Does It Pay to Pray for Healing?
Sickness and death aren't God's will. God is fighting them and will overcome them--but until then, should we pray for healing?
A widowed mother of six had breast cancer. In the months preceding her death, the members of her church held weekly prayer meetings, begging God to heal her. Twice, all night prayer vigils were held on her behalf, but she wasn’t healed.
In the face of such a tragedy, you can always count on some well-meaning person to quote Romans 8:28--"all things work together for good"--and to say that the tragedy is something we just have to accept as part of God’s wonderful plan for us. As if that were not enough, they'll imply that God caused what we think is a tragedy in order to achieve some greater good that we, in our limited understanding, just cannot comprehend.
I don’t buy this kind of talk. To make God the author of sickness and death is to transform God into someone who is difficult to love.
In a church where I once served, there was a man whose son died of leukemia. The man stopped coming to church. I went to visit him and told him not to stop believing in God because of what had happened. The man responded, "Oh, I still believe in God. The reason I gave up on church isn’t because I don’t believe in God, it is because I hate him. He could have cured my boy and I begged him to do that and he did nothing…so I hate him."
I tried to tell this man that God does not cause sickness and death. I told him that God is constantly struggling to abolish both, and that someday, God will--but that time is not yet.
That did not help. What did help was this: I told the man that when his son died, God was the first one who cried.
Those who cite Romans 8:28 in the face of such tragedies need to know that the verse does not say "all things work together for good," even though it reads that way in the King James Version. A more accurate translation of the Greek New Testament reads, "In the midst of everything that is happening, God is at work cooperating with those who love Him, to bring about good." Big difference!
If we believe that in the midst of suffering God is with us, working along with us to create something good out of such painful realities, we can ask how sickness and death can be the basis or motivation to do something that would bless others in significant ways. Instead of asking why the sickness happened, we can ask, "God, what good can we create out of this sickness and what good can we create out of death?"