One Sunday morning at our small-town church, a woman asked me how I was doing. This is not an unusual occurrence, so I gave her the usual answer — “about the same.” I’m not noticeably worse, and I’m not noticeably better. “Well, I’m praying for you,” she said — which is also not unusual.
I thanked her and told her I appreciate it because, really, I do. I so appreciate the time people take to pray for me — the fact that they think about me and care enough to talk to God about me is so super cool, and I appreciate it so much. So, I said thank you and expected her to go on her way, like people usually do. But then things started to get a little unusual.
She asked if she could hug me. OK. And then she asked if she could pray for me right there. “Uh, sure…” I said. I mean, who am I to tell somebody they can’t pray for me? Like I said before, I really appreciate it, so I wasn’t going to stop her.
She put her hand on my shoulder and said a quick prayer. She asked that God would “miraculously heal” me.
And I was so, so uncomfortable.
I’m sure the intentions behind her words were good. After all, who wants to see a person sick and in pain? We want people to be well, right? And I know people pray for me to get better. I’m 98-percent certain my grandparents pray for my healing on a daily basis. But those words — “miraculously heal her…” — make me feel uncomfortable. They make me feel like something wrong is being said. I know there’s no wrong way to pray, but there are wrong things to pray for, you know? For example, things that might be outside the will of God.
Here’s where things get messy.
I’m not sure it’s God’s will to “miraculously heal” me. I mean, if it was, wouldn’t He have done it all ready? If His plan is to “miraculously heal” me, then why is He letting me suffer for so long? Hurry up already, God! I’m not having a lot of fun here! I know You can. You made the blind to see and the deaf to hear. You even raised the dead to life! Certainly my problems aren’t too big for You! So what’s the hold-up?
The hold-up is I don’t believe God works that way. God doesn’t make everybody all better. As my mother put it, “If He did, there’d be a lot fewer funerals!” I believe God makes people right for the job. And if you take a quick look through your Bible, very rarely does that mean He makes people strong and brave and competent and powerful. “But what about Samson?” you say. “But what about Moses?” I reply. “The man with a stutter and a reluctant heart? What about Ruth, the foreign woman in a strange new land? What about Gideon, the smallest person in the smallest family in the smallest clan in the smallest tribe in all of Israel? What about Saul, the one hiding among the baggage? What about Ester, the timid girl plucked from obscurity and planted in a palace? What about Paul, the one with an ailment no amount of prayer would cure? What about person after person who felt broken and weak and afraid? What about all of them?”
I feel like when people talk with me about my illness, the only solution they see is a “miraculous healing.” I get a lot of pity. I get a lot of, “I’m sorry.” I get a lot of “I’m praying for you!” And that’s fine. My current situation kind of sucks. I’m sorry it’s this way too. I’m grateful you’re praying for me. But what I don’t get a lot of is, “Wow, I wonder how God’s going to use you!” And I find that so funny because if we go down the checklist of what it takes to be a Biblical hero, I pretty much fit the bill!
Follower of God? Check.
In a dark place? Check.
Feeling confused and terrified? Check.
Feeling weak and powerless? Definitely check.
But here’s the deal: None of this actually makes being sick any easier. Ask any God-fearing sick person and they will tell you it still sucks. But it gives me hope — not that I will be miraculously healed but that I can and will still be used. Because I don’t believe God uses us in spite of our weaknesses. I believe He uses us because of our weaknesses.
I don’t know what God’s plan is. Nobody knows. We keep our eyes and ears open to try to figure out what He wants us to do next, but nobody knows what the end product will be. Nobody can see that far. So I don’t know what God’s plan is for my life. I don’t know how He’s going to use my illness. I don’t know how in the name of sunshine and rainbows good things will come out of this. I don’t know. But God has given me a peek. He has shown me that, even though I can’t do much, I’m helping others who are struggling. He’s shown me that He is using me for good, even if I can’t always see it. He’s shown me my weaknesses and my experiences, though difficult and often overwhelming, can and will be used for a bigger and better purpose. This is very good encouragement.
So when you pray for me, go ahead and continue to pray for my healing — I would love to be healed! I would love to not have to deal with all of the horrible stuff I simply call my daily existence! But do not stop there. When you pray for me, pray that I will be strong–because life is very, very hard. Pray I will keep running the race set before me. Pray I will keep my eyes above the waves. Pray that in everything I say and do, the light and love of Jesus Christ will shine on those around me. Pray, above all, that I will submit to the will of God, even if it means I am sick for the rest of my life.
Pray for me, my friends, but do not put God in a box — and do not confine my existence to needing “miraculous healing.”
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