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Tag Archives: healing
I had the thought before recently, but yesterday Linda and I really talked about it as if it could happen. With the recent advances in medical treatment, particularly around adult stem cells, I have begun to wonder if by that or some other means I might have significant improvement of my vision. It has not been a serious consideration to me until now. The repair of nerve tissue has been beyond the realm of possibility until recently. My condition being possibly unique means that direct research on it is unlikely. I have been pretty sure that science would not hold the answer and the most reasonable solutions that have been conceivable seemed to me to be far too risky to consider. What I have isn’t much but losing it is not a chance I have been willing to take.
What if there really is a chance now? Do I want it? Had I been asked a week ago I would have said emphatically “yes!” I still don’t know how I would feel if it were a sure thing. Adding the element of long-held hope for healing that could be dashed once again complicates my reaction. I think it is the hope that I fear. It has only been in recent years that I have finally begun to be at peace with being “blind.” For most of my life I wouldn’t even use that word. After all it’s not technically true as I have a little bit of vision. Now I find it easier to just say blind. I fought the tendency to be angry with God over it. Growing up we prayed often and tried every formula the Pentecostal/charismatic traditions had to offer. I became bitter, and it took many years for God to soften my heart and give me a new perspective on His sovereignty, omniscience, and love. I have learned at least in part to trust Him with my circumstances. I have learned to be thankful for the many good things I have. I can’t say I never struggle anymore, but I can say I am as content as I have ever been and I am ready to trust Him whatever He decides to do.
I don’t want to go back to the angst and frustration that comes with focusing on something you want to the exclusion of all else. It affected my ability to pray. It hampered my ability to minister to others in need. It was a wall between me and all that I hold dear. When I heard people like Joni Eareckson Tada say that they were content and would not change their circumstances if they had the chance, I thought at best they deluded themselves in an effort to cope. Now I begin to understand. Though it may be far from what it should be, I would not sacrifice my relationship with Jesus on the altar of my healing. It brings me to tears as I realize that I really do feel this way. I plan to make an appointment with a specialist I think most likely to be able to help me because in the absence of clear direction to the contrary I think I should seek to be healed, but if I find my hope turning once again to covetousness, I will rejoice in my blindness, for it is a small price to pay for what I have gained. If I must wait for this earthly life to end, then the first thing I will see clearly is the face of my Lord. Could there be anything better than that?
Several years ago I got what I took to be a revelation from God about trust. That is, that it must be given before it can be earned. Though we may by observation deem someone worthy of our trust before committing to them, we can only truly know whether that assessment was merited after we have done so. There is only one person who can be said to have earned our trust before we give it. That is Jesus, who has already given everything for us. Yet there may be no one we are less likely to trust because we can neither see Him nor fully know Him while we remain on the earth.
I’ve been thinking lately about the meaning of trust. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary contains fourteen entries for the word. The first two read in part:
It goes on, explaining as dictionaries do the many ways in which the word is used, but I think we can simplify the definition as it pertains to human relations. To trust is to place something of value in the care of another. As a noun it represents the faith we have that the other will value what we have entrusted to them as we do. This thing of value may be tangible like money or intangible like our emotional well being.
What does it mean to trust God, whom most of us know primarily by the evidence He has provided rather than definite experience? The evidence is strong. The more I study the Bible the greater my small faith grows as I see the miraculous cohesion between its many parts written over thousands of years. I firmly believe it is the truth and the means by which we can begin to know and trust its ultimate author. Despite that certainty I can claim little personal experience with Him. I have learned not to trust myself, so those emotional highs I used to interpret as God’s affirmation no longer serve as proof of His interaction with me. Though I continue to reject the idea that all He will give us in this age is the Bible for guidance, meaning he speaks and acts overtly no more, I can claim no personal experience that supports my belief. I must rely on the experience of others whose integrity I do not doubt.
I am still left with the question, what does it mean for me to trust in God? I believe the Bible is the source of truth. I do not believe in my ability to understand everything it tells me. If there is any question, I find the answer that suits me best or else I hide behind the ambiguity. I believe in His love and have made my life’s quest to understand it, but all I can say that I have learned is how far I am from that understanding and that evidence in my own life.
But somehow I do trust Him. If not to the degree that I ought, certainly enough that I expect to see Him when I die. Not that I don’t doubt even that when I get too focused on my own failure, which I do a lot. Somehow in my darkest hours I long for Him and know that He is there. I may wonder at it because my mind cannot conceive of that much mercy, but I still know that I belong to Him.
He is faithful. Despite my intent to rejoice today, I quickly fell into the depression that has been especially heavy over the past few weeks. This blog entry began this morning from my struggle to understand the meaning of trust in all of my relationships, but especially with God. I can’t help thinking that if I had made full use of everything I’ve been given, I would be in a very different place today. I don’t know exactly what that place would be; I’m just sure it isn’t where I am.
Our church brought in a guest speaker this weekend, Bob Sorge. I think he may have spoken at Hillcrest church when I was there, but if so I did not attend that day. I had only heard his story through my wife. She was excited to have him come. I was just this side of apathetic. I thought it might help the church out a little so I went along with the preparation. I thought just maybe he would inspire us and maybe even me. My wife will tell you I don’t impress easily. J
Mr. Sorge is a pastor who almost completely lost his voice due to a botched surgery. Out of that experience has come a message of hope for all who suffer. Yahweh used his message today to help me see my situation in a different light. Using Job, and John chapter nine among others, he illustrated God’s roll in suffering. I recently wrote in my private journal how it was time for me to give up forever the idea that I could do anything that obligated Him to do what I asked. I started this entry writing about the meaning of trust. It’s time for me to trust Yahweh with my eyes. If He answers my plea and heals them I will trust Him. If he tells me I must wait until I look upon Him with new eyes, I will trust Him. If he tells me nothing at all, I will trust him. Echoing what Pastor Sorge said today, you may say that I lack faith. I’ll tell you what he told us. You’re right. I can never have enough faith. I must constantly go to the One who is faithful and learn faith. It grows from reading His word and from spending time in His service. I cannot say that God must earn my trust. He has already paid for my whole life. I can say that I must learn to give him my trust so that He can prove his trustworthiness. I must give it before I can see it.
What does that mean on a practical level? I must turn over to Him all that is of value to me. He gave it to me in the first place. I must love like He loves, trusting Him with my heart. I must give like He gives, trusting Him with my physical well being. I must do what he says, trusting that any hardship is temporary and not to be compared with the glory to come. I have a long, long way to go, but I choose to trust Him to take me there one step at a time. I fall upon His mercy, and He sets me on the path again.
This is not the most coherent piece I’ve ever written, in part because there was a big gap between the beginning and the end. God used that interval to completely change my perspective. I thought about scrapping the entry entirely and reworking it from the top, but I think it’s sort of tied together. I’ll be posting the audio for today on the Bartimaeus Baptist Temple web site sometime this week. It’s not a good quality recording on any day because I do it with a digital recorder from the front row, but I think it’s going to come out ok and I think it will really bless you. Keep an eye on the site for it. We had a wonderful time with Pastor Sorge. He has a sweet spirit and a big heart. We loved him instantly. If you get the chance to meet or hear him speak, take it. I haven’t personally read his books because they aren’t in an easily accessible format for me, but he promised to help change that too. I look forward to reading them. Check out his site.
I guess my charismatic is showing. I’ve written to the point of probably being tiresome of my struggle to understand why God does or does not answer prayers for healing. My faith in that area is admittedly weak, but I can’t help wondering at some of the prayers I hear. People ask for God to influence the doctors to make good decisions. They ask for the medicine to work. They ask simply that God “be with” someone.
I don’t mean to be critical. I’m much too flawed to claim any greater understanding than anyone else, especially on this topic. I just wonder why, if we believe that God moves at all today, we would ask for less than we really want. I realize that for many this reflects their dispensational thinking. God changed, even though He says that He never changes, and doesn’t involve Himself in the miraculous anymore. It seems to me the most miraculous thing ever is the transformation of the human spirit that happens when the Holy Spirit is given control. Why God should be acknowledged by theologians to do this today and not to perform mere healing of a physical malady is beyond me. Is the leading of the human being by an all powerful supernatural Spirit who can be everywhere at once not a miracle?
I don’t know why God doesn’t answer prayers that it seems from scripture that He should. I know all the stock answers to that question having grown up in that environment, but none seem sufficient in themselves. Indeed we must pray in faith. I suppose that we cannot ask for more than we know that He will give, but this is the way I see it. If I believe that He is able to do anything, I must believe that He is able to do everything. I don’t understand what He will do, but I know what He can do. Whether it is for me or for someone else, though I may be yet uncomfortable with the asking, I’m not willing to ask for less than the best. I’m not praying that the doctors be influenced, unless it is that they are convinced of His power by what they see and come to know Him. I’m not praying for future scientific advances, except that they improve quality of life for everyone. I’m praying for complete healing. If I dare to ask the creator of the universe for anything, why not ask for what I really want? The companion prayer is that He teaches me to want what He wants. Then, I know beyond doubt that He will answer.
I’ve written at some length of the uncertainty I feel about the topic of healing and how the scriptures are to be understood. I’ve told of my personal struggle with it and how I feel about my blindness. Something new happened today, and since it involves the same group of people I wrote of before, it seemed fitting to continue the story.
Since today was a fourth Sunday, The group from Summit church was back again. It was a little different today. First, we invited them to come earlier and have lunch as a show of appreciation. I’m glad we did that, though I must confess I have not been one of those who appreciated them. Each time they came I hoped for a reason not to go, yet I came because this was something that Pastor wanted, and I do my best to honor and respect my pastor. By the way, that’s not hard to do because he deserves every bit of it. My feelings toward the coming of Summit had more to do with me than with them. In fact, after today I think God may be planning to forge us together in a way neither of us would think possible.
The last few weeks have been particularly difficult for me, and I really didn’t want to go today. Before getting ready to go, I wrote a prayer in my journal. I asked that Yahweh would speak to me in a way that at least for the time would leave me with no doubt. I also made a promise that whatever it was He said I would do. I recognize that I have no standing from which to cut any kind of deal with the creator of the universe, but in my desperation I decided it was worth a try. I made no assumptions about how He should answer, and what He did I could not have foreseen.
Several times as the worship proceeded I was on the verge of tears. I have felt so far away. I read the Bible daily and pray, even if sometimes perfunctorily as we settle in for the night. I do what I think is right, yet I often feel that I don’t really know what is right. This confusion is especially acute in regard to how best to serve the Lord in the ministry He seems to have given us. People who actively believe and pray for healing make me face that confusion head on as well as the issue of my own blindness. I was brought up believing in healing, so being blind has always secretly felt like another failure. I am confronted daily with the unavoidable evidence that I am not all that I should be. What A hypocrite I am to tell others they can fulfill God’s purpose for their lives just as they are, when I secretly think I cannot unless I can obtain healing for myself!
The message consisted of a string of testimonies that the Summit people gave concerning how God had healed and saved those whom they had prayed for. The jaded skeptic in me wasn’t quite ready to believe them all, but I know god can do it, and I can’t imagine a situation where he would be more likely to do it than to bring someone to Him. Since I’m not prepared to believe they all got up there and lied, I must believe God did all of that. It was wonderful to hear. I really like redemption stories.
What happened next was something I always sort of dreaded. I’ve done it once or twice before, but I never felt right about it. How can I pray for someone else’s healing when I don’t have mine? The simple answer is that God is sovereign, and I cannot claim any more or less power based on something I would have no control over anyway. If God heals me, it will be no more because of my own power than if He does not. How many times have I said that we must get beyond ourselves if we hope to find fulfillment? This is no different. Though God in His mercy may choose to make exceptions, most of us are going to have to begin to give before we will receive. That is what was said today and I recognized the truth of it.
I thought I might be spared, since Linda immediately grabbed me and started praying for me. Maybe she would use up all the time. Then as we finished up a young friend of our came around in front of us obviously intending that we pray for her. All I could do was honestly talk to the Lord about how I felt and what I wanted. I pretty much gave up on mine years ago. I just told Him that I didn’t know how to pray for this but I really wanted to see this wonderful young woman so full of potential made well. The only faith I had was that He could do it if He chose. I don’t think she’s up running around without her wheelchair, but God immediately took away the pain she was in.
Then the tears did flow. God did not speak to me in any of the ways I thought He might. No one came up to me with prophetic words that only God would know. He did not condemn me for my many failures and shortcomings. He gave me no specific mission or confirmation of the one I have chosen. He didn’t even tell me how much He loves me. He simply did the one thing I would never have expected. He answered my prayer. Yes, that’s the sad truth. My faith has been that weak. I did not believe He would answer my prayer, even though it was completely unselfish. There are no mustard seeds here. It’s more like a mold spore, but god can use even that.
My questions are still unanswered. I don’t know how we teach people to serve God within the context of their disability while at the same time telling them they should be healed. I still think much of what goes on in church services is nothing more than emotionalism and that the Holy Spirit may be called present only because He dwells within the believers involved. I still think both of our groups have a lot to learn, but I am beginning to see that we might be able to learn from each other. I’m willing to put aside my angry response to a threat that isn’t there and ask forgiveness for it. I’m willing to hope that there is a way for everything I believe to be true to be reconciled into a ministry that meets the needs of a group of people who need to know that God loves them no less for their disabilities and intends that whole or not they should have a purpose in His kingdom. I am certainly encouraged that His purpose remains for me.
The below paragraph is excerpted and modified from my prayer journal this morning. If you’re dropping in for the first time, this will make more sense when taken with previous entries. To provide minimal background, I am legally blind, my wife has Multiple Sclerosis. We attend a church that is designed to serve people with disabilities and we have founded our own organization to build more congregations that facilitate participation in ministry by everyone regardless of disability.
I can only do what I can with what I know, but I still can’t shake the idea that we should be bringing healing, not excuses and ways to make the best of life as it is. I know God uses evil for good, but should we then embrace the evil for the good He will do with it? If we ask that question with the word sin in it, few would ascent to it. Sickness or disability isn’t sin, but it’s still bad. Though we may thank God for using the bad for good, should we be thankful for the bad? It doesn’t compute for me.
I’ll keep doing what seems to be before me, but I can’t help wondering if we’re missing God’s best. I hesitate to even post this. I’ve wrestled with this question in my own life almost as long as I can remember. I was raised with all the scriptures. I don’t need to hear them again from self righteous children who have never had to live with these questions. Yet I write in the spirit of openness, desperately seeking an answer that makes everything fit together. Maybe I must wait until the Holy Spirit Himself chooses to enlighten me, and that might not be While I remain on the earth.
In the last few years I have taken to writing in my journal in the form of prayers to Yahweh. This is what I wrote today. Because it relates to some things I have said here recently, I decided to share it.
I lost my work in the other program and I hate doing things over, but this is on my mind so I’ll try again. I’m thinking about my blindness today after finishing Joni’s last book. She thanked You for her wheelchair. I can’t honestly thank You for my blindness. Does that indicate a lack of trust in You? I keep thinking someday I’ll discover the one thing I’ve been missing and then You’ll heal me. I can at least know that You can bring good even from our mistakes, so even if I’m missing something, I can trust You to bring good from it.
Something rebels in me at the thought of thanking you for my Blindness. I guess Joni would say I should trust that You know what you’re doing and have faith that this is best. My faith healer friends would call that listening to the devil and say that I should have faith in the promises of scripture. I would point out that the scripture promises suffering too and ask why Paul would suggest to Timothy that he should use wine for his stomach ailments rather than that he should have enough faith to be healed.
I am left unconvinced that my blindness glorifies You in any way. Maybe I should trust that You will have glory from it and thank You from that faith, but I am not ready to believe that. I can’t let go of the idea that this is wrong and I should be healed. I confess to a little resentment even while recognizing how foolish that is. I owe You everything. I owe You my life and my gratitude. You have blessed me richly and I have no right to complain because You haven’t given me what I want. Because I can’t come to terms with the idea that this is ok and might even be Your will, I can’t bring myself to thank You for it. That would be an admission of defeat. That would be a relinquishment of hope. Maybe giving You this thing that I hold onto so tightly even though I don’t actually have it is exactly what You want.
It certainly isn’t what I want. I say I wouldn’t do anything evil to get it, but is not the fact that I want it whether it is Your will or not evil? I have this idea, however foolish it may be, that I could do anything and be anything if only I could see. I claim the errors of my youth stripped my arrogance from me, but is this thinking not proof that it is still there? I’m involved in a ministry to others with disabilities. Is it not pure Hypocrisy that I look at my own condition as standing in the way of who I could be and what I could accomplish? This alone may be sufficient cause for You to deny me healing.
What would I do if I had it? Would I follow Your way or mine? Would a sense of obligation to pay You back, (as if I didn’t already owe You everything) drive me to engage in a series of empty works? Would I go my own way and then be destroyed by the guilt born of that same sense of obligation? I know what I think about. I don’t think about all the things I could do for You. I think about all the things I could do for myself. I think about driving where I want to go. I think about reading what I want to read when and where I want to read it. Oh there would be lots of Christian books. <smile> I think about excelling ahead of my peers at work. There goes that arrogance again. I’m not You and don’t want the job, but if I were, I wouldn’t give it to me.
I still want it. I want it more than I should. If I thought it would work, I’d offer You some kind of bargain to get it. I second guess You and somehow think I know better. I think that after all You are God and whatever negative consequences might come from healing me You are big enough to override. In the end I’m willing to take my chances. I want it like Israel wanted that king. They too wanted to be like all the people around them. They too must have thought that the consequences would be worth it. They put their own desires ahead of You. That rebellious spirit eventually destroyed them. Is that where I’m headed? Am I determined that You should give me something that You do not want me to have; somehow thinking that will allow me to win all my battles?
What then of the message we are preaching that You have a purpose for everyone regardless of limitation. Do I really believe that? I confess that I look at some of the people I know and wonder how it could be. They are barely able to exist, much less do anything for You. Some lack even the mental capacity to engage in intercessory prayer. How can they glorify You? Is not Your healing power a better answer for them. Is it not a better answer for all of us?
I guess I may never get these answers while I am on the earth. All I can do is what I find in front of me. I choose to trust You. I will continue to pray, to read the Bible and seek the truth. I will be a blessing where I can and continue to encourage those around me with what little I do know. I will follow the path that You seem to have directed me to. You will have to do the rest.
I write this prayerfully and with what I hope is due respect for the parties directly or indirectly mentioned. My intent is to explore the underlying issues and maybe promote some understanding. I also hope to explain if not excuse the reactions some may have observed from me in the course of events I’m about to describe.
Once a month, we have a group from another church come in and do our service. We meet at 2:30 in the afternoon, so they come straight from their own services to do ours. Their style could not be more different than what most of our congregation is used to. We are in most ways a very traditional Baptist church. There are some notable exceptions, and those exceptions are the reason Linda and I attend. I’ll fill that in later. They are part of a traditional Charismatic church. I used the word traditional purposefully. Charismatics love to bash tradition, seemingly unable to see that they have simply developed their own set of traditions that are merely different than the ones they despise. .
First, here’s a little background for those who may not yet know. I am almost blind. I was raised in a family whose beliefs are more closely aligned with the charismatic theology and style of worship. I grew up hearing about and praying for physical healing. Linda has multiple sclerosis. She returned to the Lord later in life and graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. Linda and I believe that God has not changed and is still active in the way that He was when the New Testament was written.
Bartimaeus Baptist Temple, the church we now attend, has existed for over fifty years to meet the needs of people with disabilities. If you had told me about the church just a short time ago, I would not have been interested. As I’ve pointed out, my traditions are not Baptist, though my family attended Baptist churches from time to time and I have no quarrel with their statement of faith. I also had no interest in being part of a group of other “disabled” people. I still do not believe we should cloister ourselves and steep in our troubles. We need to get out and be a part of the world we live in.
However, a gracious and merciful God wasn’t done with me yet. I think it may have started with the Bethel Series Bible study that I participated in a few years ago. One of the first concepts it teaches is that we are blessed in order that we may be a blessing. I began to think about what I have been blessed with. One of the greatest blessings is the attitude and approach to the challenge of disability fostered in me by the wise guidance of my parents. I began to ask myself how I might give back out of what I have been given. That suggests some form of ministry to (and through) other people with disabilities. Maybe I needed to lay down my pride over something I actually had little to do with and begin to share what I have. I began to consider some kind of support network, designed to show people with disabilities how God intended to use them and launch them out into the “real world.”
Then I met and married my beloved wife, Linda. A better match for this mission could not have been made. In addition to complementary skill sets, we combine the two perspectives of one who has experienced disability from birth and one who faced it later in life. We have found unity of purpose in this ministry.
Even so, when Linda discovered BBT and wanted me to visit with her, I approached it with something less than enthusiasm. We had not yet found a place where we were both truly happy. Not really believing such a place could exist, I had adopted a stoic approach to the whole church attendance thing. If I could just find some fellowship and maybe a chance to teach wherever we landed I would be content if we could only stay there. I liked where we were well enough and prospects seemed good.
The service at BBT was much as I expected it to be, except when it wasn’t. When the pastors wife began praying for people and receiving words of knowledge about them, I knew this place was anything but typical. It brought back memories of churches Dad pastored where he attempted to introduce long forgotten elements of truth to congregations’ who had not known them. I felt at home. I started to see the church as a place I could be myself and fulfill the ministry God was preparing me for. After two Sundays and a talk with Pastor David Whitmore, I was ready to join. The appearance of Summitt Church for the fourth Sunday was icing on the cake. I would even get a little worship of the kind I was accustomed to once a month.
Then, they came for us. Suddenly it wasn’t so fun anymore. Linda has a stronger reaction than I do most of the time. She’s not used to it. I grew up with it. We were surrounded and hands descended from all directions to pray for our healing. It’s not that I don’t believe He can. I still hope that someday He will and that before I go to meet Him. However, to this point He has not chosen to do so. Some would say I lack faith. I can’t really disagree with that, though it was not always so. A host of other reasons follow, some of them possibly valid. I can’t help but think they often represent excuses to soothe the egos of the would be agents of healing when God doesn’t jump to do their bidding.
I confess that I have allowed my internal conflict with this issue to color my reaction to some sincere and wonderful people who come to us with the best of intentions. In part it’s a reaction to the disappointment I feel that God has not given me what I want. In part it’s that I’m faced with big questions that affect how we are to serve him in the place we find ourselves. Either I am following His lead or I am missing Him entirely. The practical side of me says that whatever I believe about healing, I am surrounded by people who have not experienced it and I must deal with the reality in concrete and compassionate ways. The emotional part of me draws from the teaching I grew up on and says we should be praying for and seeing all of us restored to health, thus invalidating our ministry. Some combination of the two is probably the best answer, but I have not been able to resolve the conflict.