There is a lot of focus in the Bible on healing and health. Of the many names God is called by, one is "Jehovah Rapha" which means, "the Lord that heals." In the Bible, God heals through the prophets, and through Jesus, and through the disciples. Sickness and death are part of the curse Adam and Eve unleashed through sin. Levitical law contains instructions about certain sicknesses. And, particularly in the Old Testament, sickness and death are often viewed or used as punishments. I can't possibly unpack all of the facets and implications of this in one blog post, so I'm just going to discuss some of my experience and where I'm at right now.
I have thought about illness in terms of my spiritual life before, of course. Since I was a child, people have directed me to healing verses in the Bible. Sometimes written on a slip of paper, sometimes whispered in my ear or in prayer over me. I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and went up for many an altar call for healing of my autoimmune diseases.
Occasionally, from family friends or spiritual authorities, there were spiritual prescriptions: read this list of healing verses daily, meditate on the gospel of Luke (who is said to have been a doctor and whose gospel contains the most stories of Jesus healing people). Often enough, I did these things, at least for a while. For a very long time, I think I believed that if I believed and prayed enough, eventually, God would heal me.
I think this was probably mostly good. It was good to learn, as a kid, to depend on God and seek solutions from Him. I think I also inadvertently learned, however, to associate healing with something I could do-- it would happen as a result of my seeking and asking and being consistent and faithful. I could somehow earn it by doing something I was supposed to do...
Now, I believe that God can heal me. It matters less to me, however, whether God will heal me.
I know not everyone will see this as improvement. I'm not sure if it is or not-- it's just somewhere different that I am with Jesus right now. God may choose to heal me tomorrow, but I still need to learn to live today with my illness-- in a way that mimics Jesus ever-more-closely and serves God's purposes.
Yes, I serve the God that heals. Maybe that should be hard to swallow as I'm fairly used to being sick in some form or another. Yes, I love the Bible verses where I see Jesus healing. Maybe they should make me angry that He hasn't healed me-- they don't. They also don't inspire in me the same hope of healing that they once did. Instead, they remind me that He is in control of my sickness, regardless of what He chooses to do about it. To me, this is my acknowledgement of God's power and His sovereignty. And it is the best way for me to be faithful to Him right now. It is harder to be faithful in sickness. It is harder to be faithful when God chooses a different path than the one I may want. But trusting God means I trust Him even when I disagree or I don't get what I want. To me, this is an opportunity to love God better.
While I believe that God has the power to heal me, I also believe that God has allowed my arthritis-- and other health issues-- to happen for a reason. They have built character in me, if nothing else. And they continue to do so. And I continue to struggle with this... developing the fruit of the spirit-- joy, peace, patience-- even in the experience of pain or limitation. But, I trust, I am learning. Often by failing, but I am learning. And I trust that, for whatever reason, this is my race to run-- even if sometimes I'm limping, physically or metaphorically. I am learning to give thanks in all things. I am learning to be content. I am learning to depend on God and not myself. I am learning about community. I am learning to be soft-hearted towards others.
God could choose to heal my body. But instead, right now at least, maybe He's healing other parts of me, healing me in other ways than physically.
God is in control. God is the master of my illnesses. My sickness, my weakness, my pain submits to God's authority. God is still Jehovah-Rapha. Even if I am ill. Even if my health gets worse. Even if He never chooses to fix it.