Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Now-My-Eye-Sees-YOU Healing.

The other day I was listening to a podcast by a well-known Christian speaker on healing.  Walking on the treadmill at the YMCA, ear phones in, I was eagerly listening to every word as I tried to distract myself from the pain and fatigue in my body.  And that’s when the well-meaning speaker made this statement::
God physically heals everyone who is taking care of himself, both physically and spiritually.

Angered, I had half a mind to stop the podcast and spend the rest of the afternoon moping about the fact that God has not healed me.  Here I am, reading my Bible daily, going to church weekly, praying constantly, doing my stretches from physical therapy every morning, exercising on the treadmill (at least) five days a week, and I could go on and on… And yet, here I am, still hurting all over my body, still tired from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed, still so weak that I have to use two hands to lift a simple water bottle to my lips, still unable to walk up the stairs without resting, still having problems seeing and reading things straight, still struggling to simply stand at work for any long period of time.  Here I am, still sick.  God hasn’t healed me and yet I am doing everything I can to take care of myself, both physically and spiritually.  So, what’s the problem?  What am I doing wrong?

I can’t help but wonder if this speaker-lady has ever read the story of Job.  Because if she has, she would have known that when Job lost everything and was in an utter state of despair and mourning, he didn’t do anything.  Job simply sat down and mourned.  “[He] sat down . . . on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13, NKJV).  For seven days, Job just sat.  He was sick, tired, and full of grief.  He wasn’t taking care of what was left of his land.  He wasn’t seeking for a job to buy more livestock, more food, more materials.  He wasn’t even taking care of himself.  He wasn’t doing anything!  And yet God still healed him, his land, and his family.  “Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before . . . Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:10b; 12a, NKJV).

Now, please don’t think that I am implying that in order to be healed, all you have to do is sit on the couch and wait for healing to come.  That is not what I am saying at all.  If you have the flu, go to the doctor that God has blessed with such wisdom and get your medicine.  If you have cancer, go through the life-saving treatment that God has given man the thought to create.  If you struggle with weight, go to the gym, exercise, find a diet that works for you.  But above all, seek Him.  Jehovah-Rapha.  The God who heals.  It’s like the woman with blood.  She had bled for twelve years, seeking out every kind of physician to cure the incurable.  And then she heard about Jesus.  At this point, the woman with blood had a choice – She could either sit quietly on the outskirts of the crowd surrounding Jehovah-Rapha, or she could make a move and touch His garment.  The woman chose to move.  And because of her faith, because of her choice, she was healed.  “But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well’” (Matthew 9:22, NKJV).

But back to the speaker-lady…

Let me put it boldly and say that I do not agree with speaker-lady.  Because sometimes, people – good people – get sick and there is no explanation and no healing.  Sometimes, people get hurt out of the clear blue sky and their worlds are turned upside down.  Sometimes, people can be totally fine one day, and the next, they find themselves in the midst of a chronic illness.  These same people can do everything they can to take care of themselves.  They can study God’s word daily; they can exercise five days a week; they can eat all the right foods in all the right amounts; they can pray and have the strongest faith of anyone you know, and yet they still get sick.  And sometimes, they don’t get healed.

What the speaker-lady didn’t mention in her podcast was that there is another kind of healing.  A healing that I believe is far more important than physical healing.  Eventually, the followers of Christ will be healed when they pass through the grave and enter into the glorious gates of Heaven, but what about now?  What healing can we expect while on this earth?

When I got sick, I fully expected a physical healing.  I prayed for one.  I believed for one.  I waited for one.  And yet, one never came.  At first, I was broken and hopeless as each doctor’s appointment, each procedure, each scan passed with fewer answers than we had when we had begun.  With each car ride home, healing felt that much more out of reach.  What I didn’t perceive in that moment, staring out of the passenger window with tears streaming down my face like the raindrops falling from the sky, was that while I was not receiving physical healing, I was receiving something much more valuable – spiritual healing.  A now-my-eye-sees-You-Lord kind-of healing.

In speaking to the story of Job, Dr. David Jeremiah puts it this way,
“In a matter of probably hours, Job lost everything that was important to him. . . .  But he held fast to his integrity, determined to unravel the mystery of why he, a man who had done his utmost to live an upright life, was being treated by God as the chief of sinners.  If he was a sinner deserving of divine punishment, he demanded his friends tell him what he had done – which they could not.  He also asked the same of God – and received more silence in response.
The truth is, Job never did get an answer as to why He suffered.  But more important, he got a deeper understanding of who God is.”

If you are suffering or know someone who is, understand that physical healing may never come.  But there is beauty to be found among the ashes.  Before Job was healed physically, he was healed spiritually.  Job had the opportunity to learn more about God than he would have ever had the chance to know otherwise.  “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.  Nothing and no one can upset Your plans.  You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’  I admit it.  I was the one.  I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.  You told me, ‘Listen, and let Me do the talking.  Let Me ask the questions.  You give the answers” (Job 42:1-4, MSG).

Speaker-lady said that physical healing comes to all who are living rightly.  I do not agree.  Sometimes, physical healing never comes.  But to those who are living in desperate surrender to God’s will – even if that will includes pain – they will receive a spiritual healing beyond any healing they could have ever hoped for. 

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.”

Job 42:5, NKJV


Monday, May 8, 2017

Hard Questions and Grace.

How could a loving God allow me to go through this pain?
That question has resonated in my heart time and time again.  And can I just say that I am so ashamed of that?  Whenever that thought crosses my mind and my heart begins to wander, I feel as if I am a terrible Christian.  Who am I to question the character of God, am I right?  Because of these feelings, I used to shake my head and sweep the thought under the secret rug of my mind.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  -1 Peter 5:6-7

            Friend, God cares for you.  He desperately wants to hear the cries of your heart.  He longs for you to take your fears, your anxieties, your questions, your heart to His throne of grace because He cares for you.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 4:6-7

Oh, how beautiful is the grace, the love, of God!  Eventually, I started pulling those tough questions out from under my heart’s rug and bringing them straight to the feet of God.  And that was when I finally started receiving answers.  This was a turning point in my journey with chronic illness.

How could a loving God allow me to go through this pain?
It is so easy to think that God has forsaken me.  As I wake up each morning and go to bed each night in pain, it is so easy to think that God doesn’t care.  And then those tough questions start burying themselves in the darkness of my mind and I am forced to reveal them to the One who has the power to shed some light on my situation…  God, why have You forsaken me?  God, how can You be loving when You are allowing me to go through this?  God, are You even listening to me?  God, are You even real? 
I question whether or not God is truly loving, and I am reminded of Christ.  Knowing that there would be darkness in this world and knowing that we as humans would experience pain, God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to experience humanity.  Think about that…  Jesus Christ, the King of the world, willingly left His heavenly home, His heavenly body, His heavenly throne, and came down to this broken, messy, dark world to partake of the same life that you and I live every day.  He became human in every way.  But Jesus didn’t stop there.
Christ felt pain.  He willingly felt excruciating pain here on earth simply to win my heart.  I know you know this, as you have heard the story time and time again.  But do you really know it?  

"And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground."  -Luke 22:44

Christ’s crucifixion pain began at the garden of Gethesemane.  Jesus underwent incredible emotional stress as He pondered the death He was about to face.  Here, His veins and skin became so tender from anguish that they broke, mixing His blood with His sweat.  Jesus’ body had become utterly defenseless to the cruelty He would suffer just hours later.  After His arrest, Jesus was scourged.  A whip with small balls of lead tied to the ends of each thong was brought down fiercely again and again across Jesus’ back.  With each consecutive blow, the wounds in His back grew deeper, producing rivers of blood.  Those who mocked Him then crowned Him with thorns as the blood slowly dripped down His face.  At this point, the hike to Calvary began, and Jesus was forced to carry His own cross as He stumbled from weakness, blood loss, and excruciating pain.  Once Jesus made it to Calvary, He was thrown onto a wooden cross while iron spikes were nailed through His hands and His feet.  When the cross was lifted, the full weight of Jesus’ body was dependent on those nails and each breath became a battle.  After hours of hanging on that cross, Jesus cried out, “’Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’”  (You see, Jesus asked those hard questions too).  Finally, Jesus breathed His last and our sins were forgiven.
Christ felt pain.  And I can’t help but think that He went through this pain so that He could understand the pain I feel each and every day.  Maybe Christ endured physical pain so that He could relate to my physical pain.  So that in my weakness, He could step forward and be my Strength.
I question whether or not God is loving, and I am reminded that the greatest Love of all came to this broken world, was beaten and scourged, nailed to a cross, and literally forsaken by God the Father simply to relate to my pain.  Simply to win my heart. 

What greater love is there than this?