“Does God Want Me Well?” is part of the Discovery Series Bible Study published by Discovery House Publishers in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2002. I picked it up at a Christian bookshop, and it is now amazingly cheap on Amazon as I suspect it is out of print! Never mind, I’ll review it anyway as I think it is a good little booklet.
“Does God Want Me Well?” is a 43 page book let covering 4 main Bible studies with interspersed questions for reflection, passages to look up in the Bible, some printed verses and suggested verses for memorisation. It covers four main areas, Understanding the Problem, Biblical Certainties parts 1 & 2, and Exploring the Scriptures.
It begins by pointing out that the problem of pain has turned many away from God, and then moves on to a short discussion of the ways Christians disagree concerning the meaning of suffering. It points out that some Christians believe suffering makes good people better, while others disagree. The booklet concludes that suffering can help us spiritually, and also notes that God does heal people, but not always in every case. Throughout, the booklet uses anecdotes (“a nurse found out…” “a minister told me…”) to help illustrate it’s points, which it does effectively.
After this section (“Understanding the Problem”) it moves on to the “meat” of the booklet. The two parts of “Biblical Certainties” cover four statements:
- God will make you well
- God hurts when you hurt
- God knows why you’re suffering
- God is in control
1. In this section it points out that we may be healed on earth, but we certainly will be in heaven. The author appeals for us to emulate Paul’s victorious attitude over suffering by looking to the hope of heaven rather than concentrating on temporary affliction in the here and now.
2. It points out that in Isaiah 63:9 it is said that God is afflicted when we are and says that the purchase-price of redemption was Jesus’ death, but not the pre-Calvary suffering. They suggest that the purpose of Jesus’ suffering then was to “reveal God’s heart (2 Cor. 4:6), and to become our sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:15-16).” (p15)
3. Here the booklet really concludes that asking “why” to suffering is useless, and points out that Job was not given an exact answer but instead was given the assurance that God did indeed know why he was suffering and that God had shown his wisdom and power in creating the world, really stating that it is not up to us to question God but rather to trust in him. It is pointed out that there are times we can answer why we are suffering, such as unhealthy life choices, or for example if we hurt in a car accident that was our fault. The booklet also points out that, biblically, sin can also be an occasion for physical suffering as a chastening from God and suggests that repenting from sin may bring relief. They also point to John 9 stating that there is a value in suffering. The author suggests that we use our own suffering to bring God glory. They also suggest general reasons for suffering such as making us more like Christ (Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 2:10), making and keeping us humble (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) and that it brings rewards (2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:12-13) as well as others. Ultimately it concludes that asking why we suffer is ‘useless speculation’.
4. When writing on why God is in control they take care to state that God is not the direct cause of every injury or disease as these come from Satan or, more usually, the outworking of natural laws. They point out that God gave Satan permission to afflict Job and that not even the death of a sparrow happens apart from God’s will (Matthew 10:29). They also note that we are promised that, even though we may be tempted to sin by some event such as suffering, we will not be tempted beyond endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Exploring the Scriptures is a short section summarising the stories of some sick and suffering people in the Bible – Job, Miriam, Ezekiel’s wife, Mephibosheth and Paul.
The final section is entitled “Questions on Healing” and puts forward a non-charismatic viewpoint on healing. It covers “our authority to heal” where it says that the commission to heal in Matthew 10:7-8 is addressed only to a small group of men preaching the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ to Jews only prior to Jesus’ death. It also points out that most who say that this verse means Christians can and should try to heal those who are sick do not usually follow the rest of the commission and live on others’ charity, not having spare clothes, money etc.
It also covers the issue of whether Jesus died for our sicknesses as well as our sins and suggests that the verse usually pulled out for this issue, Matthew 8:16-17 (referencing Isaiah 53:4) refers to Jesus taking our sins, which are the ultimate cause of sickness and is a a sign of our complete healing after death rather than a claim to physical healing for every Christian now.
The third question covers anointing services, as described by James, and says that rather than have church anointing services the Bible suggests that the sick person should be visited at home as he is lying on his sickbed, and that the prayer (which is the important part, not the oil) should not be shouting and crying (viz Matthew 6:7-15). It also points out that some people say this only applied to the apostolic era.
The fourth question covers John 14:12 where Jesus said that his disciples would do what he did and more, and says that this was only addressed to the inner circle of disciples and that we can see in Acts that they did indeed do what Jesus did (healings, etc) and more (took the gospel to the gentiles). The author states that we are not promised miracle working powers.
The fifth question covers whether people have the gift of healing. They state that Hebrews 2:1-4 makes it clear that signs and wonders and gifts of the Spirit are referred to in the past tense, suggesting that they had ceased by the time Hebrews was written. They also suggest that it is the plural, “gifts of healings” rather than the singular, and is/was not a gift given forever like that of apostle etc (Eph 4:11) but was temporary and had to be renewed. They further point out that Paul was able to heal a host (Acts 19:11-12) but was not able to heal a number of other disciples, including Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23).
In the sixth question they address the issue of contemporary reports of healings by stating that God can and does heal but reports of miraculous healings occur in all religions and none, and suggests that what someone teaches is more important than the miracles ascribed to them.
The seventh question is about Paul’s thorn, and they give a few examples of what it might have been, but take the position that we simply do not know, but that it was definitely an illness or sickness rather than, say, a demon, as Paul described it as a weakness that was used for good.
The final question asks how much faith is necessary to be healed. They point out that not all miracles are related to the persons’ faith, biblically, for example in Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 1:23-8; Luke 7:11-15; 13:10-13; 14:1-6; 22:50-1; John 9:1-38. They also point out that neither Paul nor Timothy were healed of their respective ailments, but that we would not say that they had too little faith to be healed!
To conclude this, I like this little booklet. It is clear and easy to understand, with plenty of biblical examples. I didn’t really use the questions for reflection but I can see how others would find them very handy. If you are of a charismatic persuasion you will not really like the end of the booklet, but I think other people would find it handy. I know I have more often referred to this booklet for its clear presentation of issues when thinking about healing and suffering than to other book/lets and I would definitely recommend this one.