Can God Heal?

Rather late-night post here but I saw an article in the Daily Mail that I couldn’t ignore!

My hand was healed by God says Tory MP after advertising watchdog condemns leaflets claiming religion can cure
Read more: Daily Mail Article

This is the news that Gary Streeter, a Conservative MP has spoken out after the Advertising Standards Authority banned as misleading leaflets handed out by “Healing on the Streets” in Bath which said that God could cure depression, back pain and so on. Mr Streeter has said that his hand was cured by God via the prayers of his wife and other Christians, and has asked whether there is empirical evidence that God does not cure, and whether the Authority would now be censuring those who were asked to pray for the healing of the footballer Fabrice Muamba.

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, can God heal? I would think that every Christian would say yes to this. There are many instances of miraculous healing in the Bible and of course we all know that Jesus was a great healer. So in that sense the ASA are wrong to say that the adverts are misleading.

However we also all know that there are times, many times, when God does not choose to heal someone. We all know of, for instance, the thorn that Paul suffered from:

…or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Sadly there are Christians who believe that God heals everyone upon receipt of prayer, like a celestial slot machine! The trouble with this is that God does not – and never has – healed everyone who came to him. Jesus healed many – but the majority of people were not healed. John tells us for what reason some are made ill, and also gives us the reason Jesus healed:

John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If it were true that all believers would be healed of their physical and mental diseases and infirmities then we should also expect all manner of affliction to be removed from us too. But the Lord never promised us an easy ride – he promised us tribulation in this world, suffering, weakness, hardship, as Paul says above. He chooses to work through our weaknesses, not remove them in every case.

I don’t, of course, know that this group in Bath were saying that God heals all, nor that they were suggesting a bugbear of mine, that if you remain ill you do not have enough faith/are sinning/have a demon, but I suspect that the Advertising Standards Authority were worried about that, and also about the possibility of people being told not to take medication/seek medical advice about their ailments and thus the potential for harm.

It would be unwise for me to speculate, and their website does not mention medicine at all, but I know that is one of the things that worries me when people are so focussed on miraculous healing. I think it is particularly dangerous for those of us with mental illnesses, because we can so easily be made to feel that our sickness is our own fault, a divine punishment or the work of demons. There are many, I’m sure, who do not take medication, even for psychosis, because they believe in faith alone curing them. Yet the Lord also works through doctors – Luke was the “beloved physician” after all – and I tend to think that encouraging someone to give up their medication in favour of prayer is sinful in itself. After all, we are to look after our bodies, the temple, and part of looking after ourselves is to use what modern medicine has to offer. Since when did God say not to use medicine?

I feel so sorry for those who are in churches who teach that God heals all who come to him, because everyone hopes for cure, but with lifelong illnesses there aren’t cures. God could step into the world and cure us, and I am sure he does, but only for some people. A miracle in the Bible was an extraordinary event, and there were many years without a single one happening in Israel (absolutely nothing is recorded in the canon about the intertestamental period) yet somehow we expect every person to be healed now?

God heals: but he also allows us to have illnesses for his own purposes. He may not sit and point a finger at us and give us ill-health, but he certainly brings triumph out of disaster when it comes to health problems. I think we ought to be careful what we teach about healing – it is wrong to assume no healing can happen, but it is also wrong to expect it to be happening all the time and to everybody.

I don’t know what the leaflets that group used said, but I can see why people are cautious about them. Then again I can also see why Mr Streeter and other Christians may be concerned in case, one day, someone tells a priest or pastor that they cannot state that Jesus heals. Plus of course he is right in that, how would they prove that God cannot heal?

I will no doubt be writing more on the healing/purpose of illness in the future, I just wanted to quickly write something now.

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