(Few of us are in ministry for long until we are forced to deal with someone’s disappointment that their prayer for healing has not been answered. Usually, we are able to do that at arm’s length, but that has not been the case for me. This struggle was made very real because of an accident that left our son, Chris, severely brain-injured and permanently and totally disabled. There has been no dramatic healing for Chris. Neither has there been a medical miracle! For the past 45 years, Chris has required almost constant care, even for his most basic needs. What follows are some thoughts that helped me when my prayers for healing seemed to go unanswered. Obviously, this is only a partial answer. But, if you find this helpful, feel free to use or adapt it to your needs.)
In Prince Caspian, the second volume of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, there is a reunion between Aslan, a great lion who represents Christ, and a young girl named Lucy. Lucy runs to greet Aslan. She kisses him and puts her arms around him as far as she can. Then she pulls back from Aslan and says, “Aslan, you’re bigger!”
Aslan replies, “That is because you are older, little one.”
“Not because you are?” asks Lucy.
“I am not (bigger),” says Aslan, “But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
It’s true! The more we grow, the bigger God becomes! I know that as I’ve grown, I’ve found that God is bigger than I’d ever imagined. And the more I’ve learned of God, the more I’ve discovered how much more there is to know.
One of the many areas where I’ve had a lot to learn has been in the area of miracles. In particular, the miracles of healing!
This is made very personal because of an accident that left our son severely brain-injured, permanently and totally disabled. There has been no dramatic miracle of healing for Chris.
We all know that scripture is filled with stories of God’s wonderful deeds, amazing miracles of healing, and bold promises. And we pray for healing for ourselves or someone we love. But when the healing doesn’t come or doesn’t come in the way we wished, we wonder! How do we reconcile the promises of miracles with the reality of illness, disability, suffering, and death? How does it all fit?
I have to begin by acknowledging that there is so much mystery with God. This side of heaven there are things I won’t know or understand.
The writings of Danny Morris and Ron Davis (cited in my endnotes) have been helpful as I have wrestled with this, helping me get in touch with several very different and equally powerful miracles of healing — different ways God lovingly touches us with healing and hope.
The first miracle of healing that I have to acknowledge may be the most used and the least celebrated of all God’s miracles. It is simply this: God has marvelously crafted the human body so that most often it protects and repairs itself. God has designed our bodies with elaborate and intricate systems for fighting off infection, repairing lacerated tissue, mending broken bones, and healing diseased organs.
In a TV episode of M*A*S*H, Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce expressed his amazement. He said, “How does it all work? I’ve held a beating heart in my hand. I’ve poked into kidneys and crocheted it all together again. I’ve pushed air into collapsed lungs. I’ve squeezed, probed and prodded my way through miles of gut and goo and I don’t know what makes us live! I mean, what keeps us in motion? What keeps the heart beating without anybody rewinding it? Why do cells reproduce with such abandon? What force brought us together in such fantastic complexity? It never ceases to amaze me!”
And then Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled expresses this same amazement. “In the ordinary course of things we should be eaten alive by bacteria, consumed by cancer, clogged by fats and clots, and eroded by acids. It’s hardly remarkable that we get sick. What is truly remarkable is that we don’t usually get sick more often! There is a force that we don’t fully understand that seems to operate routinely to protect and encourage physical health.”
We are wonderfully made! It’s nothing short of miraculous that our bodies usually heal themselves. If we ever forget what a miracle that is, just ask a hemophiliac whose cut will not heal. Ask the AIDS patient whose immune system has turned against him. Ask the woman on dialysis. Each of them would encourage us to celebrate the miracle of how wondrously God created our bodies so that most often they heal themselves.
Then there’s a second miracle. It is the miracle of the partnership of God and medicine.
Like the first miracle, we often take this one for granted. This is the miracle of how God works in partnership with science and medicine — guiding us to a remedy, to a doctor, or to some new treatment. We’ve become so accustomed to this that we only recognize the wonder of this miracle in its absence.
How many of you have had surgery? Or how many have given birth? Or have had a broken bone? Or suffered some serious infection? Or how many take medication for your heart or high blood pressure or diabetes? We would very quickly see that many of us might not even be alive today were it not for this wonderful miracle.
There is a third miracle. It is the miracle of dramatic, instantaneous, divine intervention.
I’ll never forget the morning that I went to the hospital to pray with Mike. He was in for surgery. When I went into the hospital room, his family was there and all their faces had the look of worry and fear. The doctors said he had a malignant tumor and it would have to come out immediately. You could even see the bulge of the tumor in his neck. His prognosis was very poor. The tumor was growing rapidly. Just before Mike left the room, we prayed together and they wheeled Mike out to surgery. In less than an hour, he was back in the room. Sometime between leaving that hospital room and getting to the operating room, the tumor had disappeared! It had just disappeared! The doctors were amazed! There was no medical explanation.
Dramatic miracles of healing do occur. They seem to be the exception rather than the rule; but when they do occur, we are awed that God has moved in such a dramatic way.
And there is the fourth miracle. There are those times when disease and difficulty come and they don’t go away. Our bodies don’t repair themselves. There is no medical solution. There is no instantaneous miracle; and illness, suffering, and disability have to be endured. So, there is the miracle of the “Sufficiency of God’s Grace.”
The Apostle Paul underwent a period of suffering he called “a thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know exactly what it was, but we’re told that it was terribly painful and it interfered with his ministry. So he went to God three times in prayer asking, “Please help me. Please remove this thorn from my flesh.” But each time, God answered, “Paul, I will give you my grace. And that will be sufficient.” And it was! So much so that he would later say, “When I am weak, I am strong. For the power of Christ dwells in me.”
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned our son, Chris. Chris was severely brain-injured in an automobile accident at the age of six. He is now 50. Though he has a wonderful spirit, Chris is diagnosed as permanently and totally disabled. After Chris was hurt, we began to pray for his healing. I wanted him back to normal, and I wanted our life back to normal. At first, my prayers were calm and confident, but it wasn’t long before I was pounding on Heaven’s gate till my knuckles were bloody.
I began a desperate search for miraculous healing. I got in touch with some of the foremost Christians in healing ministry across the country. I read about them and I sought their counsel. I avoided the TV healers but instead chose those who I knew to have integrity and depth.
One person whose writing especially spoke to me was Dr. Francis MacNutt. When I finished his book on healing, I immediately called information to get his phone number. When we spoke, we arranged to meet in Nashville where he had a speaking engagement. Finally, the day came, and I drove to the appointed place, only to discover that his plans had changed. He would not be attending the conference. He’d forgotten to notify me.
Well, I was angry! All of the tension and hurt I had experienced since the accident turned into rage, and the rage into angry prayer. I told God in some very colorful language how I felt and how angry I was.
God is not offended by such carrying on, and I’m glad about that! Because I DID carry on! After I had raged on and finally exhausted myself. I said, “God, I’m through! I want Chris to be well, but even if not, I want YOU. I just want you to love me through this. Help me, God, because I don’t know where else to turn.”
Rather than zapping me for my anger, something else happened. The most wonderful peace descend upon me. And with it came the deep knowledge that no matter what happened, God was with us and we could face Chris’ disability with courage and grace.
For the most part, I think we have. And if we have at all, it has been because of the miracle of the sufficiency of God’s grace. We’ve been sustained, held up, loved, forgiven, and supported.
There is a fifth miracle. No matter how many times we’ve been physically healed, finally we die. The ultimate form of healing every believer is given is the healing that comes through death and resurrection. Though we may suffer for a time, Christ’s promise is an eternity where every tear will be wiped away and all our suffering will cease.
Eternity is a big word! It’s hard for us to imagine eternity. It’s so much larger than our short life, that it’s difficult even to visualize it. But if you drew a line all around the room where you are reading this, and then made a pinpoint dot along that line, that dot would represent our lifetime, in relationship to eternity. If you stepped back and looked at that dot in relation to the line, you would be struck by how tiny and how brief it is when compared to the line of eternity.
In the Christian scheme of things, a lifetime is but one-millionth, perhaps one-billionth, of what is yet to be. “What is” cannot be compared to “what is to come.” In Christ, we awaken to an eternity where our tears and fears, and our hurts and humiliations will be no more. That’s the miracle of death and resurrection for a Christian.
So on this journey so far, I’ve seen that there are at least five healing miracles! I cannot say that there are only five, but these five suggest the range of possibilities. And because of them, I know that God cares about our health.
But as much as I value and cherish health, I cannot fall for the lie that was in the old commercial: “If you have health, you have everything.” It’s just not true! We can be healthy and not be whole. We can have great strength, yet be weak. We can be physically fit, yet spiritually anemic. We can have been healed hundreds of times, yet still not know the Great Physician.
Tommy discovered that! Tommy was a college student. One of his teachers, John Powell, was a Christian. John had taken many opportunities to talk to Tommy, but Tommy seemed to be a hardened atheist — an angry young man who had rejected God, his parents, and society. John had repeatedly tried to reach Tommy, to witness to him, and to love him, but it seemed to make little difference. Eventually, Tommy graduated. He walked out of the classroom and out of reach forever, or so John thought.
One day, some years later, John was working at his desk. The office door opened and Tommy was standing in the doorway. At first, John didn’t recognize Tommy. He had changed so. He looked frail and wasted. The long hair he’d worn as a symbol of rebellion was gone. Though his eyes were bright and his voice firm, it was clear that cancer and chemotherapy had ravished him. Tommy sat down and began to talk to his former teacher. The anger and arrogance of his days at school were gone and were replaced with a calm, self-assurance that John had never before seen in Tommy.
Tommy told his story: “When the doctors found a malignant tumor, I began to get serious about trying to find God. And when they told me that my cancer had spread to my vital organs, I began to beat my fists against the doors of Heaven. I couldn’t understand why God was silent. I was alone and I knew I was going to die. So I decided to spend the time I had left doing something profitable.”
“I thought about the talks we had. I’d remembered something you said: ‘One of the saddest things in the world is to go through life without ever knowing how to love. But it may be even worse to go through life and leave this world without ever telling the people you care about that you love them.’ Mr. Powell, I finally saw what you meant. So, I decided to begin to love as you said, and to tell people that I loved them.”
“I decided to begin with the hardest case, my Dad. I went to my dad’s house. He was reading the paper. I said, ‘Dad?’ He said, ‘What?’ The newspaper didn’t even rustle. I said, ‘Dad, I really want to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Well, talk.’ I said, ‘Dad, it’s really important.’ He lowered the newspaper a bit and glanced across at me. It was obvious that he didn’t want to be bothered. But I looked him in the eyes and I said, ‘Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that. I really do love you.'”
“My dad dropped that newspaper like he’d been hit in the chest. Then he did two things I can never remember him doing before — he cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It was easier with my mother and my little brother. They cried with me too, and we hugged each other and shared things that we had kept secret for years. I only regretted one thing: that I had waited so long. I waited until almost the very end of my life to open up to the people I love.”
“Not long after this, I turned around and suddenly realized God was there. He’d been there all the time. He didn’t come when I had pleaded. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding up a hoop for God to jump through. But God does things in His own time and in His own way. While I was learning to love, God’s love was penetrating into my heart and opening up my heart. God was there, and I talked to God and felt God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness, and received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.”
John asked Tommy if he’d be willing to share his story in his class. Tommy said he would. They scheduled a time for him to come, but Tommy never made it. He had another appointment to keep. Shortly before he died, Tommy called John one last time and said, “I’m not going to make it to your class. Will you tell them for me, Mr. Powell?” “I will, Tommy. I’ll tell them.”
Tommy wanted them to know that the greatest miracle is to know Christ and his love. This miracle heals broken relationships and brings hope to people troubled in body, mind, and spirit. It helps us endure what might otherwise seem unbearable, and brings wholeness in the midst of incomprehensible tragedy and even in the shadow of death.
“Where are all the miracles?” They’re all around us! They happen in so many ways! But the greatest miracle is to know Christ and his love. This is the one miracle that is given to everyone who asks. This is the one miracle that lasts an eternity!
Endnotes: This article is based, in part, upon material from the following sources:
C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
John Powell, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?
Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
Danny Morris, Any Miracle God wants to Give
Ron Davis, Gold In The Making