The Problem of Healing (or Not)


 

 

Does God still heal today?  Yes.

What does the word “heal” mean?  That depends.

 

This is from a very special article I wrote almost four years ago.  I’m updating now and moving it over here to prepare for a class that I’ll be doing soon.  Updates for that purpose will be in italic rust colored text, so you can tell the original portions.

Here’s the verse that got me started on the road to updating this article –

Jas 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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.

The question that came to mind are these –

  • What doessickmean?
  • What doesmake the sick person well(heal) mean?

“sick”

It’s worth noting that the word “sick” appears twice in these verses, and each of them has a different word in the original Greek.

Is any one of you sick?

In this case, the connotation is 1 to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless. 2 to be weak in means, needy, poor. 3 to be feeble, sick.
Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.

 to grow weary, be weary. 2 to be sick.
Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

There’s also a note here  –

As in the case of expressions for health and vigor, it may also be necessary in some languages to specify more precisely the nature of the illness, disease, or weakness. Often the context provides a clue, but in some instances this is not possible, in which case it is important to try to employ a term for sickness or illness which will be the most generalized.  
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 269). New York: United Bible Societies.

We tend to look at this as a case of Jesus bringing people back to good physical health when they are “sick”.  And to be sure – He did that.  However, the primary goal for Him was to “heal” (save) their souls, as we see in this verse in Matthew 9 –

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus was using a word in a non-traditional sense.  He did heal people in the physical sense, but the more important meaning behind what He said was about their eternal health.

healing – “make the sick person well”

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well

By itself, this seems to back up the physical healing definition.  

But – looking at the original Greek, there are no words that correspond to the English translation for the words “person well”.  Seriously – it says nothing about making that person well – which means healing in the sense of making a disease or physical health problem go away is not what this verse says.

Going to Young’s Literal Translation, we read –

and the prayer of the faith shall save the distressed one, and the Lord shall raise him up

It would seem that the promise here isn’t for a physical healing, but for the salvation of the person’s soul.

Does this mean physical healing is a thing of the past?

Read on for that…

The original article, from November 13, 2010, starts here.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

That’s from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans – specifically Romans 1:18-23 (this is from the English Standard Version).

Before getting into this – I need to say that the feeling to write about this subject came to me this past Friday. Saturday night (the next day) I learned that a dear member of our church – who had a previous bout with cancer 19 years ago – is facing it yet again. Then questions came into my mind about whether to write this – or if it would be better to wait a while – or just drop it.

So I “talked to God” about it. I talked to my wife about it.

Given that I felt the inspiration to do the topic – it seems that not writing it could be to go against God’s will. Whether or not it shows up on the site now – later – or never – will be entirely up to that person. For all I know – it was meant to be written just for her – or maybe for her now, and for others later. The only thing I know for sure – is that I feel a need to write it.  <obviously, it did show up on the site>

So – here we go.

That Jesus healed people in the Bible is well known.
And He did it in many ways.
For example, in Matthew 8:14-15 –

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

where Jesus went to a house, saw someone with a fever – and just by His touch healed her from something that would likely have been fatal in those days. Not only that, but so quickly and so completely that she began to wait on Him right away.

Or in the very next verse – Matthew 8:16 –

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.

where people were brought to Jesus – and He healed them by speaking.

Or Matthew 9:20-22 –

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.

where a woman was healed merely by touching His cloak.

Or Matthew 8:5-13 –

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”

Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

where Jesus healed someone who was some distance away.

 

There are some who would say that it’s the faith of the people that’s most important. And if someone is not healed – it’s due to a lack of faith.  More faith would have resulted in healing for those who are not healed – that’s the claim.

I submit there’s no reason to believe that’s the case. There are instances in the New Testament where references are made to what the Prophet Isaiah said. For instance – remember Matthew 8:16 above? Here it is with verse 17 included –

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities

and carried our diseases.”

<note for those who like to read – there’s a fascinating fictional account of these verses and it’s impact on us today, in a book by Jeffrey Mclain Jones, called “And He Healed Them All>

So – yes – faith was an important ingredient. But it wasn’t the only one.

It was also God’s will that was involved. And that’s where things can get rather messy – at least from our point of view.

You may have noticed – I haven’t talked about Lazarus yet – where Jesus raised him from the dead. (In the part about Lazarus – I am intentionally not including links at this point. I will put one to the complete story at the end. If you know how it goes – that’s great. But if you don’t – please follow along here first, before looking it up.) Raising Lazarus from the dead is from John 11:38-44 –

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

So how amazing is that? Lazarus had been dead for 4 days – and Jesus “healed” him from being dead.

 

But – do you remember / know what came just before those verses? In John 11:21 –

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

Ouch!! But then – how many times have we had similar feelings towards God – and what we think He should have done?

Think about it – this is one of the great stories that so many people know – Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But how many know / remember Martha telling Jesus that Lazarus wouldn’t have died if He (Jesus) had been there.

Now – anyone remember / know why Jesus wasn’t there? Could it have been that He didn’t know that His friend Lazarus was about to die? Or maybe He did know – but had something more important to do than take care of His friend? Let’s see – from John 11:1-6 –

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Nope – nothing special going on – and it says that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. But He just stayed there for two more days.

 

What was He thinking? Didn’t He know that waiting around until Lazarus died would cause great pain for the family and friends – not to mention the fact that Lazarus died! Is Jesus so uncaring that He couldn’t have let these people avoid the pain and suffering – especially since Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead anyway? We get a clue from John 11:32-37 –

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Again – people are mad at Jesus for not healing Lazarus before he died.

 

But – to answer the part about whether or not Jesus / God cares about when we feel pain – notice the little 2 word sentence in the middle. That’s John 11:35 – the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. He does care – and cares deeply.

But – and this is one really big but – just like the earlier references to Isaiah – there is a reason for this – and it’s mentioned more than once when reading the entire text of the incident – which is here from John 11:1-44 –

The Death of Lazarus

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus Comforts the Sisters

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

 

First – what happened to them – and what happens to us – is for God’s glory.

Third – if we believe – we will see God’s glory.

(Second) – And in between – if we believe – we will live, even though we die.

As humans – we have all been born – and we all (will) die.

As Christians – what we believe about what happens after death is quite different from what everyone else believes. We are the only ones who have a guarantee of spending the rest of eternity with our living God.

What happens in between birth and death – that’s a very different story for each of us.

When a Christian gets very sick – we pray to God.

We pray for wisdom for the doctors taking care of our loved ones. For those who think doctors aren’t something Christians need to concern ourselves with – consider that Luke – author of the third Gospel – called The man who wrote the most beautiful book in the world in All The Men of The Bible – was a physician. Jesus Himself said that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  Jesus often spoke with words that have an “obvious” meaning – but also had a “hidden” meaning.  There’s every reason to expect that He meant both physical and spiritual healing of the body (the obvious meaning) and the eternal soul (the hidden meaning) here.

We pray to God to heal the person. Note that when we pray – we should always pray as Jesus did in Luke 22:42 –

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

as He was approaching the hour of His own death. And so we pray for healing – if it is God’s will.

And if healing is not in God’s will – we pray for strength and encouragement and peace for the ill person – and their family – and their friends – and all those around them. And those things – they are in God’s will – if we are willing to accept them. No matter what else happens – He has promised to always be with us.

 

In the event of a miraculous healing – God’s greatness is obvious – at least to those who are willing to give Him the credit He deserves for what He did. As Paul said in Romans – at the top of this page – the evidence of God is there.

But – when that miracle doesn’t happen as fast as we’d like – or if it doesn’t happen at all – is the glory of God still there? Is there still evidence that God is there – and that God cares? Does Jesus weep for us at these times?

I believe He does. As a man – Jesus went through these very things – felt these very emotions – and Jesus wept. He knows how we feel. He also knows we can’t make it on our own. That’s why He promised to always be with us – to give us strength and peace.

And yes – like Lazarus’ family and friends – who also knew that Jesus could have healed him – and knew that, as Martha said –

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

literally anything is possible – but they still were angry with Jesus – they still were sad over what happened – they experienced the emotions that we all have.

And for that reason – Jesus reminded them of what they already knew –

Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

that He is God – that He was sent by the Father – and also those three things from above

(1) “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

(2) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(3) “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

We – as Christians – we know these things. We don’t always “remember” them when things get difficult. But if we live in God’s Word – live in a community of His people – we will be reminded. And we can have all those things that He promised.

And we know that – when it’s time – when it’s His will – we will go to be at home with Him.

So – where’s the glory of God in all of this – what’s so obvious for everyone to see – where’s the miracle of God when there’s no miraculous healing?

It’s in how we react when the healing doesn’t come.

We have God’s comfort – God’s peace – God’s strength – God’s promise of an eternal life with Him. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 –

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Sometimes, what’s shown to others so that they may see the glory of God – is us. The miracle is that we have God to help us through the times when the miracle of healing doesn’t happen. But when healing doesn’t happen – the miracle of eternity in Heaven with our Creator does happen – as does the miracle of the living on earth having the love and comfort and strength and peace of our Creator, even while we are still on this earth.

 

There’s this Tommy Walker song – Pass It On – we sing it in our church – and the Chorus goes –

Giving you glory and honor
Blessing and praise
Together will pass it on,
the greatness of your ways

That’s what the Romans passage is about for us – passing on the glory of God to others.

We do it when the miracle of healing happens.

We do it when the miracle of healing doesn’t happen – because other miracles do happen.

God deserves

the glory
the honor
the blessing
the praise
the credit

whether there is physical healing or not, because He will always answer the prayer offered in faith for healing a soul.

15 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. 16 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.

The Problem of Healing –
it’s not God’s problem for not answering a prayer for physical healing –
it’s not our problem for a lack of faith.

No – the “problem” is that we sometimes fail to give God credit where it’s due.
Credit for the truly important thing that He knows and we sometimes forget –
that healing of the soul for eternity is infinitely more important than healing of the physical body for what is the equivalent of the blink of an eye.

 

Please leave a comment - it's nice to hear from you