It’s 2018 and we get word that my wife’s best friend had just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This friend is only 37 years old and is the Executive Director of a non-profit that does an enormous amount of good in the world. She is the personification of a faithful woman of God. In all honesty, she is one of the most faithful people I have ever known in my life. If one tries to find an explanation for why this horrible thing is happening to such a wonderful person, one will come up short.
Meanwhile, there are people in her life telling her that she need not fret because they have word that God is going to heal her. It’s not entirely clear how they know this, but what is clear is that they are certain about this proposition. Because this friend is a part of a certain denomination that emphasizes things like healing, she believes with faith that can move mountains God will heal her.
A few months later this once vivacious woman of God dies.
So what happened? Why wasn’t she healed? Did she not have enough faith? I have not known another person in my life to have more faith than our friend, so it certainly could not be that. Were not enough people praying? She had people praying all over the world for healing. So, it couldn’t be that.
So, what then?
Does God Heal?
Yes. At least I think so. But I also think it is very rare. It seems to me that if someone believes in the reality of God, then they must also have to believe that God heals. Healing is a primary emphasis of every gospel. I think that it is unlikely that Jesus only healed during his time on earth, but did not heal people before or after.
The better question is, do I think that we can know whether or not God is going to heal and whether or not there is a prescription or magic formula for one to receive that healing?
I think the first step would be to challenge the person making the claim. Why do they think that God would tell them that another person is going to be healed? Why would God not just tell the person who is inflicted?
It takes a certain amount of arrogance to think that a person’s righteousness is such that God would speak to them instead of speaking to the inflicted individual directly. I would add that although the person probably means well in providing hope for the inflicted individual, they are inevitably providing them with false hope. For example, what if the person doesn’t get certain medical treatments because they believe this prediction to be true? What will other people think when the prediction doesn’t come true – because you know what, it probably won’t.
It seems to me that no good can come out of a situation where an individual is making such a bold prediction about another person’s life. Consider for a moment that the individual is not healed. Who is to blame for this? God? Of course! God had nothing to do with this individual’s infliction. Sure, he could have healed them if he chose to, but he didn’t. God is looked at as the bad guy simply because someone else thought it wise to invoke his name.
Are There Prophets?
People that believe in this way of practicing their faith call this type of prediction a prophecy. This of course assumes the individual making the claim is a prophet. If we look to prophets within the Bible to give us an understanding of what a prophet is, then we will see that many of these people who claim to be prophets are not in fact delivering prophecies, but predictions. Moreover, they are not as much a prophet as they are a soothsayer. If we want to put a good western Christian spin on it, they are Christian fortune-tellers.
According to the example set forth in the Bible, a prophet is one who delivers a message from God to the religious establishment of their time. In the case of prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophecies were also directed toward political leaders as well. This is primarily because the governing body was theocratic. However, prophets also delivered messages to foreign powers as well. But, in most of these cases that occurred when there was an occupying power.
My point is, what you don’t see, is how prophecy is practiced today.
We don’t know on this side of eternity why God chooses to heal some and not others. To me, it seems that in the situation with our friend there was no good reason whatsoever to take her from this earth. If God was going to heal anyone, it would be her. And, yet she died so quickly she didn’t get a chance to receive any medical treatments for her cancer.
Let’s flip the coin for a moment and consider that maybe a miracle did take place, but we were looking at it wrongly. Much of my own justification for this situation has been to understand the fact that my friend had cancer. She was going to suffer through the pain of cancer along with the treatments. The miracle is that God chose to take her out of this world before this happened.
For some reason, we always think of life as the best option for most situations. Why is that? What is with our obsession over life? If Christians truly believed in an eternal afterlife that is devoid of suffering why would that not be the better place to be?
Perhaps it is just human for us to want to find answers for things that don’t make much sense to us. I think that is fine as long as those solutions don’t accompany certainty or are a substitute for truth.
I think if you are someone who believes in the idea that God shares personal information with people outside of the individual with the infliction, then you should be careful and exercise discernment with who you decide to share that information. I personally don’t think God does this because it seems to be a violation of HIPPA rights on his part, but I could be wrong. I don’t mean to be insensitive about people who are suffering from infliction. I am just tired of seeing people I care for have a glimmer of hope in their eyes because some other person is trying to reconcile within themselves this terrible situation. It seems selfish to me to assert such a hopeful claim to another person when in reality they have no idea what God is going to do, if anything.
I think the best help a person can give another person is their friendship, their presence. Certainly, pray for healing as well. But it’s never a good idea to proclaim something you have no power over.