We often hear from people who are suffering from various ailments and they don’t understand why they are being made to endure them. I don’t know the particular reason why Jesus doesn’t heal a person who is ill and who asks Him for healing. There are many conditions of suffering that of course Jesus knows about and for which we don’t understand the reasons. None of this negates the truth, however, that He certainly loves all those who cry out to Him to be healed. Psalm:22:24 tells us, “For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when he cried unto him, He heard.”
I also know that everyone who repents—that is, turns to Jesus for salvation and thereby receives the gift of eternal life—is healed spiritually. That person is born of the Spirit and will ultimately be with Him both temporally and eternally, no matter what earthly circumstances he or she may be enduring. Physical healing from the Lord, however, is only temporal and involves outcomes that God desires to accomplish to His glory and for the benefit of the person seeking healing. One can only wonder what betterments He has in mind, but our knowledge of His perfect love and compassion encourages us to trust Him to do what’s best for us (Matthew:9:36; 14:14), or for those we uphold in prayer.
As we look to the Scriptures for examples of physical healing, one thing is clear, and that is that no one can systematize healing, i.e., form some methodology or formula for how to produce miracle cures. The diversity of healing instances in the Scriptures won’t allow it. As we read through the Bible, we see that some healings involved a person’s faith, even “great” faith (Matthew:9:28-30, Mark:5:34, Luke:7:9-10); and for some, little or no faith (Mark:9:23-27, Luke:7:14-15, Luke:22:50-51, Acts:3:2-7). Some were instantaneous (Acts:9:17-18), others involved a procedure (Mark:8:22-25, John:9:6-7). Some healings took place by Jesus’s touch (Matthew:8:3), some by His spitting on them (Mark:8:23), some by touching “handkerchiefs or aprons” worn by the Apostle Paul (Acts:19:11-12), some by Peter’s shadow passing over them (Acts:5:15). Some illnesses the Lord has allowed to take place so that their healing would manifest “the works of God” (John:9:3). Whatever the case, it was the Lord bringing about the healing for His divine purpose.
Healings also take place through natural means. Luke is referred to as the “beloved physician”; so obviously that involved a medical approach. Paul advised Timothy to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities,” which involved a natural remedy (1 Timothy:5:23). Sickness is a consequence of a world created in perfection but then ravaged by the sins of humanity. Yet we are told by the “Healing and Prosperity” preachers that no believer in Jesus should ever be sick, an idea that they wrongly base upon 1 Peter:2:24: “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” If that had to do with physical healing, then Paul was remiss in his counsel to Timothy regarding his “often infirmities” as noted above, and Paul himself failed to minister that so-called truth to Trophimus, whom he “left at Miletum sick” (2 Timothy:4:20). And what of Paul’s own affliction, which Jesus did not heal (2 Corinthians:12:8-9)?
Although many of the false healing preachers invoke various methods to achieve healing, they are clearly imposing their erroneous practices on what the Bible tells us. Their errors are countless. They teach such ideas as: 1) Not receiving a healing is caused by a person’s own lack of faith; 2) Deferring to the will of God is a cop-out that undermines the power of one’s own faith; 3) The prayer of faith for healing must be detailed according to what the person determines; 4) The prayer of faith must be stated in “positive” terms while avoiding any negative words that would reinforce the illness. The list goes on and on in accordance with the multiple deceits of the false preachers. Furthermore, many of the “faith healers” preach a false gospel that the Lord, of course, will not confirm “with [miraculous] signs following.” Obviously, the Lord is not “working with them” (Mark:16:20)!
Oral Roberts, when he was introducing “faith healer” Kathryn Kuhlman, stated that the university (named for him) decided to give her its first honorary doctorate degree as someone representative of the ministry of healing “which is reflected in the background and founding and purpose of this university.” That academic respectability did much to promote faith healing ministries, but it was of no help regarding its healing failures.
Medical researcher Dr. William Nolen attended a Kathryn Kuhlman healing service for the purpose of evaluating its credibility. He writes, “During the service, as those who had ‘claimed a cure’ came down off the stage, two legal secretaries I had enlisted to help me wrote down the names, addresses, phone numbers and diagnoses of everyone who was willing to cooperate in a follow-up study. We got 82 names. A few weeks after the service, letters were sent to the names on the list, inviting them to come to Minneapolis on Sunday, July 14, and tell us about their experiences. Twenty-three people showed up, and I made arrangements to interview them individually over the next few months. In talking to these people, I tried to be as honest, understanding, and objective as possible, but I couldn’t dispense with my medical knowledge and my common sense. I listened carefully to everything they told me and followed up every lead that might have led to a confirmation of a miracle. I was led to an inescapable conclusion: Of the patients who had returned to Minneapolis to reaffirm the cures claimed at the miracle service, not one had, in fact, been miraculously cured of anything” (Nolen, “In Search of a Miracle,” McCall’s Magazine, 9/74, italics added).
The same results regarding physical healing, or the lack thereof, are found among all the faith healers. As mentioned above, true miracles confirm the teaching of the truth of God’s Word. When biblical truth is willfully distorted, the Lord cannot sanction what amounts to a deception. “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark:16:20). When God’s Word is not preached in truth, there can be no confirming miracles. Tragically, it isn’t the atheists or the skeptics who lead the way in undermining a belief in miracles; it’s those who misrepresent what the Bible teaches by falsely claiming healings in the name of God.
What then of true biblical healings? Have they ceased since the days of the Apostles? There is no verse in Scripture that teaches the cessation of miracle healings. The Lord indeed heals today! Yet, the conditions, including the timing, purpose, and means, are all up to Him—and rarely does He fill us in on what He has in mind.
Let’s review some biblical examples. Sometimes the Lord heals a person in order for him or her to continue blessing their brothers and sisters in Christ. Tabitha (also called Dorcas), who had fallen sick and died, was such a person. The saints at Joppa sent for Peter, and, “When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. Peter prayed for her and called out, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive” (Acts:9:40-41).
Epaphroditus was a tremendous blessing to the saints at Philippi as well as to the Apostle Paul himself. We’re told, “For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians:2:26-27). Continued good works, however, are not always the reason for God healing the saints.
God’s mercy was involved in the healing of Epaphroditus, both for him and for Paul. But isn’t the Lord’s mercy included in all His healings? Certainly, but that may not be His primary purpose. He loves us and knows our hearts, meaning He knows how much sorrow we can handle (through Him), so He was merciful to Paul regarding his sorrows. Yet Paul had his own affliction for which he sought the Lord three times for deliverance—but it never took place. Why not? Paul writes, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians:12:8-9). In this case, the spiritual strengthening of Paul through grace was the Lord’s purpose for denying his physical healing. Few, if any, have suffered more trials and tribulations than the Apostle Paul, yet all that he endured did not hinder his fruitfulness (See TBC “The Value of Suffering” 5/1/2010). Often God allows believers to experience physical sufferings as a witness of the grace He provides to help them deal with their condition. I’m sure many of us know believers who have encouraged us greatly by their witness in handling their afflictions, and who may not have been healed. He may have even allowed that simply for the purpose of their testimony to others.
The struggle regarding healing, whether for ourselves or our loved ones, is often highly emotional. Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and the loss causes a time of deep mourning for many. Although Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He wept. Why? I believe that the reason He did so had to do with death itself, a consequence of sin brought into this world. Death produced the emotional pain of sorrow and separation that Jesus witnessed among those who loved Lazarus: “When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept” (John:11:33-35). Yes, He raised Lazarus from the dead, but the reality of death with its consequences of separation remains for everyone.
Why did Jesus weep? It may be because our Lord and Savior was considering the separation He would endure (“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful…”) through His death on the cross. We do know that His understanding of His separation from the Father (completely unfathomable to us) drove Him to his knees at Gethsemane: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew:26:39). Submission to the Father, yes, and more: for His love for us and for the joy that was set before Him, i.e., our salvation. Our deceased loved ones who put their faith in Him are experiencing for eternity that absolute fullness of joy!
The Book of Ruth speaks volumes about the loss of life through widowhood. Naomi and her two daughters-in-law all lost their husbands, each dealing with their grief in a different way. Naomi initially became bitter toward God for the deaths of her husband and two sons; Orpah, a Moabite, left her mother-in-law and returned to her people in Moab. Ruth, also a Moabite, nevertheless committed herself to caring for Naomi. Her focus was not on her loss or on herself but rather on determination to look after her mother-in-law. Unaware of God’s intention for her, Ruth’s loving ministry to Naomi nevertheless resulted in her marriage to Boaz, which brought forth Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David! By following the God of Naomi, Ruth, though not a Jew, gloriously entered into the genealogy of Jesus. Another widow, Anna, dedicated her life to the Lord after the death of her husband. Through her years of continual service in the Temple, she was present to witness the baby Jesus, her Messiah, being brought there: “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke:2:38). She was wonderfully blessed in fulfilling what God had ultimately intended for her.
Scripture abounds with examples of God allowing His children to go through conditions of suffering. Why? The Book of Job gives us a major reason. Job’s suffering experience began with his focus upon himself, defending his righteousness before his “counselors,” and even before God (40:8), as well as the counsel from his wife to end his suffering (“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die” [2:9]). Chapter 42:5-6 indicates that Job finally came to understand the message regarding his self-preoccupation, and his words leave no doubt about how his experience changed him for the good: “[Before,] I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job grew immeasurably in his relationship with the Lord through the trials he suffered!
James points to the Book of Job regarding the purpose that God had for what Job experienced, which didn’t take place by chance. That purpose can also be understood as something that was intended by the Lord. He allowed Job to suffer at the hands of Satan and the faulty insights of his “counselors” so that he might come to the end of himself, which he did! That’s what God had intended for him. In fact, God has intentions for all those who love Him, which is what Romans:8:28 is all about: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Everything the Lord allows a believer to go through should, as with Job, draw him or her closer to the One whose love for us knows no bounds. Yet we all have a choice to either submit to God’s intentions for us—or resist, and even reject, His ways and means for us.
In summary, the Lord spiritually heals all those who have believed the gospel. They have been reconciled to Him now and forever, forgiven of their sins, past, present, and future, and given the gift of eternal life. Not everyone who cries out to Him for physical healing is healed. The reasons are in the mind of God, the details of which He rarely communicates to the person. They are enfolded in His intention for the betterment and fruitfulness of the believer and will take place as he or she submits to the Lord’s will and purpose. The Lord’s choice to physically heal and His denial of physical healing both serve to glorify Him! The former demonstrates His power as our Creator, the latter His intention for the believer in order that he or she may be used of Him. The conditions, including the timing, the purpose, and the means, are all up to Jesus. All things do indeed “work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans:2:28). Desiring and obeying God’s will and His way is the evidence of our love for Him (John:14:23).
Pray for those who need to be encouraged in the knowledge of the love and graciousness of our Lord, especially for those who misunderstand biblical healing. Psalm 23 is a wonderful reminder that the Lord is our Good Shepherd, and through Him, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my [temporal] life: and I will dwell [eternally] in the house of the Lord for ever.”