One thing I love about being married to Roger Voth is that I never have to do any kind of public speaking. If there’s an announcement to be made, or anything to be said from a pulpit or stage, he’s capable and willing – and good at it. So when I was asked to write something to share at a women’s meeting (it happened this morning) I was okay with the writing, but a little freaked out by the sharing part. Anyway, it happened. It was fine. Here’s the thing I wrote.
Jesus Gives Healing…
I love hearing stories of miraculous healing. We have this great CD called Adventures in Missions all about this missionary named Yanni. It’s full of stories of prayers offered in faith and people being instantly healed. Those stories give me goosebumps and remind me of how powerful and real God is. “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5:15) My own personal stories of healing are not so dramatic, but that doesn’t make them any less miraculous.
When I was 12 or so, one Wednesday evening we got a phone call saying, “If you want to see Grandma alive, you need to come now.” We went. (I remember it was a Wednesday because it was one of the few times that our family missed church.) It was cancer, and they thought it had won the battle. (Ironically, she looked a lot worse that day in the hospital than she did 23 years later when she did pass away.) Doctors and medicine intervened, fought off the cancer, and she got another chance at life. But she had so many people praying for her. I wonder how effective the doctors and the chemo would have been without it. And the love – I’m sure it was love that gave her life. I know it was love that made her life so good.
About 8 years ago, I was halfway through my 4th pregnancy when I heard another set of frightening words: “There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.” I remember the scary 2-hour drive with Roger to the high-risk OB in Lexington. Later I remember an irrational feeling of peace that washed over me as soon as I was laid out on a table with a monitor on. It was a feeling that everything was out of my control; but that God had this little baby in his hands. I think at that moment I mentally gave my daughter up to God and whatever he wanted to do with her.
It was only about a week before this that I had woken in the middle of the night with a strong urge to pray for my baby. After Avery was born, healthy and practically perfect, I thought of that midnight prayer. It still comes to mind now, on days when all I can see is the “big” God, and I’m having a hard time believing that God can be small enough to get inside my head and talk to me. That little experience has caused me to think through causes and effects of prayer, and the importance of it, and why in the world would God prompt me to pray instead of just doing something about it?
Avery did have some problems with her heart, but we were blessed with a cardiologist who believes with us that God is a healer and that medical intervention isn’t always necessary. As Avery grew and developed, the hole in her heart closed up, the narrow spot in her aorta opened up, and we never had to deal with the serious (and scary) operation that was supposed to happen when she turned 3. Sometimes Jesus uses a slow and natural process to heal; it involves patience. And I think it’s completely honest to say that Avery has always been our healthiest child. Which only makes sense – she’s the one who had the most people praying for her health and strength.
Two years ago, just before Roger’s 40th birthday, he had an accident with a tree. It was an icy, wet morning, and he was cutting a tree that was leaning on a line. When he cut through it, all of the built-up tension released and the branch hit him in the face, knocking his teeth together and slicing a gash across his neck. Our neighbor, who used to be a Navy medic, “just so happened” to come by on his 4-wheeler and find Roger laying in the road. He sent someone after his medical kit, and I’m convinced that he saved Roger’s life by being there and doing all the right things before the ambulance arrived. Even so, I was faced with the very real possibility of being a widow with 4 young children to raise. But God is gracious, and in the Jackson ER there were healing hands to clean and stitch my husband up.
But sometimes Jesus doesn’t heal. And what then? When the cancer wins, the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, or the husband dies. Those are the moments when it’s harder to make the blanket statement that “Jesus heals.” I have a friend who will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair because of a four-wheeler accident. I have another friend who held her toddler in her arms in a hospital room as he took his last breaths – and then was left alone to grieve and try to comfort her other children. My father-in-law has been so crippled by years of Parkinson’s that his grandchildren barely know the sound of his voice. I have no idea why God chooses to heal some people and leave others to suffer – or instead gives them that “complete healing” that just feels like death and separation to us.
I’ve found that my hardest questions about God always seem to lead back to this truth: God is big. He exists even beyond the edges of my crazy imagination, and he’s not confined to this one-way timeline that we live on. When he looks at us, he sees us completely – past, present, future. And he knows better than we do what’s best for us. I do know that he has the power to heal. But I wonder if God has a different, bigger, definition of the word healing than we do. After all, we’re more than just temporary bodies in need of healing. We also have eternal souls that need healing and wholeness. It’s just possible that God uses physical brokenness to bring about spiritual healing.
I also believe that healing is a gift – and not to be taken lightly. I treasure my children and my husband a little more because of the healing that I’ve seen in their bodies – and the glimpse I got of what might have been. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:16)