By Maria Fontaine
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”
—James 5:14–15 ESV
Healing ministries bring God’s love and power into the lives of others in both a physical and spiritual manner, for which they are very grateful. Being a conduit for that love can be inspiring, even life-transforming. We are all encouraged to hear testimonies of the Lord’s healing.
As wonderful as it is to experience the thrill of seeing someone miraculously healed, a major dilemma that any sincere Christian can face when praying for someone’s healing is the possibility that the one prayed for might not receive healing immediately. If this should happen and you’re the one doing the praying, you might be tempted to feel condemned, or as if you somehow failed the person. While sometimes it might be that the conditions weren’t met, and that maybe there was a lack of faith on your part or on the part of the person you were praying for, or both, we need to bear in mind that the Lord’s ways are high above our ways, and He doesn’t always do things in the way that we ask or expect or think He should. (Isaiah 55:8–9) There are times when He chooses not to heal someone physically. Why is this? Only God knows the reason. Each situation is different, particular to the individuals involved and what the Lord is doing in their lives.
As many of us have personally experienced, there are many good reasons for afflictions or loss. This is also apparent in the lives of great Christians like Fanny Crosby, Louis Braille, Helen Keller, John Milton, Amy Carmichael, Samuel Schereschewsky, and numerous others. If you look at how mightily God has been able to use many Christian men and women whose lives bore the fruits of such afflictions, it’s pretty easy to see why God allowed such handicaps, either for a time or sometimes even for their entire lives. Afflictions in any life, Christian or not, have the potential to develop compassion, maturity, and understanding that Jesus can use to open our hearts to His Spirit of love.
I have heard of healing evangelists who have had wonderful ministries of healing others, but who suffered from debilitating afflictions. They prayed repeatedly for relief, but were never healed. The Lord, in His mercy, may sometimes use such things to help them to balance out the temptation to pride from fame and the praise of men, or He may even be using it as an even greater demonstration of their strong faith and trust, like Job’s statement that “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15) Even the apostle Paul said he prayed several times for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh,” and apparently he was refused this request. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10) He proclaimed, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
This brings to mind the story of a young man who was afflicted with stammering. He was a tremendous witness for the Lord, but wanted so much to be freed of this embarrassing condition for which he’d been prayed over repeatedly. Yet he didn’t receive the miracle he was expecting and wanting. Instead, he discovered something greater. He explained, “I guess the Lord wants me to use my stammering for His glory, because when I witness to others, they feel so sorry for me, they always listen!” Even though he didn’t receive freedom from the problem, he learned to use it for his advantage and for God’s glory. He realized that in his case, what he was seeing as a hindrance was really a witnessing tool.
Another instance is Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without limbs, yet who has a tremendous ministry, traveling all over the world as a witness to many. Because of his disability, he has encouraged millions who have been attracted by his faith and love for Jesus, and his perseverance and positive attitude despite his handicap.
The list goes on and on. If we stop to consider why the Lord would allow these afflictions in the lives of His children and not deliver them immediately, many even not in this life, I think we’ll find some very valuable and important reasons.
Faith isn’t a matter of trusting when things go right; it’s when it looks like things have gone wrong that faith comes into play. And our reaction should be one of trust when things go differently than we had hoped or asked. Our trust in the Lord that He knows better than we do will show people that we serve a magnificent God—one who is worthy of our trust and our service. Thank God He knows better than we do, and thank God He does what He knows is best!
It isn’t our responsibility to determine who gets healing and who doesn’t. It is our responsibility to have love enough to take the risk of being seen as a failure as we obey the Lord and do whatever He shows us. If we’re praying for the healing of others because we want to glorify the Lord, out of a pure love for Him and others, we won’t be overly concerned how “successful” we appear in the eyes of others. We’ll be able to trust Him whether things go the way we think they should or not.
His answers will come if you’ve prayed for them. In the form that they are most needed, and at the time He knows is best, I believe they will arrive. They just won’t always come in the form or packaging that we were expecting or hoping for, and we have to trust Him for that. He has called us to minister His love to others, including praying in faith for their healing when He leads us to. We can then place our trust in Him to bring the answers in His time and way—whether healing of mind, heart, spirit, or body.
“I believe in a God who can do all things, but if He chooses not to give me arms and legs, I know it’s for the better. And I may not understand it, but all I need to know is that He’s going to carry me through, that there is a purpose for it.
“We can’t, and we should not, compare sufferings. We come together as a family of God, hand in hand. And then together coming and standing upon the promises of God, knowing that no matter who you are, no matter what you’re going through, that God knows it, He is with you, He is going to pull you through.
“The challenges in our lives are there to strengthen our convictions. They are not there to run us over.”
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