“He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34 NRSV)
Two bold people. Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage were very bold.
Jairus, a leader in the synagogue was no doubt held in high esteem. He commanded respect among his flock. But, he approaches Jesus, the poor worker from a town not found on any map and falls to his knees, begging for healing for his daughter. She is dying and he’ll do anything to save her life.
The woman is bold, carefully making her way through the jostling crowd, knowing that every touch will make someone else unclean. She moves carefully, but there are too many people around her. She pushes her way forward, elbows a spot in the front and waits for him to approach. In a desperate and bold attempt, she touches his cloak.
Bold and faithful, the two of them achieve healing.
Their faith has saved them; the young daughter and the woman are healed.
Does this mean that we should have a discussion about faith? How much faith do you need in order to be healed of your infirmity? Is there a certain number of prayers to say? Or should we be on our knees for a specific amount of time?
If you don’t achieve healing, does that mean you don’t have enough faith?
Hospital chaplains wrestle with this thinking regularly. They hear family members say things like, “Grandma hasn’t been cured of her cancer because my brother doesn’t have enough faith.” This is an unfair, hurtful accusation; and untrue. God can’t be manipulated; God acts faithfully. It’s not up to us.
But, what about when healing doesn’t come?
I’ve seen when healing hasn’t come. Those in wheelchairs still can’t walk; cancer is still a threat; PTSD worsens; diseases can be slowed down, but not eradicated. You, too, know those who live with disease or illness that haven’t experienced physical healing.
And we know that we can’t bend God to our ways. Yet, we wonder. What is God’s purpose in all of this? Where is God in disease and illness?
First of all, I don’t believe that God zaps us with broken arms or cancer or dementia. God has the power to do what God chooses and we know the God moves in mysterious ways. But, I don’t buy into the notion that God gives us this kind of heartache.
I do believe that illness is a natural occurrence in a fallen world. When my brother developed esophageal cancer, he failed to see the connection of chain smoking cigars all day. On the other hand, my mother probably didn’t do anything to cause her dementia.
Two people in our scripture reading boldly approach Jesus for healing.
How boldly do we seek out God? And when we pray, how narrow is our request? What is our view of healing? Is it for physical healing only? Or is it for spiritual healing, psychological healing or even interpersonal healing?
Michael Lindvall tells the story of a friend of his who developed Parkinson’s Disease “when he was still in his fifties. He and his wife prayed that he might be healed. Twenty years later, he is in the last debilitating stages of the disease. Nevertheless, he [says] that his prayers had been answered… ‘I have been healed, not of Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease.’” (Michael Lindvall, Feasting on the Word, Year B Volume 3 (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2009) pages 188 & 190)
Another story I heard this week centered around a man with cancer. He says, “I don’t believe God gave this to me, but I understand now that as a result of the disease I came to know Jesus.”
Is it only the physical healing we seek? If so, we miss out on the wholeness that we can achieve through prayer. Our boldness is in how we pray and what we pray. Our boldness is in listening to God during prayer and seeking God’s peace-filled presence so that we might be at rest and ready to receive what God graces upon us.
Prayer brings us into deeper relationship with God. This is especially true when we are seeking any form of healing. Whether the illness is ours or of a loved one, we’re at our most vulnerable point. God can speak to us in new ways and offer transformation and
newness of life.
It isn’t true that the healing never comes. Though we may continue to live with the physical ailment, we can trust that God is at work in other ways to redeem and transform and make life anew.
All glory and honor be to God.