Most Christians believe that healing happens even today, and many of us have either been healed or have known someone who has been healed. But how many of us also know someone who wasn’t? How many of us have been left confused, disheartened, and heartbroken after praying for healing that never came?
This is a difficult and often painful topic to talk about in the Christian world, one that can lead to division, but it’s also something many of us have faced. It’s one of the things that cause Christians to turn their back on God, or become angry with God, and it’s one of the reasons Christians feel separated from God in their grief – How could a good God let this happen?
When healing doesn’t come, the most prominent question is why? Why are some healed instantly while others struggle for years seeking healing? Why do some live while some die? We say that the blood of Jesus purchased our healing, so were the stripes He bore only enough to heal certain illnesses or certain people?
The default answer to this is “God’s timing” or “God’s will”, but how does someone in pain reconcile the heart of a God who was willing to heal Person A’s cancer, but not Person B’s cancer? Scripture tells us that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). He does not love some of us more than others. We can’t earn our way into healing, the same way we can’t earn our way into salvation or righteousness.
If we were to pray for a friend or family member to be saved, and they ultimately die cursing God, would we assume that it was God’s will for them to not be saved? 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says that God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. We can’t automatically associate every unanswered prayer with God’s will, or we are giving people a picture of a God who cares about some more than others. Instead, we have to focus on what we know to be true.
There are things we know from scripture and then there are things we think we know.
Things we know:
- God’s intention for us in the garden was to live and not die, or suffer (Genesis 2:15-17)
- Adam and Eve disobeyed God and we began to live under a curse (Genesis 3:17-19)
- God reversed the curse through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Things we THINK we know:
Our brain makes connections that might not be true. We take scriptural truths and then follow them down a path that’s not biblical.
God knows when we suffer, and He is good and loves us, so He wouldn’t want us to suffer. God can stop our suffering, so we should never expect to suffer.
Scripture refutes this repeatedly. Look at Job, Moses, Hannah, David, Jeremiah, Paul, Peter, Daniel, Thomas, etc. Acts 14:22 says, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Christians don’t escape suffering; we have the promise of a loving Father who will “come near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in Spirit”.
God is a loving God who wants to heal me, but I haven’t been healed. Since God is all-powerful, there must be something wrong with me. Maybe I don’t have enough faith, or I have unconfessed sins.
So what do you say to the husband who just lost his wife or the parents who lost their child after spending days on their knees in prayer? Would it really help to walk up to a mother who recently lost her son and tell her that she could have saved him if she had just had more faith? Is that going to bring her closer to the cross or push her further away? Theology is not going to help someone who is suffering; only the presence of God is going to do that. We can’t pretend to know what God is doing behind the scenes. In the book of Job, his friends all accused him of doing evil, but God called him blameless and a righteous man. It is so hard to not give answers when someone is in pain, but sometimes our poorly worded answers can cause more grief and condemnation, when the truth is simply we don’t know.
Ultimately, it comes back to what we do know to be true. We don’t know God’s thoughts, but we do know His character. We know He is God, and we know He is good. Scripture tells us:
- God will pull us close in our time of grief. (Psalm 34:18)
- God is for us and He loves us. There are things we can’t understand and mysteries in the world, but there is no mystery in how much God loves us (Psalm 136:26)
- God will turn our grief into joy (John 16:20)
If you are struggling with a loss that you can’t understand, or if you have prayed for healing that still hasn’t come – I encourage you to continue seeking God and trusting Him, knowing that He is for you and He loves you. A great book that dives into this topic in depth is “Where is God When it Hurts” by Philip Yancey. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about what God’s word says about grief.