This week I am starting a 3 week series of posts touching on the goodness of God. This week we’ll touch on the topic “What God Doesn’t Promise.” I’m hopeful that these posts will generate discussion, that the good work will be done collectively in the comments.
I stood before an evangelist at the tender age of five and told him that I wanted rid of my asthma. He smiled at me with compassionate condescension and quipped, “with enough faith all things are possible.” He marked my forehead with an olive oil cross and prayed that my lungs would open. He claimed my healing by the stripes of Christ, praised God for my physical wholeness as a woman shook a tambourine for added glory. “We rejoice in this boy’s healing even now,” he said, then closed in Jesus name.
After the amen, he stooped and asked me whether I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit like fresh wind in my lungs . I told him, “I think so,” but that was really just my way of sparing him hurt feelings. The truth is, I didn’t feel anything despite my child-like faith.
It’s been nearly thirty years since that healing service. I am still asthmatic. Perhaps I have too much Thomas in me.
What when the prayers of healing, mustered with all the faith in the world, don’t work? What when children are born with genetic defects that are absolutely incurable? What when faithful servants are persecuted to the death? If we say that prayers of faith will change all situations, if we make healing contingent on that which we muster, we are positioning ourselves precariously on the cliff of doubt and potential apostasy.
I’ve scoured the scriptures my entire life trying to find support for the faith-healer’s prosperity position, all to no avail. And though I sincerely believe that God can (and does) heal, I do not believe that our faith in Christ is magic medicine. In fact, I am firmly convinced of this one thing–God does not promise an end to our physical suffering in this world.
What’s more, God promises quite the opposite–“in this world you will have trouble.” But in that, he tells us to “take heart,” because he has transcended the world. And from his transcendent position he tells us, “you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”**
**Thanks to you who pointed me to the words of Jesus last night via email. You know who you are.