Lately, several friends of mine have needed healing for spiritual or physical reasons. For many of these friends, the healing process has been slow and challenging. Not what they expected. Or what I expected. One dear friend has been put through an emotional and spiritual marathon just to keep faith. Her condition has kept her largely bed-ridden for the past 4 months.
These friends’ journeys have brought us face-to-face with some tough questions about divine healing. Does God heal? Why aren’t some people healed? Is God’s will for people to be sick and to suffer? If God loves us, why doesn’t He always heal us immediately in response to faithful prayer? Here are some of my thoughts — and revelations — about some of these questions.
Does God Heal Today?
The Lord still heals the sick and afflicted in response to believing prayer. Just as Jesus healed during His ministry on earth, the Lord still heals us today. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. All spiritual gifts available to the apostles and first disciples are available to believers today through the Holy Spirit, including the miracles gifts like healing.
Does God Want Us to Suffer?
Sickness, disability, spiritual struggles, and death are the result of sin and the fall of humankind in Adam & Eve. It is not — and never has been — God’s will for us to be sick, to struggle or suffer, and to die. In Jesus’s crucifixion, He took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. By His stripes we are healed.
Why Does God Heal?
The Bible gives us several reasons for why God provides us physical healing:
— To bring glory to God (Matt. 9:8, 15:31)
— To remind us that He is all powerful (John 11:4-45)
— To reveal His compassionate character (Matt. 20:24)
— To free us to be whole so we can better minister and serve (1 Cor. 6:9-20)
— To build faith in the recipient and observer (Mark 5:35-43)
— To reveal the workings of God (John 9:3)
— To fulfill the promises of God in the Bible (Matt. 8:16-17)
Why Are Some People Not Healed When Prayer is Offered?
When people aren’t healed, we, in our limited human understanding, tend to gravitate towards one of two conclusions: the person was not healed due to a lack of faith (either by the recipient or the one praying) or it was not God’s will for the person to be healed.
First, God does not want us to suffer; that’s not His purpose or intent. With that established, here are some reasons why someone wasn’t or did not appear to be healed:
— The afflicted person is not a believer. While the Lord sometimes heals those who don’t believe in the power and lordship of Jesus, there is no scriptural promise of healing for those who don’t believe. (Matt. 5:45)
— Healing is sought for the wrong purposes — like selfishness or worldly pursuits.
— The focus is on a human minister (the one praying) rather than the Lord.
— Disobedience, unbelief, or unconfessed sin. Unconfessed sin is a huge one — the Bible exhorts us to confess our sins to the Lord andto one another. If, while receiving healing prayer, praying for healing, or waiting for healing, the Lord brings a sin to your heart, confess it to Him and to a pastor or Christian friend.
— Delayed healing. This is the situation I believe most my friends are in. By presupposing that God is in control and that healing is in the atonement (Jesus’s death), then we can recognize that pain and suffering may be tools used for the growth and development of the believer. They take the believer to a place where s/he needs to stand in faith until the answer comes.
Our limited understanding can mislead us to believe that if God loves us, we will have pain-free lives. But instant gratification and immediate healing do not always demonstrate the height of God’s love for us. The Bible is replete with examples of strong believers suffering indefinitely (take Paul with the “thorn in his side”). Peter reminds us that these trials come so that our faith, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in glory and honor to the Lord. (1 Pet. 6:1-7)
God always heals in answer to believing, repentant prayer. But His timing and will may differ from our personal preferences.
Why Do People Die?
There is no scriptural promise for everlasting physical life on earth. Death has lost its sting through salvation in Jesus, but our earthly bodies still perish because of our original sin (Adam & Eve). Jesus has given us eternal life — those who accept this gift of life will live forever with Him and will receive resurrected bodies as He did. One reason God gives for limiting our time on earth is to limit the amount of time we can sin and be separated from God. While hard to believe, God lets us die out of mercy for us — in death, the believer becomes whole and complete, never to suffer sickness, affliction, or pain again.