It all started with a woman. A woman who had been suffering for several years with a bleeding disorder and all of the doctors she had seen had told her there was no cure. I can imagine it caused a lot of discomfort. Maybe she couldn’t participate in all the activities in her community. Maybe she had to stay home in bed often.
But then this woman heard some good news. She heard of a man who was coming to visit her town, a man whom she had heard could do amazing things. So she made sure that she was there when he was. But there was such a crowd of people surrounding the man, she had no way to get close to him, to ask him to help her. She might have felt discouraged. But she had faith. She pressed in as close as she could, reached out and touched the bottom of his clothes. And suddenly, the bleeding stopped. I can imagine the relief that flooded over this woman as she realized she was healed.
The man, of course, was Jesus. You can read this story of the woman and the bleeding disorder in Matthew 9:20-22 and Luke 8:43-48, but my favourite account is this:
A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” Mark 5:25-34
In recent years, this has become my favourite Bible story of all time. It’s not one of those stories you’d hear preaching on very often. It’s not a major story you’d learn about in Sunday school. But it’s so important to anyone who has ever suffered with a serious health issue.
I love how this woman knew if only she could touch Jesus’ clothes, she would be healed. She had such a strong faith that He was who He said He was, she knew it would be the answer to her suffering. How I long to be able to reach out and touch His clothes for healing too. While we may not be able to walk alongside Jesus, we do walk with Him. And while we may not be able to be close enough to touch His clothes, we can talk to Him through prayer always.
Have you ever prayed for healing over your situation? I know I have. So many times I have prayed for healing, or had lovely people who longed for my suffering to be over surround me and cry out to the Healer on my behalf. I can’t tell you how many times I have been prayed for. But my heart wasn’t in the right place. I was lacking something this woman had so much of – I was lacking faith. Faith and healing go hand in hand. You can’t experience healing if you don’t have faith that God can do it.
Sometimes, when people are healed it is evident immediately. Like this woman, and many others in the New Testament who were immediately healed with the Spirit intervened on their behalf. For others, it takes a bit longer.
Recently in a church service, a friend shared that when he was a child he had experienced such health issues that he was hospitalized up to seven times per year. His parents prayed for healing for him. The doctors told them there wasn’t anything they could do and that he might never finish school, let alone grow up and have children. For fourteen years, his parents faithfully prayed for his healing, taking him to the hospital when necessary. Let me tell you, friends – the prayers of the faithful are heard. Not only did my friend finish school, he is also the proud father of a really sweet little boy. Sometimes, it takes a long time to be healed – but there is great rejoicing when it happens!
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:13-16
I believe suffering, sickness and illness happens because we live in a sinful, fallen world. It seems Christians are even more likely to endure suffering because we are fighting a spiritual battle and Satan loves to attack. However, I don’t believe that any one individual is experiencing sickness, illness or disability because of their own personal sins. When asked if a man was blind because of his sins or his parent sins, Jesus says in John 9:4-5 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” Whether we are healed or not healed, it is our God given assignment to use what He has given us for His glory. Whether it be in a healed body or one that is riddled with pain.
A few weeks ago, when I was at a weekend retreat with my church family, we had a visiting speaker and his wife. This man is well known as a man who can bring healing through prayer and intercession. A friend of mine asked me to go for prayer for myself. I have been prayed for many times without signs of healing, but I agreed to go. The weekend had been cold and rainy, so I had been using my cane and walker to navigate the bumpy campground as my arthritis and lipedema pains were quite severe. After they prayed for me, I rushed from the chapel to join my family in the dining hall. Half way there, I realized my cane was in my hand but it wasn’t touching the ground. I wasn’t using it at all! I can honestly testify that it was the most amazing feeling. Could God really have chosen me to be healed after all these years?
The previous week, I had run out of one of my pain medications that I had been using on a regular basis. My prescription needed to be refilled, and I had been slightly panicking about what to do as I wasn’t able to get in to see my doctor for another month. Throughout the week after, I realized I didn’t even miss it. I didn’t even need it. My pain was decreased. My energy level was increased. I felt as if the clock had been turned back three years, before everything started to quickly decline for me.
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this is. Even as I write these words, my heart is overflowing with joy. Still, I don’t know if I will be completely healed. While the pain is much less, I still have this diseased body. When I kneel on the floor it is still excruciating. The redness of the lymphedema is still there. And of course, my legs are still large. But here’s the thing. Over the years, God has used this to change and shape me into who He wants me to be, bit by bit. If He completely heals me, I will be incredibly thankful. If He chooses not to completely heal me at this time, I am okay with that because I have faith He is using my suffering for His glory.
So what is next, then, for those of us who are still waiting for complete healing? If God is working on healing our bodies, He is working in our lives as well. We need to do as it says in James 5:16, to confess or sins so that we will be healed. We also need to do as it says in John 9:5, to quickly carry out the tasks assigned by the One who sent us. I pray that we would be be able to faithfully complete whatever He calls us to, whether that be an illness free life or one more similar to what we are living right now.
God is a God who heals today. Sometimes instantly, sometimes over time. Rejoice and rest in the fact that He is Jehova Rapha (the God who heals), whose timing is perfect.