Two Views of Healing, Part Two
For last week’s newspaper column, I wrote “Two Views of Healing, Part One.” The next day I got results from a CT scan which show that the virulent kind of lymphoma that I was in remission from after chemotherapy has returned. We will learn more next week. Even though I knew these test results were upcoming when I wrote the article, having gotten the results makes what I write about healing this week even more, as they say, “existential.”
Since last week I have had conversations with friends and dear family, and I have some new insights. First of all as someone who has an illness, I am delighted when people pray for me, whether they are praying “Lord heal him if it be thy will,” or just “Lord heal him!” If my earlier article said anything that would dishearten or discourage anyone praying for me or for anyone else, I apologize! The prayers of the saints matter, and they don’t have to follow a formula or a law! “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!”
Secondly the big problem we have with healing is that in the New Testament everybody gets healed but in our experience everybody does not get healed. I learned from the theologian Karl Barth that we should definitely prioritize the word of God far above our experience, and yet I don’t think that means we completely ignore our experience.
Yet, focusing on God’s Word, I think of this verse: “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Luke 10:38. This verse makes two things clear. First that Jesus healed all the sick who came to him. Second, that sickness is regarded as being caused by the enemy of our souls and not by God. Illness is part of the fall and a part of the attack on God’s good creation, and God hates every distortion that has come into his creation. (Someone might argue now that death too was an attack on God’s good creation, but the Apostle Paul is very clear that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death…” and that is in the future though I believe the victory over death has begun with Jesus’s resurrection.)
So one reason people pray for healing “if it’s God‘s will” is that we see that the majority of people that we pray for are not healed in this life. But here I learn something from doctors! They try to cure every disease. I don’t think they ever assume that disease is a good thing. They combat it. Often they fail, but they always try! But, when we Christians see that people are not healed, sometimes we figure this must be God‘s will—to be accepted by us.
I would want to argue something different. I do not believe it’s God‘s will that children die in famine or that children are abused. Or that civilians are killed in wars. Or that people get sick.
If everything that happened currently on earth, including illness, were God’s will, I can’t imagine why Jesus would ever have taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Clearly much that happens on the earth (disease, famine, war, abuse, rape, unbelief--to name a few) does not in any way conform to the state of heaven, and we are constantly to pray for earth to become like heaven! So keep praying for healing of the world and of the planet (and just maybe include in that my healing and the healing of many others too.) The healing of the universe is clearly God’s will. We know because of Jesus’ resurrection that it will happen--whether you or I see it fully in this life or on the next.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column appears in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.