Updated: Jun 15, 2022
So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
I love reading about the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. Most involve healing, and usually people in a hopeless situation. As I get older, I feel like I am surrounded by friends, relatives and acquaintances that need healing. These include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health, and more. As a Christian, I’ve been told to pray for healing for others. I do this but I can’t say I understand it. I pray for a dear friend with cancer, and he dies. I pray for a boy with a brain tumor, and he comes out of his coma. I pray for a friend’s son who has cancer. After treatment, he is proclaimed clean. Six months later the cancer is back and untreatable. To say that I don’t understand all this, is an understatement. James 5:14-15 says,
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
But what do I do when prayer doesn’t seem to work? Did I pray incorrectly? Did I call the wrong elders or use the wrong oil? Was there something hidden that needed confessing? Was my faith inadequate? What did I do wrong? What did “they” do wrong? Did “they” have insufficient faith?
I remember watching faith healers on TV. When the person wasn’t healed, it was because “they”didn’t have enough faith. As a young man, I was perplexed by this. There must be some order, some formula. It can’t be random.
I decided to read about the miraculous healings of Jesus. It was illuminating. Sometimes the afflicted person had faith (Matt. 8:2-4); sometimes they were totally unaware (Matt. 8:14-15). Sometimes, it was someone else (not the afflicted) that had faith (Matt. 8:5-13). Sometimes Jesus did something physical as part of the healing, such as touching (Mark 8:22-23). Sometimes He had the afflicted do something (Luke 17:11-14). Sometimes the healed person was grateful and sometimes they weren’t (Luke 17:15-19). Sometimes the healing was immediate and sometimes it wasn’t (Mark 8:24-26).
I counted twenty-three specific healing miracles performed by Jesus (of course, there are many more only described in general terms). And what do they all have in common? What is the common denominator? Aside from Jesus’ participation, there is no common denominator. They are all different! Each is unique to the person and the moment. So, I found no magic formula for healing. There was nothing I could latch onto to manipulate God to do my bidding.
Well, this isn’t helpful at all! Why should I pray for healing if I can’t be certain that it will work? Either for myself or someone else? What is the point? Good questions.
For me it boils down to trust. Do I trust in the healing power of Jesus? Do I trust Him to make the right decisions? Do I trust Him to take care of me (John 14:1)? Will I agree with those decisions? Maybe not. Will I understand them? Almost certainly not. But do I believe Him? Absolutely (Heb. 11:6).
I do not pretend to understand why some are healed and others are not. I have seen it both ways. I’ve seen the joy of cancer in remission. I’ve experienced healing in my own life. I’ve seen the heartbreak of losing a dear friend to brain cancer. I cannot explain it. It isn’t fair. It shouldn’t be this way. And that is as far as my mind and heart can take me.
What I do know is that I do not (and probably cannot) see the whole picture. There are invisible battles going on around me that I am mostly unaware of. So, until I know more, I will trust in the One who has offered me a better life. Like Peter in the passage in John 6, I think, where else would I go?