I have stage four, poor-prognosis cancer, and I believe in healings, either bestowed directly by the Lord or through the intercession of others. I’m convinced there are moments when God transcends and circumvents the normal to heal instantaneously and supernaturally (1 Cor. 12:7–9). I sincerely believe he can and often does do this without any means other than his love-released power—all to make the body whole, the spirit glad, and the tongue exult.
To be clear, my faith doesn’t embrace fraudulent faith healers, name-it-and-claim-it charlatans, prosperity peddlers, or positive-thinking gurus. I believe God can and often does grant actual, supernatural healings of the body, spirit, and mind, by which the truly sick are made truly whole through the authority of Christ’s name, often catalyzed by the believing prayers of God’s people.
But I still have cancer. Despite thousands of prayers, many of which have been bathed in ample faith and anointing oil, I still have cancer, and my clock’s ticking.
This leaves me in a faith quandary.
I’m a convinced continuationist who believes in gifts of healing but who almost never seems to get healed (unless I count healings of runny noses, mosquito bites, paper cuts, and hangnails—which do matter and are wondrous in their own right but are in a different category).
2 Elephants in the Room
As a believer in healings, I have two massive elephants filling the room. The first is a 35-year-long, 24/7/365, doctor-diagnosed, and nerve-damage-caused headache. The second is stage four cancer. Neither has been healed.
The irony can be painful. I’ve prayed for the sick and seen others healed. But as far as I know, it’s never worked for me.
I suspect Paul might have felt as I do. Although Paul trusted that God could heal and was used by God to bestow healings, his own prayers for healing went unanswered (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Likewise, his coworker Trophimus had to be left behind because of ongoing (unhealed) sickness (2 Tim. 4:20). And not to be forgotten is his beloved Timothy’s troubled stomach and “frequent ailments,” for which the best Paul could do was prescribe a modest amount of wine (1 Tim. 5:23).
Believing God can and does heal means I’m believing in something even though my experience says otherwise. This is as it should be. We should believe whatever the Bible teaches, even when our experiences don’t line up. Scripture is never wrong. Our interpretations, experiences, preferences, and perceptions often are.
But this creates an existential quagmire. What am I to think when I believe my loving heavenly Father is able to heal, has a compassionate impulse to heal, and often does heal, but then he doesn’t heal me? I can only think—and fight to believe—that he has a better, wiser, more loving plan for me instead. I must believe there are depths in God and his purposes I cannot yet fathom, mysteries I cannot yet know, designs I cannot yet discern, glories I cannot yet see.
I must believe there are depths in God and his purposes I cannot yet fathom, mysteries I cannot yet know, designs I cannot yet discern, glories I cannot yet see.
I live my life and face my cancer somewhere between seemingly sincere “namers and claimers” who expect healing every time and seemingly surrendered “if-the-Lord-willers” whose prayers affirm God’s healing power but whose caveats and qualifiers make it sound like he’s not likely to use it. God alone knows the heart. But the tone of the former party can sound like presumption masquerading as faith, while the tone of the latter can sound like doubt masquerading as humility.
I’m seeking to occupy the middle. I know my God heals, but I also know from Scripture and real life that he doesn’t heal all the time, or even most of the time. He’s not a cosmic healing bellhop whose priority is to keep his people perpetually healthy and happy.
God in the Furnace
I’ve come to realize with a cautiously silent heart that God is neither predictable nor domesticated. He’s a free and untamed Being whose way is in the whirlwind and storm and for whom the thunderclap is but a whisper of his power. He’s the One who inhabits eternity, swallows up darkness with light, and traverses the whole earth day and night to show himself strong, manifest his care, unfold his purposes, and spread his glory. There’s no one like him; there simply is no other (Gen. 1:1–3; 2 Chron. 16:9; Job 26:12–14; Isa. 46:9; 57:15; Nah. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 21:22–25).
And I’ve learned (though it isn’t easy to accept) that sickness isn’t God’s greatest, most pressing concern. Sin, salvation, Satan, and death are. God often uses sickness to bring us to salvation, to purify us from sin, to show Satan (and a watching world) his sustaining grace in our lives, to wean us from a carnal love of this world’s stuff, and to lead us to—and then through—the death experience that will usher us into the glory where disease and dying are no more.
God isn’t our Santa. He’s our sovereign. He’s not a cosmic EMT rushing to the scene. He is Almighty God, who is already and always on the scene. Likewise, he’s a loving Father with deeper, more personally and cosmically important things in mind than simply making sure we never have a sniffle or stage four cancer.
God isn’t our Santa. He’s our sovereign. He’s not a cosmic EMT rushing to the scene. He is Almighty God, who is already and always on the scene.
All this leaves me with the faith of the three Hebrew youths; a faith that affirms God can do the miraculous to deliver and heal and that he may well do it. But, like them, I’m not 100 percent sure if or when he will, and I’m learning to be content in leaving it up to him, come what may (Dan. 3:17–18).
God is in the furnace and fire with me. And he’s up to things too wise and wonderful for me to imagine. Such is the faith for which I fight in every one of my soul-wearying and cancer-weakened days. This is the only faith that will see me through until healing or heaven happens.