Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. ~ James 5:14-16, NIV
It’s the BIG elephant in the room when it comes to disability – HEALING. And I don’t see us as leaders necessarily doing a good job of addressing it. Perhaps it is because we know that God does not always choose to heal, and explaining that to others is more than difficult. Perhaps it is because there is a wide range of passionate feeling on the topic. That also is uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, because we are commanded (YES, commanded) to anoint the sick, we need to have a solid perspective on this topic. We can begin by addressing within ourselves the question, Does God always heal? You might be surprised to find that I have resolved that the answer to that is a resounding “YES”. But we need to deal with our preconceived notions of what healing looks like in order to come up with such a conclusion. No doubt, there are times where a person receives a complete, otherwise inexplicable cure. Dear friends of mine returned from serving a month on mission in Kenya with such stories. They persisted in prayer and literally had people leaving hospital beds who hadn’t been able to in years. God does bring about such healings.
At the same time, God does not always bring about healing in this same manner. For instance, we had been ministering to a family who was raising their visually impaired granddaughter. This grandmother felt strongly in her spirit that it was not God’s will for this young girl to be blind. She sensed that the Lord was assuring her that sight would be regained. In fact, the child did begin gradually receiving some sight. At the same time, the grandmother was telling me that our son was going to be cured of his hemophilia, that it was not God’s will that he have this disorder. I never sensed the Lord in any way telling me that in my spirit. Instead, I have always lived with the Father’s confirmation that our son’s disorder is being used for His greater glory.
Even so, there is somewhere in between those two scenarios — all or nothing — where healing continues to complete its perfect work. Being made well might mean that there is a sudden calm and peace in our hearts about our circumstances. Our total change of disposition towards what we are facing can not only improve our lives in a practical way, it can cause others to take notice of the change within us. Another type of restoration might come through resolution of a specific medical episode.
When our son was about 6 years old, he went through an endless series of serious nosebleeds. Despite repeated cauterization and increased infusions of clotting factor, the episodes would not relent. Life was completely overwhelming. It was difficult to even be out in public because he might just start spontaneously bleeding from his nose in a grocery store, at church or in the car. One night, we were even awoken to him in our kitchen with a bleed so severe that he was in tears with our kitchen floor looking like a bad crime scene.
Elders at our church suggested we anoint both our son and the entire family. We had never done this before, but felt we had nothing lose by doing so. We believed in prayer and appreciated the support from our church family. One Sunday, after services, a small group of us gathered around in the sanctuary and prayed, anointing both our son and the entire family with oil, just as mandated in James 5. The immediate comfort of inviting the Lord so resoundingly into the midst of the situation was remarkable. We were putting our stake in the ground, and no matter what the outcome, we had the confidence of knowing we were in the palm of God’s hand. We departed from that time together with no further expectations other than the peace that satisfied our anguished hearts. But GOD…! Yes, God had another plan. That stretch of repeated bleeding episodes came to a startling halt. We found ourselves cautiously waiting for something that did not begin again for quite a long time. We know the Origin of that break in the situation. To this day, it is one of my favorite “God stories” to share with other people.
The point of me sharing this anecdote with you, my peers, is to remind you that we are completely unable to put the Almighty Sovereign of the Universe in a little box. There are as many ways to heal as there are situations and circumstances. One thing we can know for sure is that He has it handled, if only we will trust and pry our own dirty fingers off of things. We need to encourage one another with the understanding that if healing doesn’t come in the way we thought, the Father is not necessarily punishing, and He is still there with us in the midst of it. He is not being cruel. He is love. He wants us to have our hopes hung on Him not on a cure. He is the Lifter of our heads. And He carries us when we are unable to carry ourselves.
How is your ministry approaching healing? What would you say to a family that is struggling with issues of healing? Would you be dismissive? Would you guarantee being made well? Would you tell them that, if only they would repent, they would be cured? Study this more deeply, friends. This is a serious issue we in leadership need to be prepared to face with all compassion.