Thursday 28 March 2013


Earlier this month I noticed a letter in the newspaper of the New Zealand Baptist churches.  In it, a man explained that he had been a Christian for 50 years when he experienced significant complications after a routine operation.  He prayed for healing and other members of his church also prayed for him.  He wasn't healed (although his problem was later resolved by further surgery) and that led him to conclude that God was indifferent to his suffering.  He still believes in God but no longer worships or follows Him.

I felt that, due to my own medical history, I had an unusual authority to reply to this letter.  It's taken a me a few weeks to do so and I've missed the deadline for getting it into April's edition. Hopefully it'll appear there in May.  Here is what I have written:
I was deeply saddened by D. S.'s letter in the March issue of The Baptist.

Like Mr. S., I am afflicted by a medical condition that significantly restricts my life.  For the last ten years I have been largely bed-bound, living with constant pain and also 'brain fog' that makes it hard for me to think straight.  All this began when I was only 26 years old: I often feel like my life has been stolen from me.  And yet, unlike Mr. S., I still believe in a loving God.


I believe God can and does heal people.  I also believe God never promised to heal His followers: He is under no obligation to heal me.  However, God has promised to be with us in our suffering and I can testify that He has been with me in mine.  I know through the Holy Spirit in me that He loves me and delights in me.  His presence in me sustains me on this difficult path.  However, it seems He has other priorities than making me well and that's OK: He's the boss.

I believe God's imagination is larger than my own.  I long for the healing of my body and mind.  God aches to heal not just me, not even all Christians, but everyone and everything: all of Creation.  Since the Fall, everyone and everything has been "groaning" and "in bondage to decay" (Romans 8:18-30).  My suffering and that of Mr. S. are examples of this.  In some cases, God chooses to remove an illness from the life of an individual; however, what He's mostly working on is removing suffering and decay from His creation altogether.  What a glorious and wonderful prospect!  We truly can look forward to a time when God "will wipe every tear from [our] eyes and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain." (Revelation 21:4)

Mr. S. assumes that, as God didn't heal him, He cannot be all of omniscient, omnipotent and caring.  Yet God is all of these things.  It's just that His love is bigger than Mr. S. has been led to expect - not smaller.

The idea that God will remove our suffering so long as we pray and have faith is a dangerous and unbiblical lie.  I am so sad that Mr. S. has been taught that view and understand why he has rejected it.  I pray that he will encounter and accept a more Biblical view on these matters and turn back to God before it is too late.

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