I’ve seen God heal a whole lot of people lately, often through me and my shaky faith. To be honest, I’ve been hesitant to write about it. I think that’s partly because:
- I’m not sure I’m qualified to speak with any kind of authority on the subject.
- It’s a controversial topic.
- Oh, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to speak with any kind of authority on the subject, in case you missed that caveat the first time.
Then again, I’m learning some things that God seems to be blessing. So here’s my two cents. Or maybe three.
One cent: The Bible doesn’t give us a fully-baked theology of healing.
I know that’s not going to sit well with some, but think about it: Where in the New Testament can you find a prolonged passage that unpacks how we’re supposed to believe and practice healing? Nowhere. There is no “Romans road” for divine healing. Our theology of healing is mostly patched together from snippets of scripture and our favourite stories. Many of these snippets can be read a few different ways.
I’ve wasted a good chunk of my life trying to iron out a foolproof theology of healing while people around me need a touch from God. This past year Jesus helped me let go of that. It happened while wandering my way through Mark 9:14-29.
Jesus has been hanging out with Peter, James, and John up on a Mountain. Moses and Elijah pop by for a bit, then go back to heaven. When Jesus’ posse rejoins the rest of the disciples down in a village, they find them arguing in circles with a cluster of self-righteous theologians.
“What are you arguing about?” Jesus asks.
A distraught father steps out of the crowd. “So, my kid has a demon and your boys couldn’t drive it out.” Later on, the disciples are still rattled by the whole thing. “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” they ask Jesus. In other words, why didn’t it work this time?
Jesus ignores the theological debate (and the debaters), mutters something about unbelief and prayer, has the boy brought to him, says “everything is possible for him who believes,” and while the debate about supernatural healing rages around him, he just plain heals the kid. I can imagine Jesus wearing that meme T-Shirt that says, “Your argument is invalid.”
Good news: The Bible isn’t all that concerned with our theoretical, armchair theology. It’s passionate about theology for the trenches of practical ministry. And the way I see it, the most complicated theology I need in the trenches is, “Anything is possible right now, because I believe in a God who can do anything.”
So I’ll let the theologians argue in circles. Me, I’m too busy helping people and inviting God to do impossible things. Things that say, “Your argument is invalid.”
Two cents: Most of us base our healing theology on negative personal experience.
Conservatives like to say things like, “You can’t let your experience determine your theology.” I agree, except when God uses our experience to help us see something in scripture we haven’t seen before (like C.S. Lewis experienced in regards to grief when his own wife died).
Scripture consistently reveals a loving, miracle-working God. When Jesus, the image of the invisible God appeared on earth, his ministry was peppered with miracles and healing. When he unleashed his disciples on the world, they went on doing what he had been doing, just like he said they would.
It takes a whole lot of gymnastics to twist the New Testament into saying supernatural intervention is not for today (or that it exists, but we shouldn’t expect very much). The simple truth is, the New Testament didn’t teach us that posture, our experience did (or pastors who aren’t being honest with a straightforward reading of the Bible).
People we prayed for died. Sickness ran its course. Babies miscarried. Our faith took a beating. Eventually it became easier to say, “God doesn’t do that very often, so lower your expectations” than it was to say, “Watch what God can do.”
Three cents: Last time is almost irrelevant.
Whenever we pray for a sick person, a funny thing happens: We remember what happened last time. We lay our hands on the injured friend and think, “Last time with that lady, I prayed, and nothing happened.” Or worse.
Years ago I experienced a renaissance of healing and saw God do some crazy-cool stuff. But in between the cool stuff, disappointing stuff would pile up. Eventually, disappointment ate my hope and I shrunk back from the steps of faith that the cool stuff was built on. My theology of healing became a “last time” theology built squarely on my experience.
But this time isn’t last time. It’s now. We can’t let ‘last times’ shape ‘this times,’ because the two are only connected in the faithless maze of our confused flesh. Even when last time was a home run, we can’t live on yesterday. We can only learn from it.
I still struggle with last times during my this times. But I’m learning to say, “That’s irrelevant, Brad. Jesus, what’s up this time?” Remember his words? When you walk into a situation, tell yourself: “Anything can happen because God is here and he can use me to make it happen. Let’s do this.”
I’ve got some more to share, but for now, here’s my question: How do my ‘three cents’ affirm or challenge your own view of supernatural healing?