I was sitting outside of my church on Thursday night. It was warm and the church was a brick oven. My family was cleaning up after our weekly community dinner and I needed to get out of the noise and the heat. One of our guests whom I did not recognize came outside. He looked at my leg braces and asked, “What happened to your legs?”
“I have cerebral palsy,” I explained.
“Is it permanent?” he inquired.
I assumed he was unfamiliar with cerebral palsy, so I answered, “Yes.”
He shook his head and said, “No. Talk to Jesus Christ.”
While this encounter was strange, it highlights the lack of proper theology many people in the church have concerning divine healing. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, I did not begin to grapple with healing until I was a teenager. I was not provided with many opportunities in church to think about it. That was less than ideal for me. On the one hand, I heard stories of God healing people in the Bible and today. On the other hand, I continued to live with cerebral palsy.
I want to spend several articles in this contradiction because what I have found are not answers, but rather a God who is with me in everything. Even though healing may seem to be an isolated topic, it raises the question of how God works in our lives. Those who believe that God always provides physical healing in this life, like the man at dinner did, often see material blessings as a sign of God’s favor and the absence of them as an indication of sin. Those like me who believe that healing is only guaranteed in Heaven see suffering as a means to grow spiritually. These opposing views raise questions of what God’s purpose is when He intervenes in our lives.
For some of you, this topic may not seem important. I admit that of all the subjects I could discuss, this one is not central to theology or even to most people’s spiritual growth. But, not exploring it could greatly harm those to whom it does matter. My goal with these articles is two-fold. I want to share some of the lessons I have learned the hard way in the hope that someone might be spared unnecessary pain. I also hope that those who may not find this discussion to affect them personally will gain a better understanding of why this topic is so sensitive to others and what they might contribute to the conversation.
Throughout these columns, I will remain purposefully vague at times because of the vulnerability inherent in healing. Most of the things I will share I have personally experienced. However, I will not always explain every statement with a detailed explanation from my life for two reasons. First, I want to use a semi-academic approach. An emphasis on my own life would take away from the logical method I would like to use. Second, some of these moments are very important to me and sharing them with a large audience would be inappropriate.
If you glean nothing else from this discussion, I hope you will come to appreciate how complex beliefs about healing can be. Part of me wants to have a systematic discussion—which is so straightforward, it is boring. But, I recognize that the process of wrestling with seeming contradictions is often where we encounter God in unexpected ways. The reason this conversation is necessary is because we often limit God to the miraculous and fail to recognize Him in the less extraordinary circumstances. My hope is that we can gain an appreciation for how God works in circumstances which physical ailments create even when He does not heal.