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When God Doesn't Heal

At the young age of 20, my body already feels the effects of the fall and awaits the days of painless living in glory. I wake up with pain in my shoulders that makes me dread having to get dressed and lift my arms. I feel pain in my knee that aches as I sit in certain positions or squat down to grab clothes off the floor. My hands hurt and tighten up when I write, and I get afraid of how much worse my pain could get over the years. As I push aside the fear, I pray that God would remove this pain and help me trust His good will.

While my pain is an annoyance, I recognize that it’s a minor affliction in comparison to the physical pain that others endure. Some people live with terrible bodily pain for years–possibly their whole life. Among these people, are believers who plead that God would remove their physical suffering through a supernatural work of healing. Yet, sometimes God does not heal and their affliction continues. The suffering believer knows that God can and does heal, but for now, He has chosen to let them suffer.

But what good does it do for us to suffer physical pains and maladies? I ask this question intentionally using the word good because believers are told, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Because of this verse, we know that there are several good reasons why God allows us to suffer in our earthly bodies.

1.) To Display the Power and Grace of God

Just as physical healing points to the grace and power of God so does the absence of healing from God. To make this point, I want us to first look to a man who was healed. When Jesus and His disciples encountered a man born blind His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” to which Christ responded, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3). After this, Christ healed the blind man. The reason this man suffered until this point was so Christ could display His power. This is the same reason God chooses to not heal some on this earth. Paul is an example of this as he speaks of a "thorn in the flesh” that was given to him by a messenger of Satan. Whether this thorn was a physical malady or a spiritual one, we do not know, but the reason why God let Paul suffer applies to all pain. Paul said that he pleaded with God three times that He would remove the thorn, but God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). When God doesn't heal a believer it’s because He wants to show us that His grace is enough for us in our pain and His power is displayed when we are shown to be weak. In our physical weakness, we are humbled and grow evermore dependent on the strength of our Lord–by this, His power is displayed.

2.) To Make Us Long for Christ’s Return

While our main reason for desiring Christ’s return should not be the removal of physical pain, our affliction often causes us to eagerly await the Second Coming of our Lord when He will remove every type of suffering. Scripture speaks of believers longing for the redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23). If we never suffered physical pain we would scarcely rejoice in the final redemption that Christ will bring. Yet, if we eagerly await glory in our sufferings we can say, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). These are the words of Paul who suffered immense physical and spiritual pain. He knew that in light of glory, all suffering is as nothing. If God’s healing power is not yet displayed in our earthly bodies, it will be in glory–and that is because He has already healed our soul from the sin that once paralyzed it.

3.) To Test Our Faith and Produce Steadfastness

When our bodies feel the sting of sin we have an opportunity to overcome the very sin that brought this pain upon us. I don’t speak of a specific sin that caused a person cancer or arthritis, but I am referring to the fall of mankind–the sin that brought all types of suffering. In our pain, we are sanctified and given the opportunity to show the world that we glory in a God who can be trusted with our bodies. When speaking of suffering, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Every believer can count the trial of physical suffering as joy because it gives them the opportunity to glorify the Christ they love–it perfects their faith.

4.) To Allow Us to Share in the Afflictions and Comfort of Christ

This is an amazement–every Christian who suffers physically is given the opportunity to know Christ more deeply than the one who does not suffer. The person who writhes in pain can more deeply appreciate the afflictions that Christ experienced at the cross than the person who never suffers in their body. When the Christian is afflicted it is not because they’re under the wrath of God, but because they are under the love and grace of God. God has no wrath for believers; at the cross, He poured out His wrath on His Son for our sake. So every suffering we endure is grace, for God is above evil and He means all for our good. As the Scripture says, “For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ, we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:5). So in our physical pains and maladies we not only know the pain of the crucified Christ, we also know His comfort more deeply. When we suffer we are comforted by God the Father. If Christ had never suffered on our behalf we would never share in His comfort, yet because of His affliction, every believer can glory in suffering.

5.) To Magnify the Goodness of God

On my wedding day, I made a vow to my husband in which I promised to stay wed to him for better or for worse and in sickness and health. While I don’t desire hardships or sickness, I know that if and when they come and we stay wed that marriage will be held in honor. Our covenant to each other will be shown as beautiful, for it is not dependent on feelings or good health. When we love our spouse despite suffering we testify of the goodness of the marital covenant. So it is with the church (Christ’s bride). When we suffer and continue to praise and love God for who He is we testify of the goodness of God. We say to the world, “Though I writhe in pain, God is good and He is worth my devotion in sickness and in health”.

These are just a few of the many glories God gifts His people while they suffer in their earthly bodies. He is sovereign over all and always deals in love and kindness with His people. May we glorify Him while we suffer, knowing that He will bring final healing upon His return.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4


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