Why Doesn't God Heal Us?
By Mariane Holbrook
I stood in the doorway of Mother's nursing home room and wept quietly. She couldn't see me. She sat in the chair beside her bed with her head on her knees, a few small pillows wedged behind her back and a pink shawl pulled across her frail and bony shoulders. She was moaning softly, "Dear God, help me. Please, God, help me."
Tears ran in rivulets down my face as I asked God again, "Why? Why is this dear saint of God suffering so? She's 96 years old. She's suffered with unrelenting pain all her life. And if that wasn't enough, why did she have to break her leg walking down the hall and lie in agony for many weeks in a cast with the leg never properly healing? Please help me understand the problem of pain. Please."
One very early morning before sunrise, God in His mercy took Mother Home to be with Him. Her two daughters who lived near the nursing center watched as she was placed in a body bag and carried out. From their exhaustion in overseeing her care for several years, they cried in their grief but thankful that her long battle with unending pain was finally over.
That was nine years ago. I am just now beginning to understand the problem of pain because I live with it. I wish I had understood it while Mother was still living. I could have empathized more and ministered to her better. Before, I was an observer of pain. Now I am a participant, however reluctantly.
I have watched televangelists declare healing to precious believers who are brought en masse to their meetings. I have seen crutches being tossed carelessly aside, wheel chairs pushed against the walls as invalids were encouraged to walk or run across the platform to the applause and shouting of thousands in the audience. I pray many were healed instantly but what of those who were not? Did they return home in abject, total disappointment with God, still not understanding the reason for their pain? Did they continue to declare healing when none was forthcoming? Worst of all, did they begin to lose their faith in the One who had saved them?
As evangelical Christians, we are taught early that there is healing in the atonement. "By his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3) And "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. (Matthew 8:17) We reason, "If we can trust Christ for our salvation, can we not also trust Him for our healing? God never turns away one soul who confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus. Why does He seem to be capricious and selective in choosing those who will be healed from their sickness and those who will not?"
Theologians have battled this discussion for centuries and have yet to come up with compelling reasons for pain that fully satisfy those who are hurting.
But for me, it has been reduced to one simple explanation: healing is temporal but grace is eternal. Given a choice, I will take grace every time.
Grace has been defined as "the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God" or "God’s love and favor to the undeserving."
The same God who has saved me from my sins, who has promised me eternal life, can be trusted to know what I need to do to be more like His Son, Jesus. He decides how much of the boiling cauldron I need to endure, not only for my benefit but for those watching my life. In His divine wisdom, He determines who is selected to share in "the fellowship of His suffering." (Philippians 3:10)
Should we pray for a divine touch of healing on those who suffer?
Yes. And we should pray earnestly and without ceasing, exercising faith and holding onto the promises of God. But never should we pile guilt on the infirmed by declaring that their lack of faith is the sole reason for their not being healed.
My friend, Edith, was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the chest down. She was approached by a member of her church who challenged her to get up out of her wheelchair by faith and walk. She couldn't and he berated her. She wiped away her tears and kept her faith and trust in the Saviour of her soul. It wasn't in God's plan to heal her on earth but He gave her a sterling Christian testimony that defined her for years until God called her Home. We are encouraged by God to pray for healing; we do not have the freedom to insist on healing by demand..
My mother's extended family watched her suffering all her life, but they remember most of all her unfailing faith. Her walk with God was not uneven; it was consistent. Her testimony was positioned there permanently as a standard against which the rest of us measured our lives. Her "problem of pain" was no accident; it was not indifference by God to her anguish and travail. God used her pain for a reason: it was to refine her and to give her a lasting testimony to the grace of God under pressure, tremendous pressure. Even in her tears and suffering, she knew she might not understand God's ways, but she could trust His loving heart.
When I was in college, our Old Testament professor, Rev. Harold Freligh, drew a large circle on the blackboard. He placed a dot in the center. Under it he wrote in large letters:
"In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand.
There can come no second causes,
All must come through His dear hand."
Rev. Freligh did something else that has sustained me, especially now as I deal with my own pain. He drew a long horizontal line on the blackboard and explained, "This represents a shelf. On it I place all my questions for which I have no answer. When I get to Heaven, God will patiently explain each one to my full and complete satisfaction."
And so it is with pain. I don't know why a dear six-year-old boy who loves Jesus is battling leukemia in an Illinois hospital today. I don't know why my younger Christian friend in Tennessee spends 22 out of 24 hours of every day in bed, weakened and ravaged by Multiple Sclerosis. I can't explain why my lovely friend in Arizona struggles with the insidious and devastating pain of Sarcoidosis for which there is no adequate treatment and no medical cure.
I have placed each one of these friends on my "shelf," confident that their pain is not in vain, knowing that they haven't been forgotten by God or overlooked in His scheme of things. Each one is ministering every day of their lives to the wonderful grace of Jesus, that eternal principle which makes their pain meaningful and their testimonies so enduring. Each one, I am confident, if they were able, would rise to full stature and sing:
Wonderful grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, Setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious name of Jesus,
Praise His name!
Mariane Holbrook is a retired teacher
and author who lives in Kure Beach, NC.
She is a member of Traphill Baptist Church,