Why Did God Heal or Not?
In 1996 a 27-year-old man in my church named David was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer. The doctors decided to send David to the Mayo Clinic to receive some experimental treatments on the slim hope these might at least prolong his life. The night before David left, I and a dozen other people went over to his house to pray. For over two hours we engaged in fervent warfare prayer on his behalf, revolting in Jesus’s name against the cancer and anything in the spirit realm that might be involved in it.
Two days later I received an elated call from David. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic could not find any trace of cancer!
Of course, the mayo clinic staff insisted that David’s local doctors must have misread his brain scans, but his local doctor said this wasn’t possible. The mystery was never resolved, which was fine with us. We just praised God that he was set free from a life-threatening infirmity that ultimately is traceable back to Satan’s oppressive regime.
But we must be honest. As impressive as this event was, it’s possible nothing supernatural occurred. Despite their insistence to the contrary, David’s doctors may have misread his brain scans, and it’s possible David’s cancer went into “spontaneous remission.” But these seem very unlikely. And since I have good reason for believing Jesus is the son of God and that his followers are supposed to be able to affect things through the power of prayer, I feel justified calling David’s healing miracle.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, and to illustrate how arbitrary life sometimes this, I’m compelled to add the sad fact that three years after his miraculous healing, David’s brain cancer returned. And this time he wasn’t healed.
I admit that this is theologically disturbing. But I don’t think this invalidates the miracle. For all we know, Lazarus may have died three years after Jesus raised him from the dead, perhaps from the very disease that killed him the first time (John 11:1–46). All healings this side of heaven are temporary signs of the coming age when all forms of infirmity will be permanently overcome. Until the kingdom comes in its fullness, we will all eventually die. The very last enemy that will be overcome is death (1 Cor 15). So David’s death doesn’t undermine the genuineness of the healing.
But it does illustrate how mysterious and seemingly arbitrary life is. Why was healing prayer effective in one instance but not in another, when we were revolting against the same illness in the same person? It’s impossible to say. Yet, as I said in yesterday’s post, it’s important we understand why we can’t understand this. It’s not because God’s will or character is so mysterious. It’s rather because we live in an unfathomably complex creation.
We don’t need to blame the arbitrariness of life on God. Nor do we need to try to explain away this arbitrariness by claiming some people have sufficient faith while others don’t. We simply need to respect the impenetrable ambiguity of an unfathomably complex creation and confess, as finite human beings, that “we don’t know.”
Image by mathrock via Flickr
As we approach our ReKnew conference next month, we’ll be posting snippets of Greg’s book, Benefit of the Doubt. We hope you’ll be joining us. We extended the deadline for early bird registration. Get on that before Friday at midnight! What Is Your Actual God? In light of all this, what should be said about…
Faith is sometimes understood as the lack of doubt. As a result, doubt can be seen as the enemy of faith. But Biblical faith can withstand doubt and even be strengthened by it. God wants His people to wrestle with Him on the things that matter in their lives. We must not be afraid of struggling with deep…
The story of one little girl who was killed at Sandy Hook and what became of the family in the aftermath. We live in a world where school shootings are almost becoming commonplace. It’s important to be reminded that even this depth of evil can be overcome with goodness and hope. In memory of all…
Image by Jmos® via Flickr We believe that God is the Creator of nature, but nature simply does not seem to point to a God of love. Parasites, viruses, bacteria, diseases and cancer kill millions and torment millions more, humans and animals alike. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, mudslides and volcanoes do the same. Theists have traditionally argued that…
In this video, Greg continues his thoughts about the difficulties we can encounter when we try to hear God speaking to us. You can view the first part here.
I will conclude this series on the violent imagery in Revelation by addressing the infamous eschatological battle scene found in 19:11-21, for it is this graphically violent section of Revelation that is most frequently appealed to by those who argue against the claim that Jesus reveals an enemy-loving, non-violent God that is unconditionally opposed to…