Healing the sick

Last night I went to a friend of mine’s 40th (there now you know my soon to be age!) at which was another friend who is a vicar. I have known him for years, since before he became a Christian, and I think that can make you take things for granted about a person, or rather to lower your expectations about a person.

He is a very genuine and straightforward person, in fact sometimes he is tactless. He just doesn’t really know how to lie and he isn’t political. Last night he told a friend of mine about the number of people God has healed through him: full-on riddled with cancer to complete remission cures. He hasn’t just performed one such healing but several.

What do we do with stories like this? We can dismiss it out of hand as a lie or as pretending to be cured in order to please, or as being swept along in the moment. We can treat it as true but not really having any impact on me or we can say, this is true,what does it mean for/to me?

There are many questions raised by such stories, but the one for Christians to focus on is this – do I really believe that God can and wills to perform miracles in my life and the lives of others?

When we pray, do we pray in expectation of sucess? I think I have forgotten to pray in expectation of an answer, but I know that when I did finally pray for someone to truly love and to love me, and really ask God for what I wanted then my husband appeared and that’s not the only instance of answered prayer, it’s just the smallest miracle that has made the biggest difference in my life. My spiritual director used to reassure me that God desires our deepest desires for ourselves – if we are facing towards him as opposed to turned away – and this does often turn to healing.

I think we should ask God for what we want, be open about our desires and needs and expect an answer. And if we don’t get the answer we expected or were thinking we wanted then we need to ask God why. But we definitely need to know where we understand on the matter of healing.


4 responses to “Healing the sick

  1. I take it that the people with cancer were undergoing conventional medical treatment. You don’t seem to have considered the possibility that these people were genuinely cured – by their medical teams. Modern treatments are increasingly successful against a whole range of cancers and a lot of highly skilled people work hard to give their patients the best possible outcomes. Don’t you think they deserve any of the credit?

  2. Yes, I have considered that and if I thought that was the source of these stories I wouldn’t have written the post, I would have written a different one about the very important and valid and miraculous ways that God uses our own understanding as humans and the hard earnt skill of the medical profession to heal in surprising circumstances. However, my understanding is that the cures were rapid, unexpected and very soon after the laying on of hands – the last two of course being the important points. God works through conventional medicine and advances in physical understanding, but my point in relating this story is that God also works unconventionally in ways that are described in the Bible but that are often ignored or dismissed by Christians themselves. My friend isn’t naive and neither am I, which is what makes such instances challenging and that’s why I wrote the post.

  3. You may not be naive but you’re not a doctor and neither is your friend. Here’s an account of faith healing by a someone who is actually medically qualified. According to the article the Catholic church has recognized four cures at Lourdes since 1978. So, even by the church’s own firgures, out of the 5,000,000 people who have been there looking for a cure that’s a success rate of less than one in a million.

    The reason I’m criticizing you for this post, rather than all the other things you write that I disagree with, is well captured in the final paragraph of the above article:

    “Faith healing can comfort, but it can also cause suffering if patients believe a failure to heal was their fault due to insufficient faith. It can be deadly when patients are led to believe they don’t need conventional medical treatment.”

    A lot of people go looking for medical advice on the internet. Much of what they find is misleading or worse. That’s why I wish you hadn’t written the post.

  4. I haven’t made recommendations to anyone, instead I have stated that Christians need to decide what they believe about this. You clearly don’t believe that this is a real phenomenon (and you ignore the statement about it being comforting which is a different kind of healing and one equally valid). And I don’t disagree that there are circumstances in which healing ministry is clearly damaging – both the points mentioned above are examples. My point is that these experiences have been related by someone I trust, who certainly didn’t proclaim these people healed independantly – that was done by doctors, as is the only way with something internal such as cancer – and to my knowledge the faith of the patient was not called into question. In this, as in many other things I write on this blog, we will have to agree to leave this discussion. I feel you have made your position very clear, but perhaps there are other points you want to make.

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