Today I graded an essay by a student recounting the powerful experience of seeing God work in Brazil. Along with several other people, he prayed over the locals that were sick, deaf, and incapacitated, and by God’s great power, they were healed. One older man requested prayer and my student laid his hands on the man’s back and prayed that the tumors would disappear; and under his hands, the bumps shrank. This man shared several specific encounters they had with God’s mighty mercy and powerful healing–both physically and spiritually.
I’d love to say I rejoiced with this student and belted out an “Awesome, God!” but I raised my eyebrows and bit my lip, looking for the discrepancies, wondering if it was all real. And if it was….why, oh, why, doesn’t God seem to move that way in our own country? How many people with cancer do I pray for, fast over, and plead with God to heal that continue to suffer? How many children, young parents, and friends die a long and slow death?
Back in 2013 when my dad was battling the hated “c”, I was going through a Bible study in Luke. I came to the passage in Luke 5 that retells Simon Peter’s literal “come-to-Jesus” moment of faith. The fishermen had been out all night with nothing to show for it. And Jesus comes on the scene; Peter and the others are washing out the nets and calling it a day, but Jesus urges them, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Peter’s response still penetrates my heart when I read it: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vs. 5, emphasis mine).
In other words, “We’ve tried everything, Jesus. Really. And nothing has made the slightest difference. But, I’m willing to take a chance and try again, just because you’ve told us to do so.”
In that moment, I sensed the Holy Spirit’s heaviness. I couldn’t deflect the prompting, so I called my parents and asked if I could pray over my dad. Logically, I knew that I myself was doing nothing and that what his doctors had advised wasn’t making any difference either. Normally, my faith perches pretty wimpy on the sidelines, but that afternoon, I felt like a linebacker ready to charge the field–pushing out every obstacle in our way.
I cried through the whole process, but I called on the mighty power of God, raising my hands in grateful acceptance of what I was sure He was going to do: heal my dad. I knew it wasn’t me manipulating the situation for I would have never initiated such an “irrational approach”; I also knew it wasn’t my power, for I had none. My jar was cracked and weak (2 Cor. 4:7-9). But, boldly confident, I prayed over my dad’s body and requested that the One who needed exert no effort do what no one else could. I had faith.
Those of you who have walked my past with me know how the story ends. My dad has been celebrating with Jesus, Home in Heaven, for the last 4 1/2 years. Honestly, I’m not bitter or resentful; I don’t doubt that God was capable in that moment (or any other) to heal my dad and restore his body. Of course, God healed Dad in a more complete way than we’d even prayed: He made Dad whole, but He took him away to do it. I don’t know why God chose to answer our prayers that way, nor why I felt such a heavy pressure by the Spirit to lay hands on Dad and pray for him again. Was my heart too impure–too selfish? Was the environment wrong? Should I have fasted first? Did I do something wrong? I remind myself: I believed (and still do) and I knew that my actions couldn’t manipulate God into doing anything He wasn’t already going to do. My dad felt confident that God would heal him and so did I. Others–people of greater faith than mine–had “assurances” that the outcome would be different. Then God said no.
I won’t pretend to understand the mind of God (Is. 55:8), nor what He wanted to accomplish through that horrendous experience. But, I do know one thing; He doesn’t waste our pain. What He does filters through His abundant love and wisdom. Eventually, even a garden can develop from the remains of a volcanic wasteland. And I am reminded even more now than ever that this life is full of brokenness and disappointments. We will not create Heaven on Earth–nor does He intend for us to. His glory, not our desire, is our aim. We are supposed to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our Eternal Home. This isn’t as good as it gets; for that truth, I’m forever thankful.