Does God heal?
I recite Psalm 103 every day. There’s one part of the Psalm that bewilders me, but not to distraction or disbelief. It’s just one of those imponderables for me in the Scriptures: “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases; he rescues my life from the pit, and crowns me with love and compassion.”
OK. I get the “forgives all my sins” part, but what about the “heals all my diseases” part?
So I thought back to what I had learned about God’s involvement with sickness, disease, and healing.
First of all, God does heal from physical illness. He has given us instructions.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14, 15)
And in the interim we are given instructions as we wait for God’s response.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
Soul rest. I can attest that it is far superior to physical well-being.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all, for the Lord near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
I can vouch also for the fact that peace of mind is superior to physical well-being.
We also are given the example of the Apostle Paul for our instruction. He is widely believed to have contracted a form of malaria on his way to Galatia. That form generally caused seizures similar to epilepsy. Evidently Paul experienced some physical displays due to this illness. He remained in Galatia a full year while recuperating. Later he wrote:
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. (Galatians 4:13-14)
What I’ve learned so far about God healing sicknesses:
My paternal grandmother, Annie Wackes, a large German Frau, never visited a physician or took a medication until later in life. She insisted on the same with her children, and her good-natured German Mann followed suite. She and my parents told me of healings in their church and in their family. To visit a doctor or to take a medication was viewed as a lack of faith.
My thoughts go back to how God has healed me, my wife, and my children.
I laid in a small pop-up tent one day’s walk from my house in the mountains of West Papua. I had a fever, chills, and I ached all over. I was agitated! I was in this village to teach and encourage the new Christians, not lay in a tent! Meanwhile, all the little soldiers of my immune system were at work night and day doing their work. That’s why God created them! Three days later I recuperated enough to trek home. Never did a warm bed feel better!
While in West Papua my wife, Ruth, was given 3-10 years to live by a mission doctor. Her kidneys were losing their ability to function after three pregnancies, all induced four weeks early due to extreme toxemia. We talked about perhaps visiting a Christian evangelist known for her healing ministry when we returned to America. When arriving back in New York City, the mission doctor told me that Ruth might not live to see her children pass through their teen years. About three months later biopsies of her kidneys were taken in Atlanta. The results were astounding! No problems were found!
One of our daughters was born in West Papua. We noticed that didn’t seem to be able to see. Two mission doctors examined her and recommended we take her to Australia for a thorough exam. At six months of age we took her to the coast in order to fly to Australia. As we waited for the flight several days at a friend’s house, Ruth gave an excited call. “Look at this,” she said. I watched as our daughter reached out and picked up a thread from the floor! We continued on to Australia for the exam. The specialist, in reviewing the information sent to him by the mission doctors, then hearing our story, and finally doing his own examination, said, “I guess there is a God!”
That same daughter had a bladder disorder and at four years of age she received successful surgery at Emory UniversityChildren’s Hospital in Atlanta. After a four-day stay, we took her home and celebrated her recovery.
When our son had a routine stool exam upon arriving back in America, he had enough worms in his intestines to open a bait store! With medication his special guests were quickly eliminated.
I was diagnosed with ALS in January 2014. I was anointed with oil and prayed for by the elders at our Presbyterian church, was prayed for with their hands on my head by members of our Life Group, and then the same by four Assemblies of God neighbors. I have been faithfully prayed for by scores of people for four years. I still have ALS.
In the first example, God healed me by using my built in, God-given immune system.
In examples 2 and 3, God brought healing without surgeries or medication.
In example 4, surgery, antibiotics, and skilled doctors and nurses were used by God to bring healing.
In example 5, God used medication.
In example 6, I am waiting to see how God will work. On a number of occasions I have contemplated jumping out of bed to see how my legs would work, thinking that God had perhaps healed them overnight. The problem was, I could not even roll over let alone jump out of bed! Three doses of stem cells haven’t worked nor have two other alternative therapies.
These examples help me to reflect on the questions about God’s involvement with healing. Does God heal? Yes. How does he heal? Through our powerful immune systems. At other times mysteriously and with awesome power without therapies, surgeries or medicines. Sometimes through surgery and medical therapies. At other times, through death.
And even those experiencing phenomenal healing by God’s touch, unless they die from an accident or violence done to them, will probably die later from some illness.
So, how will God heal me? Surgery can’t do it. ALS is a neurological disease. A cure through medicine has not yet been discovered. However , several break-through genetic discoveries were made in 2016 that will hopefully lead eventually to a cure. Will that be in my lifetime?
Unless God heals me as he did my wife and daughter, I will most likely die from ALS. And when I breathe my last, I will awaken in God’s land where there is no sickness, sorrow, or death!
So, I cannot lose! I will be healed either now or later.
What do I resolve to do in the meantime? To allow God’s grace to fill my heart, soul, mind, and body. And then I want show to myself and others around me what grace looks like in someone to whom God has entrusted the trial of ALS.
Again I look to the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the Corinthians about an ailment that he asked God to deliver him from.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
I planned to make this post next week, but within five minutes of writing the text I received an email from a friend in Germany. She shared with me that she has been diagnosed with cancer and that it has metastasized. I decided to make the post with the hope that it might encourage her to place her illness into God’s hands.
Please pray for her, for her husband, and for their little two-year old daughter. I am praying for her complete healing.
Since we recently celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, I was reminded of the prayer attributed to him and how appropriate it is presently for both me and my friend in Germany. The last section of his “Breastplate Prayer,” written in 433 A.D., is as follows:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.