I recently received an email message from a friend titled: Why God Doesn't Always Heal. They used the passage about Paul's thorn in the flesh from 2Corinthians 12:8-10 as the basis for the exposition of the topic. The email involved a list of seven reasons why people are not healed. The first 5 involved the usual unbelief, sin and neglect reasons, the sixth invloved "the mystery of divine providence", and the last reason said:
Often times there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires MORE than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less than perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can only be attained by means of physical weakness.Generally speaking, I thought that the treatment of this topic was fairly rote as I have heard it espoused for many times over the past 30+ years. Here are a few excerpts from my email message back to my friend:
I was glad to see that you eventually got to the heart of the thorn in the flesh in #7.. I was wondering if you were ever going to take the burden off the chronically ill believer.. most charismatic Christians who suffer with chronic illness are part of the suffering crowd that wrongly blames themselves for their pain wondering if they could just believe enough or find out that hidden sin.. it is a blight on the church how these are made to feel sub-Christian.I received a response from my friend thanking me for sharing my insights and saying that I should think of writing on it some day.. yeah, he is not a reader of this blog :)
I wonder why the many who try to discern why people are not healed do not include “the church” and its leaders (the focus of James 5:15-16) in #1-5 of your list. Why do we always feel a need to, like Pharisees, add burdens to the sick? Why not say that the unbelief and/or sin of the elders are preventing healing from coming?
I also wonder why it is so hard for us to say that Paul’s thorn was God’s will.. and maybe a sickness falls with the confines of His will for contemporary Christians? I think that when we do this or something similar we help people to be content with their physical limitations instead of causing them discontentment. In case you are wondering – even people who have learned to be content with their physical limitations continue to pray for miraculous healing :)
Being in and pastoring in a charismatic church, I always find it interesting how people respond to my wife’s wheelchair.. there is often a superiority projected in these interactions that embody your points 1-5.. people listening to the faith teachers look at people who are sick as subpar Christians.. it is very sad.. both for the way it makes my wife feel and more importantly the delusion that upright (read that standing upright) people suffer under.
Hope I didn’t come across as upset or angry. I just wanted to give you an alternate view and perhaps a peek into the life of a guy who prays every day for his wife to arise out of her wheelchair.. and of guy who has had to pastor people who pray and are not healed.