by Dale Reeves
Several families I know have had some very difficult weeks recently (families both inside our church and some from other places). Various disabilities, awful diseases, and death sometimes come at us in waves. In seasons like this, I often find myself saying to God, “Why them, God? . . . Why now, God? . . . They have served you and the church so faithfully for many years. It just doesn’t seem fair!”
And, while I don’t want to complain to God, it may sound like I am doing that very thing. But I know he can handle it. I believe that he wants me to come to him in total honesty and transparency. I see King David’s complaints to God all through the book of Psalms. God can see behind whatever mask I might be wearing anyway. I may outwardly voice to others, “This is all because of our fallen world that is filled with sin and the consequences it brings through disease and death. We can thank Adam and Eve for that.” At times knowing the reality of this helps to ease my spirit, and at other times, it just makes me long for the perfection we will enjoy in Heaven someday.
This past Tuesday night I began an eight-week journey with several brave and courageous folks who will be learning some tools that will help them in the grief recovery process. Because of our confidentiality agreement, I cannot share any details, but I will just say that it is a divine privilege to get to lean in and hear the stories others have to tell regarding the losses they have experienced in their lifetimes. It is a privilege I do not take lightly. It is a holy moment when people open up their hearts and share their pain with others. As I listen in, my spirit responds with empathy and sometimes anger, thinking, “It wasn’t fair that this person had to go through the things they have experienced.”
An Age-Old Question
Why does God physically heal people in some circumstances and not others? Why does he seem to intervene miraculously and prevent an accident or tragedy in someone’s life, but allows others to go through life-altering events?
This is not a new question in my generation. The psalmists expressed this thought numerous times in Holy Scripture. For instance, we read complaints like these . . .
“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1, NIV).
“Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23, 24, NLT).
“O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?” (Psalm 6:1-3, NLT).
All in the Father’s Plan
By now you’ve probably heard about or watched some episodes of The Chosen, the newest film series about the life of Jesus and his apostles. Even though this series takes several dramatic liberties with the Gospel narratives of the life of Christ (peeking behind the scenes and depicting what might have been, and imagining some of the backstories of those who followed Jesus), in my opinion, watching this series will help deepen your faith and bring life to your understanding of Jesus and his mission. You can watch all the episodes directed by Dallas Jenkins (three seasons produced so far, with eight episodes in each) by downloading The Chosen app or the Angel Studios app.
In a very compelling scene in Season 3, Episode 2, the actor who portrays James (the son of Alphaeus; nicknamed by Jesus as “Little James” in the series), approaches Jesus and asks him why he hasn’t been healed. The actor, Jordan Walker Ross, is depicted as having a limp that sometimes requires him to use a walking stick. James discusses his disability with Jesus, asking why Jesus expects him to go out and heal others when he himself has not been healed. In real life, the actor has scoliosis, minor cerebral palsy, and a limp. He says that after this scene was released, he received many “messages of encouragement and gratitude from fans in the disabled community who applauded his vulnerability and openness.”
I encourage you to watch this six-minute scene from The Chosen here:
In this scene, Jesus tells “Little James” that he was chosen, in part, because of his disability:
“You still praise God in spite of this. . . To show people that you can be patient with your suffering here on earth because you know you’ll spend eternity with no suffering. Not everyone can understand that. . . . Many are healed or not healed because the Father in Heaven has a plan for them which may be a mystery.”
In an interview, actor Jordan Walker Ross says that this scene was very therapeutic and cathartic for him. He states, “Healing is never promised in this life. I think that more times than not, the healing that we need is internal—it’s healing the wounds that other people have caused on our hearts or in our psyche.”
One of the names for God in Scripture is Jehovah Rapha, which means “The God who heals” (see Exodus 15:26). We know that God has the power to heal. I am praying for complete healing on behalf of those I know who are dealing with stage 4 cancer, currently undergoing chemo and radiation, fighting leukemia with one of their children, recovering from a brain tumor removal, and walking through various kinds of grief and loss. I will continue to pray for physical and emotional healing—however and whenever God chooses to do it. Just as children boldly and unashamedly approach their earthly parents for gifts and favors, it is never wrong to ask God for healing in the lives of his children that we know and love.
A number of our church staff and elders received a text a few days ago from our dear brother and servant of God, Pat Smith, who is battling on behalf of his beautiful wife Julie with all of his strength and energy in the power of the Holy Spirit. After sharing some details concerning Julie’s move to hospice this week, Pat texted these words at the end: “May God be glorified today and always!” Lord, we plead for healing on behalf of your servant, but above all else we ask that your name be glorified.
Whether God physically or emotionally heals someone in this present life, or whether he decides to heal by taking them to Heaven where there will be no more pain or suffering, either way God is glorified. As Job proclaimed over three thousand years ago, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, ESV).