We can know some of the principles on which God operates and thus can trust him despite appearances, but we are simply not in a position to know most of the relevant facts that would explain the specifics of his interaction in any given instance. Gregory Boyd
I prayed and prayed for my marriage to be healed. It wasn’t. I was pretty discouraged about that for a long time. It still puzzles me sometimes. I’ve prayed just as hard, as have so many others, for my healing from cancer. So far not so good. Well, at this writing I still have a moderate amount of the disease hiding out in my blood even after enduring the dreaded bone marrow transplant. I’m not complaining, just identifying the reality.
Some Christians don’t think it’s a good idea to identify reality like this. They equate it with what they call a “negative confession” and a lack of faith, which essentially prevents God from doing any miracles. In their thinking, he would require a more aggressive sort of faith than that in order to dole out my complete healing. I’m all for being positive and for sounding more like Elijah than Eeyore, but the positive confession approach can, in my opinion, be taken way too far.
I know it bothers some when I talk about “suffering well” instead of about “getting well.” There’s definitely a tension there between those two ideas and between two quite disparate camps of Jesus followers who hold exclusively to one or the other of those ideas. Honestly, it bothers me sometimes too when I realize that I don’t have much faith for my total healing. I guess you could say that I don’t have much faith in my faith.
Here are pieces of several journal entries as I struggled with faith…
I really appreciate that so many are trusting you for a miracle and I say “Yes” to their prayers, but honestly I have very little faith for it these days. I’ve been more focused on trusting you for whatever it is you want to do, than in trying to pin you down to a particular outcome. You impressed on me months ago to “trust you” and to “suffer well.” I’m trying to do both of those things and not hold them as mutually exclusive. But if I’m failing you by not having the kind of faith that you require for miraculous interventions, forgive me and adjust my thinking and my believing. I hope I’m not missing your plan by not insisting on a miracle. I hope I’m not displeasing you by focusing on embracing the pain rather than trusting you for relief from it. Lead me Lord!
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Sometimes it seems that my prayers are bouncing right back to me and not registering in heaven at all.
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I can’t arrest entropy or push it back even a foot or two… but you can.
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It seems so random to me when you would heal some people and not others. I’m not faulting you for it; I just don’t understand it. I wonder if that kind of faith is primarily generated by “the gift of faith” – “The sudden surge of supernatural certainty for a certain situation.” I know that I need to be more receptive to that gift and that kind of faith, so if you want to give it to me, please help me.
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I’m aware that though faith is something you deliver, I’m responsible to give you an apt runway upon which to land it… Help me, I’m too weak to build that runway myself!
In these years of fighting a fearsome disease my thinking about faith has been shifting. I’ve mused a lot about the way that God likes to be trusted. Since this is a memoir and not a treatise on faith, I’ll synopsize and refer you to the paper I mentioned before: “Avoiding The Mediocre Middle.”
Sometimes God has his reasons for miraculously making us well and at other times he gives us the strength to suffer well. The same God who said to Moses, “I am the Lord who heals you,” also said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (to endure your “thorn in the flesh”). Both options require faith, a kind of faith that I consider a mature faith.
I currently believe that if I aim my faith primarily at the character of God I’ll get what I need in order to get well or to be able to suffer well. When I’m not sure if I should be contending for a healing miracle or pleading for grace to endure my malady, it helps me when I focus my attention on how good God is, how wise are his judgments, and how reliable is his track record. That way my faith is in him instead of in a certain outcome. I trust in him rather than in a formula in order to get what I want from him.
[Next: a contrast of super faith versus simple faith…]