Healing – medicine or miracles?

IMG_0877Everyone has an opinion on cancer. Since my diagnosis I’ve been given books and blogs and articles to read. Some are conservative and mainstream. Others are out there and adventurous. I’ve learned about surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, phototherapy, herbal medicines, angiogenesis inhibitors, acupuncture, detox diets, and much more. It’s encouraging that research is advancing at a rapid rate and treatment options are available today that wouldn’t have been dreamed of a few years back. But it’s so confusing. There are so many voices. How do we know what’s best? How do we distinguish the quacks and the frauds from the progressive and informed? Do we just go with tried and tested or do we explore and experiment? I’m just grateful for my GP wife who is well equipped to ask the right questions and then translate the answers for me!

I’ve found something else disturbing, and it’s more theological than medical. A belief that treatment should be refused because it’s incompatible with faith in God. One man is refusing any treatment because his pastor has prayed for him and pronounced him to be healed. The problem is that he’s not healed. So what does he do? Conjure up faith that he really is healed, expecting his belief to eventually become reality? Or does he take the advice of family and friends and visit an oncologist?

The faith-healing movement has a lot to answer for. Promises of healing are sometimes presumptuous and dangerous. In some devastating cases people have died because they have refused simple, available, proven treatment options. I know of a number of people who’ve been left riddled with guilt because they (or their friends or relatives) have been promised healing if only they have enough faith. They’re rebuked for having hidden sin in their life. They’re criticised for having a weak faith or doubting God’s ability and willingness to heal. Sadly, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading people to doubt the goodness of God and the validity of their own faith.

The Bible describes God as the creator of heaven and earth. He sustains our every breath, knowing every detail of our bodies and minds. He is Ruler over all and not constrained in any way by our actions or beliefs, or our lack thereof. He is the Sovereign Lord who gives life and takes it away. He is the Healer who sometimes chooses to heal and other times does not. God works through our trials, struggle, sickness, and pain. He doesn’t promise to remove all suffering in this life, but he does promise to use it for our ultimate good. God has set a day when our healing will be full and complete, but this will be after our death and resurrection.

Ongoing illness needn’t be understood as a sign of personal sin or evidence of a lack of faith. It may simply be a part of God’s good purposes for our lives in this world of decay and death. Nor should we think that God’s ability or willingness to heal is in any way contingent on our faith. Jesus heals many people in the gospels without any mention of their faith. We mustn’t think that our faith is the trigger mechanism that activates God’s power to heal. God can do whatever he likes, with or without our help.

And what’s more, as creator and sustainer of all things, God can use whatever he chooses to bring healing to people. If someone is healed through chemotherapy, then we can thank God! He made the brilliant minds that have taken the products of his creation and applied them to fighting the cancer. If someone is healed through surgery, then we can thank God. He gave the skill to the surgeons, anaesthetists, and nurses. If someone is able to keep the cancer from growing or spreading by keeping to a strict diet, then we can thank God. How generous is God to provide ‘natural’ ways of combatting the cancer. If someone should be healed without any medical explanation and contrary to medical advice, then we should thank God. How merciful is our God, and how great beyond our understanding!

And if God chooses not to heal someone, but to take them home to himself, then we can thank God! We can thank him for our life! We can thank him for his kindness in giving us new life in Jesus Christ! We can thank him for his promise to rescue us from our decaying bodies and bringing us into a glorious future with him.

Healing – medicine or miracles? I really don’t mind. I’d love to be miraculously healed, and soon. I’d be thrilled to have chemo, or targeted drugs, or some other therapy succeed in eradicating all the cancer from my body. I’m very grateful that God has sustained me thus far and I look forward to many days, weeks, months and years ahead – God willing! But death awaits us all, one way or another, and I thank God most of all for the hope of the life to come.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

11 thoughts on “Healing – medicine or miracles?”

  1. Am greatly encouraged by your blog Dave and your wise words. Having lost both my parents to cancer (Dad at 53 and mum at 75) I too was bombarded with opinions, some helpful and some hurtful. The ‘you would be healed if you have enough faith’ camp fail to trust in the great hope that God gives us – I often pondered on whether their faith would survive such an experience while trying to forgive them for the hurt and unnecessary grief they caused.
    I continue to love Rev 21 – I can remember our minister reading it to my mum in hospital and have a special memory of my then 9 year old being fascinated by the concept of how big the pearls must have been to make those 12 gates.

  2. I very much appreciate your expression of so very many of the thoughts/ feelings I have experienced throughout the last 4 1/2 years. During that time my husband has been battling stage 4 kidney cancer and like you, he has done much research and received many phone calls, letters and emails from loving family and friends suggesting or perhaps even urging different, sometimes conflicting courses of action. And as a former nurse,much like your wife, I have been the “interpreter” of much of the medical info while both of us have sort of bushwhacked our way through the jungle of alternative treatments .

    When the cancer was first labeled stage 4 he was told that statistically he could expect to survive for approximately 3 to 6 months. That was in June 2008.

    We haven’t figured out why God has given us this journey nor why He has so graciously extended Dan’s life far beyond medicine’s expectation other than believing what He has told us in His Word; that He will use everything in our life for our (eternal) good.

    Like you, I have been writing about our experiences, hoping that they will be an encouragement to others. I just wanted you to know you have been an encouragement to me. Jodee McCabe

  3. Thanks Dave for such words. We have been following your blog and keeping you in prayer. God has certainly continued to use your life for his glory. I suffer from a chronic illness and also experience lots of loving people sharing (often conflicting) advice and ideas; and am urged to “go and seek healing” from well meaning groups. As a Godly man that I trust, I am refreshed to read your explanation of healing and God’s hand in our lives for his glory. I am convinced beyond doubt of God’s ability to heal in miraculous ways should he choose, but am also convinced beyond doubt the he sustains my every need, holds my soul and will bless me with a new body in his time. I am here for his glory, and although it is sometimes hard to understand his purposes for our individual circumstances, I feel blessed to be part of his plan. Thank you again for taking the time to share your story with us. I praise the Lord for you!

  4. Not only are there many opinions on cancer; there are also many opinions on healing. Perhaps the question should be “Cancer – cure or healing?”
    When, like you, your mother and I heard the words “the news is not good” and learned of my malignant tumour, of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and that it is non-curable, we began the journey that you have been describing so comprehensively and sensitively in your blogs. There have been questions and answers, good days and bad days, what ifs and what nexts. There have been emotional lows and highs which impact upon people who are close. There have been changes to plans and the reminder that each new day is God’s gift. Though retired but still very active, there has been a renewed reminder that we must constantly be listening to and open to God’s direction about ministry.
    I am very aware that my journey with lymphoma has been a ‘soft’ one, particularly as I compare it with what you have been experiencing, or as I have heard the stories of people I have met in the Cancer Clinic, or as I have met with numerous people who are currently on their own journey, or amongst the large company of people who call themselves “cancer survivors”.
    As you are aware, all signs of my lymphoma have now gone. It is not cured; it may return at any time and in any place. The cancer is in remission and for this we are filled with joy and gratitude and praise to God.
    You have posed the question ”Healing – medicine or miracles?” God’s response is medicine and miracles and we thank him for both. The miracle is not whether God cures or does not cure; the miracle is that God cares, and that “he so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” [John 3:16 NRSV]. God’s miraculous grace has been a constant gift to us throughout this journey. God’s grace has been administered to us through the wisdom, skills and care of the medical personnel. God’s grace has been shared with us through the love and care and prayers of his people near and far away. God has ministered to us generously through both the professional and caring people he has provided; but additionally and especially, God’s grace has been his gift that we have experienced intimately and daily in the ups and downs of our lives and our home and the journey which we have travelled in recent months.
    David, we too weep occasionally as we seek to accompany you on your journey with cancer, but we also rejoice that God is with you and Fiona and the family on your journey, answering your many questions, supporting, comforting, strengthening and healing you day by day, and that you are sharing your journey and God’s grace with us and with many through your blog.

  5. thank you again Dave for further thought provoking reflections. I query the start of the third last paragraph “And if God chooses not to heal someone, but to take them home to himself….” and wonder if it is our death-phobic culture that considers that death of the physical body to be a “failure to heal”….?
    It has been my experience (and that of other friends) that the most significant healing is not physical, but emotional/spiritual healing that we can experience when we are living and dying with cancer. Cancer has a forensic ability to cut away a lot of the materialistic clutter (perhaps other gods than the God we should be centred on) and forces us to ask those core questions – what is my life for? what should I be doing with my time here? who should I be spending time with? how should I use my talents/skills/gifts? how should I practise love to others? What do people see in me (is it my faith or is it something else?) when they look at how I am living my life?

    When we can answer those questions, perhaps that is when we have been healed? Jennifer

  6. I have read this blog again today. It is really encouraging. It reminds us of the owesomeness of God. He is true to His word. He is always faithful to His promises. We trust God for your healing and praying for you here in Kenya.

  7. I find God leading me to be very careful and nuanced in my dealings with faith healers and their adherents. These are brothers and sisters who often love Jesus very much, and who sincerely wish the best for the sick people they pray over. At the same time, I have found that their frustration that God does not grant them what they ask for may lead them to self-delusion and rash actions.

    And I too am prone to this, though (please God) hopefully not to the same extent.

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