Recently I was in conversation with a couple of close friends who were taking a family member to a “healing conference” seeking healing for a chronic illness. Out of desperation, and based on reports of results, they were completely open to whatever the person was teaching, with seemingly little examination of whether or not the teacher was “rightly handling the word of truth.
They looked at me, wanting my thoughts. But really they didn’t want my thoughts. They wanted my endorsement, which I could not offer. And it was awkward. It seems uncaring and close-minded in such situations to take issue with how the scripture is being misused to promise what it does not promise.
My hesitancy is not because I don’t believe that God heals. I know he does. In fact healing is not just something he does; it is who he is. He is Jehovah Rophi, the God Who Heals. But I also know that we simply cannot force into this age the pervasive healing God has reserved for the next.
I suppose the real problem for me is that I often find myself on the other side of these situations—seeking to minister to people who, based on the promises and proclamations of such healing ministries, sought and expected the healing of their loved one. But their loved one died. And so they are left confused and disillusioned. Because they’ve were sold a false gospel, they end up deeply resentful toward what they see as God withholding from them, and sometimes filled with guilt over what they see as their own failure of faith. And so I see those who proclaim a false gospel of full physical healing available here and now for all those with the faith to claim it as ultimately very cruel.
I know that many people who will read Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering will be on this road of asking for healing, but seeking to trust God with physical illness and disability. That is why I included the insight of J. I. Packer who writes:
It is true that salvation embraces both body and soul. And there is indeed, as some put it, healing for the body in the atonement. But perfect physical health is not promised for this life. It is promised for heaven as part of the resurrection glory that awaits us in the day when Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Full physical well-being is presented as a future blessing of salvation rather than a present one. What God has promised and when he will give it are separate questions.
The day is coming when our God Who Heals will consummate his kingdom where there will be no more sickness. Till then, we wait in faith, grateful that he is good to give us tastes and glimpses of the plenteous and pervasive healing to come on that day.