When God Doesn’t Heal (Nov-Dec 2008)

By Matt Dabbs

by Dr. Richard Spillman
November – December, 2008

I once prayed for a woman who suffered from terrible pains in her legs because one leg was shorter than the other. While I prayed, she sat with her legs stretched out resting on a chair. I firmly held the foot of the shorter leg. Even though I believed that God could heal her, I was shocked when I felt pressure on my hands as her leg grew. She stood up in tears, praising God and announced that the pain was gone. I also prayed for a young man who had suffered from a sore throat for four years. The pain was unrelenting. He would sometimes cough up blood. As I prayed, he announced that the pain was finally gone. At another time, I prayed for a woman who could barely walk because of gout. She had to hold on to chairs to steady herself as walked up to me. She was healed on the spot and walked away with a spring to her step. These were times in which I was in such awe of God that I could not contain my joy and praise. I know God heals because I have been privileged to see it happen.

However, I also prayed for a man with a broken leg and nothing happened. I prayed for a man who had been confined to a wheelchair for most of his life and nothing happened. I prayed for a woman with crippling arthritis in her hands and nothing happened. I have prayed for a lot of sick people whose condition never improved. In stark contrast to the times when I witnessed a healing, I walked away from these situations disappointed and puzzled. Why didn’t God heal these people when He healed others? Did I do something wrong? Was there a problem with their faith or mine? How can there be such a dramatic difference between one healing prayer and another?

I resolved to search for answers through prayer. The answers came. The most comforting answer came when God sent me to Job 11:7, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” This is more a reminder than an answer but it taught me to approach healing from the right perspective. Often, the perception is that supernatural healing should be like a natural process: explainable, predictable and controllable. By its nature it is none of these things. In reality, healing is unexplainable, unpredictable and uncontrollable. It is a manifestation of a mystery of God in which we are privileged to participate. We cannot understand the mystery of healing we can only obey God and “heal the sick (Luke 10:9).”

Whenever we pray for healing, the results always remain in the hands of God which is a blessing. When healing occurs it is not so that we can be glorified. When healing does not occur it is not because we have failed. Both are a mystery of God. In the end, there are no rules of healing but there are reasons why things happen or don’t happen and sometimes God reveals those reasons. Hence we do not have to learn the “rules” of healing nor worry about violating the “rules.”

While there are no rules that dictate when healing will be successful, there are some preconditions (which God is free to overlook at any time). These are necessary but not sufficient conditions for healing. They don’t guarantee that healing will occur but if they are missing healing is less likely.

First, you must believe that healing is possible. How strongly you believe is less of an issue as long as you know that God heals. It is called faith. If you didn’t believe in healing at all, why bother to pray? Second, the goal should never be to impress others with your power and authority. The goal of healing is always to proclaim the power and glory of Jesus Christ. Third, you must love the person you are praying for and hate the disease. Ultimately, when healing occurs it is the power of God’s love poured out through the lens of your love that produces results. To make this point, God took me to a verse that I would never have associated with healing but when I read it, it suddenly took on a whole new meaning. It is Matthew 21:12-13,
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’DEN.”

I realized that healing is like the time Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple. He was “healing” the temple. He loved God’s house and He hated the invaders. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16) and like the moneychangers who did not belong in the Temple, disease does not belong in our bodies. Our call is to drive disease out. We are not physicians who fix and repair the physical body, we are God’s emissaries who renew and restore the Temple of His Spirit. Neither the degree of love for the sick nor the level of hate for the disease determines success; we are only to model our approach after that of Jesus.

Another important revelation God gave me was always to expect healing to occur but when it doesn’t to feel just as blessed as when it does. Actually, I discovered there is a hidden blessing to not being successful every time I pray for healing. If every time I prayed for someone they were healed, healing would become a burden not a blessing. It would mean that every time I didn’t pray someone would not be healed. If I took several hours to myself to read and relax that would translate into several hours worth of people who would not be healed. I would be driven to constant prayer for healing. Rest would become a curse. I would be consumed by guilt over the time I devoted to something other than healing prayer. Life would become like the final scene of the movie Schindler’s List where Schindler is overwhelmed by guilt over the resources he didn’t spend on saving the lives of Jews.

The other burden of being 100% successful is that it would be very easy to become distracted from the true goal of healing – to bring glory to the name of Jesus. The focus could easily change from Christ to me. Even if I were strong enough to resist the lure of being worshiped, the pain of hearing the healed praise me instead of Jesus could become difficult to bare. Just a Peter had to command Cornelius to rise and not worship at his feet (Acts 10:25); I would have to be on constant guard that others were not worshipping me.

The point is that God is just as concerned about the well being of the person praying as He is about the person seeking healing. There is a time, a place, and a person to pray for healing for anyone who is sick. You never know if you are the one and if this is the time for healing to occur. As a result, you need to continue to pray for healing in everyone that God puts in your path regardless of the outcome. Remember that healing prayer never really fails; something always changes either in the person being prayed for or the person doing the praying. Ultimately, the results are in the Hands of God.

Now when I pray for healing I am no longer plagued by questions. I understand that healing is a three way transaction between me, the person I am praying for, and God. That transaction always produces results. I now rest in the words of Elihu to Job found in Job 37:14-16, “Listen to this, O Job, stand and consider the wonders of God. Do you know how God establishes them, and makes the lightning of His cloud to shine? Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds, the wonders of one perfect in knowledge . . .”

Every healing encounter is an opportunity to explore the mystery and wonder of the One perfect in knowledge.

So, I continue to pray. If healing occurs, I thank God for His grace. If healing does not occur, I thank God for the opportunity to pray.New Wineskins

Richard SpillmanDr. Richard Spillman is an author, a speaker, and one of the pastors of the Downtown Crossing. He is the director and co-founder of the Kingdom in Near Ministries. He can be reached at [spillmrj@plu.edu].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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