This post will be received by many of you about as well as a box of used cat litter. I’m aware of that. It’s probably going to be a little too honest. That’s your heads up.
I struggle with something. It’s something many of you struggle with, too. It’s the “now and not yet” of our faith. For me it isn’t so much that I have trouble with the idea that we live in the middle of a partially-but-not-quite-fully-redeemed world. My trouble is existing in a church that doesn’t know how to think, or what to believe, in a now and not yet kingdom.
As a body we are confused. We don’t speak a clear, unified, concise message. We can’t agree about what we think. We have various and opposing interpretations of what scripture tells us. We blame each other. We question one another’s salvation when we disagree. We accuse people of lacking faith altogether. We accuse others of being overzealous.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that is truth. I don’t think any of us has it completely figured out.
My personal experience has been quite painful, but not nearly as painful as that of some others I’ve heard. When I read the Bible, in a wholistic way, I see that faith takes many forms. Sometimes it’s fuel for endurance, sometimes it brings miracles and healing, sometimes it ends in torture and martyrdom, sometimes it causes simple obedience.
What I don’t see is that it’s something to be used like a magic wand. It’s not a means to health, wealth and material prosperity. I won’t go into my own theological insights in this post- this one is focused on where I struggle.
I grew up in the Methodist tradition, but for the last 15+ years I’ve been part of a more charismatic arm of the church. I’ve heard all kinds of teaching on this topic – some very sound, some kind of out there (my opinion, of course). I’ve never fully bought into the idea that God intends for every sick person to be miraculously, physically, healed. And yes, I do know what Jesus said. And I also know I could be wrong, but for now that’s where I am, based on my own years of study and prayer.
A few years ago one of my closest friends died of cancer. I learned a lot through that time. I watched her faith, which, despite all the pain and questions, didn’t waver. It sustained her. It was what she held onto. She believed God was good, despite it all, and said so all the time. She was absolutely an overcomer, because cancer didn’t steal her testimony.
I watched her family and friends – their (our) faith also remained strong. They prayed for her, in faith, to be healed. They, too, believed God is good. I had never been that close to such a situation and I saw true faith – and faithfulness – all over the place.
Yet, she was not healed this side of heaven.
That didn’t cause me to question God – I believe He does still heal. I don’t have any explanation for why it doesn’t happen every time. I don’t feel I need one.
Now, for my difficulty. As I said I’m in a charismatic culture, most of the time, and the general teaching is that if we have faith, people will be healed. There was one well known healer who said he would do anything to see people healed, and so if he prays and a person remains sick, it’s the fault of that person. That person failed to enter God’s presence and be healed.
The more subtle teaching is that faith equals healing. You work backwards to the idea that lack of healing is a lack of faith – in the pray-er and/or the sick. When I’m listening to a pastor teach this way, or even come close to it, I cringe. My insides begin to boil because what I hear is an indictment of one of the most faithful and faith-filled people I’ve ever known. It’s all I can do to sit and be quiet. [Someone will read that and want to remind me that the Pharisees got mad, too, because of their unbelief. I’ve heard or thought of all the rebuttals.]
Summer had a child-like faith that I envied. She believed God was a healer, and regularly prayed bold prayers for others. I’ve already told you how she walked through her sickness, still boldly declaring the goodness of God, though her body was wasting away. To imply that she lacked faith makes me angry.
I understand that these pastors mean well and fully believe what they are saying (most of them). They want to see people healed. I can’t fault the heart behind it and who could say it’s bad to have too much faith or be too hopeful? Is that even possible?
But in the process of trying to encourage us to increase our faith, many others are left in the wake of that teaching feeling confused and condemned.
Honestly, I’m fighting to remain loving. I’m praying for God to show me how to think about this topic, because His thoughts are the only ones that matter. I don’t want to become cynical. I don’t want to become a person of little faith just as a backlash. My heart obviously needs a bit more healing.
I want to believe for big things. I want to be hopeful. I think there has to be a way to have ridiculous hope, while at the same time acknowledging that sometimes our prayers get a “no” (no is an answer – maybe we shouldn’t say our prayers go unanswered). Why don’t people still shout, “God is good, all the time!” when healing doesn’t come? Isn’t He still good? I know, that would be weird, but you get the point.
I hope it’s okay that I share this with you. I trust that most of you who bother to read what I write can hear my heart. I felt that some of you would totally get what I’m saying, some will be glad to know its not just you in the struggle. I’m not finished growing yet and this probably won’t be the final word on this topic for me.
Thanks for listening 🙂 I’d love to hear from you. Do you relate? What have you learned? What wisdom do you have to share?