Why won’t God heal me?
This is a question that I think many of us have wrestled with over the course of our lives. We have a certain affliction, a sickness, a grudge, some terrible memory or loss that will not stop beating us down, or perhaps some spiritual or physical plague that a loved one is suffering simply confuses us – why won’t God heal me? Why won’t God take away this burden? I try to pray. I try to be faithful. Why Lord? What gives? How do people of faith answer this question?
The leper in the gospel had complete faith. He tells Jesus, “Lord, if you wish it, I can be made clean.” We know Jesus has the POWER to heal us. But do we have the FAITH to wait through negative circumstances until that happens? Have we truly surrendered our lives to him, and given him permission to heal us? Because if he heals us, guess what that means? What that means is that we have to truly respond with gratitude and surrender, and maybe there is a part of us that isn’t quite ready to go there yet.
I remember going through a bout of depression years ago – it had lasted for years, and I was about ready to collapse under the weight of it. I was driven finally to the point of either despair or surrender. I gave everything to God. I told him I would do anything to have it taken away. I would go anywhere he wanted me to go.
And I was healed instantly after suffering for years. And then God told me to leave the monastery. So I did. Surrender is a hard lesson to learn. But there are some of us who won’t do it unless we are near the breaking point. Let me quote two Old Testament theologians on this point.
A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” Even more dramatically, Alan Redpath adds, “When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible individual – and crushes him.”
This is a hard word. But it’s one that I think needs to be brought up, especially on the edge of Lent. Indeed, do we have the faith to turn to Jesus and say, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” And then after he actually heals us, we can then turn to him and say, “Now I will follow you wherever you go.” Are we ready for that?
Secondly, the wound that we have – whether it is in our body, heart or mind – might actually be there for a reason. It is true that God never causes evil to crush us or harm us. But what he DOES do is take the evil that befalls us and turn it into goodness. Think about what happens with alcoholics, for example. They have caused a great deal of damage to themselves and to others. But what do they do when they get well? They make a life out of going into the pits of addiction and dragging out those souls that are still imprisoned by it. In other words, maybe the wound you have is part of your destiny. Maybe you are supposed to turn that wound into the power to heal. Who better to help others with depression than someone who has suffered depression? Who better to encourage someone who has lost a job than someone who has lost a job but still made it ok? Who better to comfort someone who has lost a loved one than another who has suffered this awful wound? God may not have struck the blow, but God will be right behind us if we use our wound as medicine for someone else to be healed. Isn’t that what he did for us?
Let me read to you one of the major prophecies in Isaiah (Of Jesus) that refer to what I am talking about:
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.
The prophecy talks about someone bearing another’s wound so that that person may be healed. Why won’t God heal me? Maybe he is asking you to bear that wound for the sake of someone else. I am not saying this is the answer. But it certainly might be.
Why won’t God heal me? Perhaps he is waiting for me to simply let something go, or enter into a new kind of agreement with him. I have said this many times before. Sometimes a wound in our lives is a kind of stop sign from the Lord. He is asking you to stop and take stock of where you are, and forcing you to notice that in this journey that you are taking, you have wandered a bit too far away from Him.
How much have you really learned from your successes? We are supposed to turn our wounds into wisdom. They are better teachers.
Sometimes we miss the pure gold in scripture because we do not hear it or read it well. It goes by quickly like a butterfly on the wing and we fail to really see how beautiful it is. In our gospel today, after the leper approaches Jesus and begs him to heal him, scripture says, “Jesus was moved with pity for him.” The Greek word used for “pity” is very strong – it means moved to the bottom of your guts, actually. It is used 12 times in the New Testament, and all of them describe how Jesus feels for people who are hurting. It really bothers him. He doesn’t like it at all. But perhaps pain is sometimes what it takes for us to take sin seriously. We are not supposed to be living in this fallen world, but bad choices have made it this way. God doesn’t want it to be like this, but neither has he willed to wave a magic wand and make it go away in an instant. Instead he himself came and suffered. Instead he wants us to learn the way of love, which sometimes requires pain and sacrifice. I can sometimes be a selfish person. How do I know that my heart is in the right place? I know it if I give up some of my will and suffer a wound for the sake of my brothers and sisters and for my God. In love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.
Why wont’ God heal me? It just might not yet be time. Be patient. Scripture tells us time and time again to wait on the Lord, to have faith, and not to be afraid. I am often comforted by the words of the Lord to Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And again, from the Book of Revelation:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Won’t heaven be much more grand if we are talking about war stories and comparing our scars? What is heaven without the pain? You will have to forgive me if just for a moment I stop quoting scripture and turn to another great man – Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest NFL football coaches of all time:
I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.
I don’t think that Jesus thinks much differently than Mr. Lombardi on this point.
This Lent let us try to enter into a time when we draw close to the Lord despite our tears and wounds, and comfort ourselves with the hope that he has pity on us as well, and only desires to make all things new again for us as well.
Rev. Dr. Basil Burns