Recently in Britain, a Christian group has been told to remove its advertising from the streets of Bath. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided that their posters, saying “Need Healing? God can heal today.” were misleading; saying that they encouraged false hope and were irresponsible. Previously, in June 2011, another Church in Nottingham was also reprimanded by the ASA for the exact same poster. Both groups were using ‘Healing on the Streets’ initiatives started by Causeway Coast Vineyard Church, Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 2005.
Before I go any further on this, I want to make three things clear:
- I am not a health professional. I do not have any medical training or work in any related field.
- I am not a theologian. Although I have studied the Bible for ten years, my knowledge is far from complete and I am very fallible.
- This isn’t going to be chapter and verse on the subject. I don’t know enough about it.
- These are my opinions, this is what I think about healing, based on what I have experienced or have studied.
I expect that if people think of ‘healing from God’, that they’re going to imagine a miraculous event where everything is instantly perfect. After all, there are plenty of examples of it throughout the Bible. Right from Genesis, where Rachel’s infertility is healed so she can give birth to Joseph (Genesis 30), through to Revelation 21:4 where we see believers healed of all tears, sorrows and pain. Miraculous healing is the order of the day.
But that’s not the whole story. Yes, there are the miracles, but alongside those, there are far more prosaic healings also going on. Healings that have less to do with a supernatural zap and more to do with living properly or being on the receiving end of the healing work of Doctors.
For example, in 2 Kings 5, Naaman is narked that his treatment for leprosy turned out to be nothing more glamorous than dipping himself seven times in the River Jordan. He was a powerful man, he expected to be able to buy an instant cure from the best person. But he wasn’t cured by anything more complicated than doing what he was told.
Also, there’s a great big chunk of preventative healthcare going on in Exodus, where God gives the Israelites his commandments for how to live as a holy people. Think about all the food rules imposed on them, fast forward a couple of thousand years and discover that the large majority of them are about not eating things that if cooked incorrectly could be harmful. Shellfish, for instance. There’s bacon too and what’s currently having the finger pointed at it, as potentially (if eaten in large quantities) a cause for some types of cancer? Yes, you guessed it, bacon!
Back in the Old Testament, King Hezekiah’s illness was cured, not just by God’s intervention but by the skill of Doctors (2 Kings 20:4-7). So right throughout the Bible we have not just the miraculous going on, but the mundane – the obvious stuff – but it’s all healing.
But people get hung up on the miraculous and this is where, for me as a Christian, I start to feel unsure of myself. I do believe God can heal miraculously, after all he’s God, he’s not just some bloke on the street but I’ve never seen it happen to anyone. I know people who have received miraculous healing before I met them. I don’t doubt their truth and honesty, they never give me any concerns about that in other areas of their lives; but I wasn’t around for the zap, the moment it actually happened. With miraculous healing I remain to be convinced.
… Or do I? Is a case of miraculous healing sitting here right under my nose and I’m just not seeing it as that? What about me?
Anybody who knows me will know the decades-long battle I have waged against myself in my efforts to lose weight. All have them came to nought and my weight always rebounded back to a plateau of around 17 stone (240lbs). And then during 2010 it was as if the planets fell into alignment or something, because in the space of eight months I cracked it and 7 stone (100lbs) came off using Cambridge Weight Plan. Yes, I used a diet plan, but God alone knows where the motivation and sheer dogged determination came from to see it though to the end, because that was not coming from me! There are days I look at myself in the mirror and do think that it’s a miracle. There wasn’t a zap from God, but it’s changed my life out of all recognition.
I believe all healing is from God. Be it the natural – where simply time is the healer; the medical – where the healing comes from Doctors or through preventative measures, or the miraculous – where you really just can’t explain it. In all situations, because of my decision to attribute the source of everything to God, that’s ultimately where it’s all coming from. How it manifests itself is a moot point.
But sometimes God doesn’t heal, people live for decades with chronic conditions or even die. That’s when it gets hard. In these cases I’ve found the following piece of scripture to be helpful – although it might not be, for you.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
I see it as this, each of us has a very individual life that God wants us to live. Regardless of what happens we can be witnesses for Him at all times and in all situations. You have a chronic illness that’s not going away no matter how much you pray? OK, I’m really sorry about that, but that doesn’t mean you should cower in the face of it. Demonstrating that you’re living for Jesus whatever happens is the most important thing. I don’t have to look very far to see shining examples of exactly that going on around me – I’m almost tripping over them!
Death is the hard one, especially the death of someone young. While everyone accepts that at some time we’ll all have to physically die, we’d rather it was in our 80s or 90s, not our 30s or 40s. And for that I have no answer, I don’t know why these things happen, other than we live in a fallen world and through our own insistence of doing things our way (Genesis 3), a lot of pain and suffering has come into our world that was never meant to be there.
In this, all I can cling to is the greater thing. It’s not what comes to you in life, it’s how you deal with it. The Christian faith, like it or not, does give you a fantastic way of coping and a reason for coping. A large bit of it is about responding to God’s call on your life however you can do that and shifting your focus onto other people, not dwelling on what’s affecting you so much.
There’s a phrase that keeps coming back to me. “God helps those who help themselves”. I have no idea where it comes from, but to me it illustrates a point. You do what you can do – take the first steps; go see the Doctor, start living your life as if you matter and what you can’t do will be supplied by God. That’s possibly what simply happened to me, but don’t underestimate the impact it’s had in my life.
As for the people who have run into trouble with the ASA, perhaps if they had focused simply on praying for people without lumping in all the miraculous healing stuff – which, even I struggle with – this might not have come to prominence. OK, so not everyone’s going to believe in the power of prayer. Now in that I am on more solid ground. If I start listing the way’s God’s answered just MY prayers let alone other people’s, then you’ll be here forever.
Healing is a massive subject to talk about and I’m sure I’ll discuss it again. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any comments you have to make about this or hear your experiences.