES, ABSOLUTELY HE CAN!! Will God do it it now for me? The only way I can will know the answer to that is if I ask, and I keep on asking until he either says, “No, my grace is sufficient” or he says YES and I am healed. So I am ASKING!

Here’s a song to help you in your asking.

When we look at the New Testament and why people ARE healed divinely, it is really quite interesting to see the diversity of experiences people have of Jesus’ healing. The common thread is that Jesus heals in response to faith, and in response to our asking.

The Gospel of Mark is a really wonderful place to read to see some of the variety of experiences people had with Jesus with physical healing.

Sometimes he heals a person in response to someone else’s faith, like the parents who asked for healing for their child (Mark 5), or the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof so they could get close enough to Jesus (Mark 2).

Sometimes he heals in response to obedience like the one who first he forgives the man’s sin (sometimes it seems we really do need healing because of our own sin) – in Mark 2:5 – then he heals him.

Sometimes Jesus heals simply because of his own compassion:

  Luke 7:11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Sometimes we need to be PERSISTENT in prayer. There are several times in the gospels where it says people had to ask repeatedly (Mark 5:23, Mark 7:25-29). We sometimes give up too soon.

Sometimes Jesus would heal just to prove a point – I mean, wouldn’t you love to be healed just to prove a point in a sermon? Wouldn’t that be great to see on Sundays? In Mark 3:3 this happened.

It does seem to be the case, that when God wants to establish that HIS KINGDOM is come, like when Jesus walked on earth, or when the early church was being established, or other strong moves of his Holy Spirit around the world in modern day, that there often seems to be a strong move of God’s healing power.

When we AREN’T divinely healed – WHY?

Stay with me here, because this part is where you could get offended if you don’t read all the way through. And remember, I am still awaiting my healing… so if you’ve been praying for healing, and it hasn’t happened, please know that sometimes not receiving healing has NOTHING to do with anything that we are or are not doing. Okay? But sometimes it does. And I want to look at that part first.

Sometimes it is as simple as looking back at those lists – we aren’t healed because we aren’t asking! We aren’t healed because we don’t have faith, we don’t even consider it as one of the possible remedies to our problems. We aren’t expecting it. We lack persistence in prayer.

Sometimes it is because we are not being obedient ― There are times God asked people to participate in their own healing by doing some sort of act of obedience, like in John 9 where the blind man was sent to wash in a certain pool.  There are also times when we face affliction because we are not doing what God has asked us to do. The founder of the Foursquare movement, Aimee Semple McPherson, is an example of this: when she came back from China and was remarried and now a mother of two, she was gravely ill on her deathbed. God had a call on her life, and she was not following through. Imagine with me: young woman, two kids, called to preach, and her husband wasn’t fully keen on the idea. But she knew what God was asking of her. And her body was literally wasting away because she was resisting the call of the Holy Spirit on her life. Sick in bed, she finally called out – God if you are calling me, and you will heal me, I will go. So God healed her, and she went! Deathbed bargaining with God isn’t always the best plan, but I guess it worked in this case. She even went on to have an amazing healing ministry herself.

Aimee Healing

As I said, I am in the middle of my healing journey – I’m not calling it my illness journey, I am calling it my healing journey – and I am asking myself all those things. God, is there sin in my life? Am I lacking trust in you and allowing stress to ravage my life? Am I allowing pride to get in the way of your healing?

Healing usually doesn’t happen in the dark. Sometimes Jesus would say “don’t tell!” but usually people couldn’t help but spread the word and publicly praise God for healing! In other time, he called people out. Like in the story of woman bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5) who touched Jesus’ robe, and Jesus was like, “Oh I am happy to heal but let’s give the Father the glory for this y’all! Who touched me? Who was healed?”

If we are going to ask for healing we ought to at least be willing to give God the glory! If shame is keeping you in the dark and you are praying for God to heal you, but you aren’t willing to tell anyone about what it is you need healed, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you will not be healed without bringing whatever it is to the light. And that goes for more than just physical healing – all that I am saying is true for emotional healing, healing of marriages or other broken relationships, healing of addictions or bad habits or thought patterns or mental illness. If there is any area of your life that needs healing – or really, we all need it so I should say WHATEVER your need of healing is, not IF you need healing – whatever it is, BRING IT TO THE LIGHT. It doesn’t have to be a crowd. Where two or more are gathered, God is there!

Sometimes God wants us to participate in our healing, and when we are not willing to be full participants in the story God has designed for our lives, sometimes that is why we lack the fullness of his blessing in our lives, which can include physical healing.

But sometimes none of this has anything to do with it… sometimes God is just writing a different story for our lives. ALL of God’s stories are good stories, but they definitely do not all have the same ending, and sometimes the “happy” ending is the one that comes when we transfer to eternity, and sometimes the triumph is not at all what you would expect it to be. So check in tomorrow and I’ll talk about that!

Yesterday I mentioned a sermon I preached last Sunday at church about how Jesus is our Healer. This week, I am posting some of those thoughts here. I started with why we get sick in the first place. Today I want to share a little of my own context for processing all these thoughts.

This issue of the NEED FOR HEALING is something that I am personally experiencing and walking through with Jesus right now. In retrospect I can see that my physical symptoms began about a year and a half ago, but at the time, it was nothing that I wouldn’t attribute to just normal fatigue or aging. Just over a year ago I started experiencing some symptoms that were rather odd, and since it had been almost five years since I’d seen a doctor, I decided maybe I just ought to get checked out. Those early odd symptoms (I call it being “allergic to cold” … the actual name is Raynaud’s Disease) are something for which I am now very grateful, because they led to a much quicker diagnosis than I think I would have received otherwise. You see, in the process of doing bloodwork, etc. for that issue, a lot of other things I’d been experiencing in mild form got a lot worse.  I could no longer attribute fatigue to lack of sleep, because I was sleeping more than ever. I battled depression. I started getting fevers for no discernible reason. My joints began to hurt at random, with no tie to any injury or over-exertion. I began to stay up later, even though I knew I’d be tired the next day, and after a few weeks of that I was talking to God about it and realized I was afraid to go to bed… because I never knew what I would feel like in the morning, or what might hurt. The tendons in my hands felt like they were burning if I tried to fully extend my fingers, and I literally couldn’t make a fist. In the worst days, my wrists were so tender that picking up anything heavier than my cell phone was just painful, and I chose what to wear based on how much it might or might not hurt to put it on and take it off.

And I didn’t know why. I would pray, “God, you have to hold me together” because some days I felt like my skin was the only thing keeping my hands attached to my arms.

The diagnosis came at the end of September.

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I decided to go with the medicine my doctor recommended and also look into alternative therapies, such as changes in diet, certain herbs and essential oils, and exercises. So far, I am vastly improved, and now mostly I just deal with a fairly constant achiness instead of debilitating pain. And the cold allergy is still there.

I don’t say all this to elicit sympathy. I do appreciate the prayers and encouragement of those who know a little of what I’ve experienced, but I really don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I have always hated appearing weak, and I don’t want to burden anyone else with my problems.

The truth is, I was struggling with my own fears of what an incurable, chronic autoimmune disorder would do for my own future and my dreams. One of my college roommates and dear friends dealt with juvenile-onset rheumatoid arthritis, and knowing what she went through was quite a shadow on my own hopes for the future. She is an amazing, strong, talented woman and a beautiful soul — really, I do want to be like her! But I wasn’t excited about sharing this particular trait with her.

But in not sharing my struggles I was giving Satan power in a number of ways. 

First, I was isolating myself by not letting anyone see the internal struggle. I was cutting off a powerful source of goodness in my life, which is the power of connection. You see, God’s power thrives in our lives when we connect with God and others. Satan’s power thrives in disconnection. When we are internally disconnected because we don’t internally process or admit to ourselves the emotions we experience. When we are disconnected from others by not sharing what’s really going on. When we are disconnected from God because we don’t know how He fits in this new paradigm.

Second, by allowing the fear to stay inside, I gave it a power in my life that fear NEVER has when it comes into the light. Simply by saying, “I am afraid” – the fear loses at least half of the power it has on my thoughts and emotions. Try it, you will see it is true!

Third, by not sharing my need for healing, I was depriving God of an opportunity for him to get glory in both my healing and in my testimony of how I might walk through this struggle WITH HIM instead of BLAMING HIM.

Fourth, by pretending that everything was fine I was allowing my pride to lead me in living a lie. The truth is, my body is just as weak as anyone else’s. To humble myself and admit my weakness and my need for God gets me back into that stream of God’s power, the place where my honesty and humanity connect me to you as we share in our unique challenges of the human experience. And the place where God’s grace is evident to me, as I allow him to love me and be with me through the difficult times.

I wonder … are there ways that you are isolating yourself in your own challenges? Who might God be calling you to connect with instead? Do you need to take some time to process some emotions you’ve been blocking, so that you can receive some healing in your emotions or spirit? God already knows what is going on in your life… bring it to the light with Him — be honest! Let Him walk through it with you. Find the connections you need — they lead to the peace that you also need. (Ephesians 4:3)

unity peace Eph 4.3

(Reading List Theme 3.1)

I started this blog last Spring, committed to blog through a Bible Reading List I created that, I feel, give a really good introductory overview of some of the key issues of the Bible. The first focus (Theme 1) was all about prayer. Prayer is about how we talk to God, and how we think about God. The possibility of having a relationship with God, and what that relationship will look like, is highly dependent on what we think of God in the first place. Talking to him, whether yelling, or asking, or having a running dialogue through ordinary parts of one’s day – all are forms of prayer. Prayer is where we start.

Now that I am starting the third theme I want to read about together, the focus comes back to prayer, as we finish up the book of James. In the reading list and reflection prompts, I suggest praying through the themes of James 5. Here is my prayer:

(5:1-5) Lord, though I don’t consider myself rich by American standards, I know I am rich by the world’s standards. Forgive me for my times of ungratefulness, and my sometimes stingy attitude toward money. Whether it is by the size tip I leave at a restaurant, the places I shop and that company’s attitude toward employee treatment, or the products I buy, I do not want to take advantage of anyone else in my use of money. I don’t want to support poor working conditions around the world, or unfair treatment of people, or contribute to global poverty by the things I buy to save a buck or two. WIth all those who give me assistance and provide services, help me to be fair and generous, and help me to be satisfied with what I have, realizing how truly fortunate I am.

(5:7-11) Sometimes it is easy to look around at a sin-filled world full of abuse, war, and broken lives, and just long for your return. And though I do believe you want us to long for your coming, I need to remember that here and now, there is a job to do, and I can make a difference for the better if I am living in your love. Eager expectation, patient and courageous action. That is what you ask. And when I am fed up with life, help me remember that the things that may consume my attention now, and the problems of life, probably aren’t all that big a deal in light of eternity. Help me, Father. After all, my troubles are nothing compared to Job’s! I know your mercy and tenderness, and perfect timing are all I need to carry me through.

(5:13) Thank you for your many blessings. A great, healthy family, a loving husband, growing friendships, wonderful extended family, a place to live and no worries about where our next meal will come from. Even as we look and eagerly seek a place to live of our own, I am thankful for what I have in my parents‘ home. When I feel envy and dissatisfaction creep up by looking at all the places I canNOT afford to live, help me remember that you have a perfect place for us, at the perfect time, in the perfect price. And though it may not be everything I ever dreamed of, it will meet our needs. I know you will provide, and I thank you for all you have provided all along. I praise you for your unending faithfulness and perfect plan! And I also thank you for the lessons we’ve had along the way.

(5:14) Lord, there are many I know who need healing right now, and I seek that for them, and thank you for those you have already healed. For the man at church who is now cancer-free, thank you. For the friend whose sister lost a baby just days after birth, comfort them as they grieve and consider how to move forward while still honoring that little life. For the one with the hernia, please bring a successful treatment. For the one healed and just released to return to work, thank you. For the family whose marriage and home life has just been restored, and who are now walking with you, thank you. For the one who has been off drugs for nine months, but now struggles with weight issues, be with her and help her make the right choices for her life and body and health. For the one who lost a sister this week, and another family who lost a husband/father, thank you that the suffering of the deceased has ended, and comfort those who mourn and miss them. 

“The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (5:15-16, NRSV)

Thank you that our righteousness comes not from our own lives or works, but from faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. Thank you that as I try to keep my heart pure before you (which is impossible without your help), submit to your will, and ask from motives of love instead of selfishness, I can be confident of your attentiveness and perfect care in these matters. Amen.