Among my papers here in North Carolina, I found a prayer that I had written last year. Reading it was like hearing it for the very first time. I guess that’s what the passage of a year had done. After reading it a couple of times, I now remember what inspired the prayer: the death of one of Mom’s friends here, and the fact that there are many people here who are sick and dying. Here’s the prayer I wrote last year:
Lord, show me my boundaries. I want to live by faith, and I want to grow my faith, and I want to help others to grow their faith. Here’s the thing: lots of people accept sickness and death and poverty, saying, “God is sovereign,” and “My suffering brings glory to God.” But, Lord, I’m not convinced that Your will includes sickness, suffering, and lack for Your servants, Your children. You know I’m not a “prosperity gospel” person, but Your Word says that you are able to abundantly bless me so that in all things, at all times, and having all that I need, I may abound to every good work. I don’t see where that leaves room for lack. And maybe the key is that Your people who do suffer lack do not abound to every good work, but instead to the desires of their flesh—only You know.
And about sickness, Your Word is full of healing. Only once does healing seem to be refused to one of Your people, but that “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) appears not to be sickness, but literally a “messenger of satan.” I acknowledge Your sovereignty, and absolutely don’t want to dispute, doubt, or deny that fact. I only want to know the boundaries. I want to have faith that heals the sick and raises the dead—and through faith to bring You glory. But if I’m wrong, if some are denied healing, I want to know that. How can I build up peoples’ faith if I can’t be sure where the boundaries are? So please, please, Lord, show me the boundaries between my faith and Your sovereignty.
At the bottom of the page I had written:
Matthew 15:18-20 – Our words defile us
1 Corinthians 11:30 – . . . for this reason many of you have fallen asleep (died). Communion in an unworthy manner = sickness and death.
In reading this prayer a year later, I remember the anguish I was in. I want to have hope. I want to bring others hope. How can I do that if God refuses healing for some people? And when I prayed about it, God gave me the following Word of hope:
Matthew 17:19-21 – Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [a demon] out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
So it comes back to faith. I angered some folks when I wrote in my blog in 2012 that the reason they don’t see healing and financial provision in their lives is because of their lack of faith (see Laboring for a God-Given Dream). And, indeed, when I prayed for Mom’s friend to be healed, she wasn’t healed, but died instead. That was what threw me into this tailspin. But I wasn’t wrong. It is a matter of faith or the lack thereof.
Here’s more hope: If you don’t have enough faith, you can ask for it. But be prepared! Asking for more faith is like asking for more patience. God will answer it by allowing circumstances that test and develop that faith (or patience). Both faith and patience are among the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are the birthright (re-birthright!) of all believers. The better thing to do is to ask God for more of the Holy Spirit, which is simply more of God, Himself. As Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis mine). And remember, God is good!