This whole post is more of a life lesson amidst difficult circumstances which I hope gives encouragement to all who read. May it give a biblical perspective which may lead to understanding of the truth of God's Word. May it be the beginning of something truly rewarding. The best advice I can give when studying Scripture is to remember that context is king. Find the context of what is written and never hang your hat on a verse or two which appears to answer your immediate question or questions. Doing so creates a habit of taking verses out of context and distorts meaning. The danger in doing this can give rise to false doctrines and cults. Remember, context is king and it is the key which unlocks understanding.
Here is the issue: I have shingles. The pain is excruciating. It has been 13 weeks. I did not go to the doctor until more than 2 and a half weeks after I had exhibited the signs. Therefore, the antiviral meds had little or no effect.
Biblically, I know If it were always God’s will for people to be healed, then everyone would be healed every time he or she became ill. If good health were always God’s will, then Christians should never die. We can’t blame someone’s malady on a lack of faith, for we know, biblically, that God sometimes uses illness to accomplish His will. Also, it’s not just wayward believers who get sick. Paul “left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20), and Paul himself had a physical ailment that the Lord declined to heal (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).
Often, Christians have an over-simplified idea of healing. They think that, if they are sick, they have only to ask God to heal them and, because God loves them, He will heal them straightaway. Healing is seen as proof of a person’s faith and of God’s love. This idea persists in some circles in spite of the truth that every mother knows: a parent does not give her child everything he asks for every time, no matter how much she loves him.
I recently had a phone call and a follow-up email from a person I greatly love and respect, so much so, I call her mom. She has faithfully prayed for my healing. She expressed to me a sadness or disappointment that I had not yet been healed of shingles after 12 weeks of enduring this dreaded affliction. I told her that there is a purpose for it although I may not know it. If and when God chooses to heal me, He will do so or he will not. Let's remember the Apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh which God chose not to heal. Let's not forget that Paul left his companion of 7-years, Trophimus, sick and did not heal him. It is God who does the healing and He can do whatever He wants with His creation.
Mom wrote to me. Her words are in color and I have her permission to publish this:
As I was praying and thinking of your answer I was wondering what your scripture reference was for your answer.
I opened my morning “encouragement“ on my phone and this is what I read..
Healing Always Comes
And these signs shall follow them that believe...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
– Mark 16:17-18
I used to get upset over people I'd lay hands on who wouldn't get well. I was praying one day and seeking God about it when He spoke to my spirit and said, Healing always comes.
I remember I said, "What do You mean, Healing always comes? Not everyone gets healed."
I didn't say they all received it, He answered. Then He spoke very sternly to me. I do My part. And I said they would recover!
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. He said they would recover. He never lies. So if He said they would recover, then that means healing always comes. It's not God who's holding back. It's the receivers who aren't receiving.
Since then, I've never had any trouble laying hands on people and believing for them to be healed. Whether they walk away well or not, I just keep standing in faith for them. In fact, I know if that fellow who went away still sick ever lines his faith up with God and me—I don't care if it's five years from now—he'll be healed.
If you've laid hands on someone who didn't receive his healing, don't cut off the flow of God's power by withdrawing your faith. Stand fast. Keep believing that healing always comes and somewhere down the line that poor sick fellow may just decide to stand up and agree with you!
And Daniel 12:10 says those who are wise will understand.
I have fought Satan all the way when he put arthritis in my hands and in my hips. I commanded him to leave me alone and I claimed healing in my body and said (according to Proverbs) that the tissue in my hips that was missing was being replaced.
I have no arthritis in my hands and my hips have stopped hurting. I thought I would have to stop walking it got so bad. I am a fighter and I believe the word of God. Please stand on the word and command your body. God created the world by speaking and he has set a perfect example for us to follow. Life and death is in your mouth. Speak it over yourself. I love you and am praying that you will agree with the Word.
Love you, Mom
Just for those curious on how to interpret Mark 16:17-18 mentioned above, rather than me typing it all out, here is a link which explains it so I really don't need to repeat it. I will say that it is extemely important to follow the pronouns: Click Here.
So, in my typical fashion, I wrote back and have for our purposes expanded the Scriptural verses and have commented here in the following which I did not do in my email to mom. I truly recognize her heart-felt desire that I be healed and her disappointement in my not being healed now. Here, in substance, is what I wrote:
Hmm. Okay. As with many who deal with suffering, I went to the book of Job. You asked for my Scriptural references but I suppose these will be the starters. Actually the entire Book of Job and more specifically the lessons gained from within the Book of Job, are my references. You may shoot to number 7 in this email if you want to know specifically of what I was referring.
8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. ~Job 1:8-12
3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. ~Job 2:3-7
“Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? 2 Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hired hand who looks for his wages, 3 so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4 When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. 5 My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. ~Job 7:1-5
Understanding that compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human will is not mutually exclusive, and Scripture makes this absolutely clear. In God’s design, human responsibility is clearly not eliminated by God’s sovereign control over His creation. That’s true even though evil was included in His grand design for the universe even before the beginning of time, and He uses His creatures’ sin, circumstances and afflictions such as with Job, for purposes that are always (and only) good. Indeed, in His infinite wisdom, He is able to use all things for good (Rom. 8:28).
We see those seemingly contrasting truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility repeatedly, in every part of God’s Word. But Scripture never attempts to ease the apparent tension. There’s no inspired explanation that spells out their complex relationship. Just knowing that He Himself is the standard of true righteousness, and He never acts in a way that would contradict His righteousness or justice, is sufficient for me.
I just know there is a reason for all of this. It may be as simple as me spreading the word regarding shingles. Up until my affliction, I knew nothing of it and did not get to the doctor until more than two and a half weeks after it started. I would spare everyone this by simply informing them. I knew nothing about a shingles shot until this happened to me. Now I tell everyone about it so as to reduce people’s suffering from this extremely painful affliction.
The lessons we are all to learn from the book of Job which I am applying are as follows:
1. Bad things happen to good people (even though we know there are none who are truly good).
The book of Job opens in verse one by telling us that Job was a blameless, upright man who feared God and turned away from evil. Then…his life unraveled.
Job’s suffering did not come because he was bad but rather because of his unwavering faithfulness to God. (Job 1:8) Being faithful may come with great suffering. I am a faithful man of God. Jesus said to pick up our crosses and follow Him. Sometimes it looks like persecusion for the sake of Christ and sometimes it is simply enduring for the sake of Christ.
Our Pastor and his wife had lost a child. Another was born with around 22 or 23 anomolies requiring many surgeries and their grandchild was murdered. On top of all of that, his wife has had to deal with diabetes thoughout her life and has a heart condition and both of them have had to deal with cancer. It is how we all choose to deal with our situations which defines who we are. I am in Christ, just as our Pastor and his wife are in Christ. It is Christ who has defined who we are and we go to Him with our afflictions, our hurts, our hang-ups and all of our problems. We do so knowing that ultimately He decides what to do with His creatures.
2. In the midst of our suffering, we must never lose our hope in God.
One of the greatest statements of faith in all of scripture is found right in the middle of Job chapter 13. Job says: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”
No one and nothing can steal your joy or your peace when your hope is in God. I am never to lose hope in God! I suppose this affliction has hung on as long as it has in order to demonstrate to me just how hopeful I am in God. It is an exercise in which I choose to get strong in my reliance upon that hope.
3. Our friends may fail us amidst our suffering but God never does.
Job’s friends put him on the defense. Job said of his three friends: “Miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2) Job proclaims where his deep strength flows from:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! ~Job 19:25-27
I, however, have been blessed with faithful God fearing children of God who have come along side with prayer and comforting words meant to encourage and strengthen and not tear down. These blessings are all from God. It reinforces the truth I have come to know that I am surrounded by the family of God and I am most thankful.
4. Even in the midst of God’s silence, He is with us.
Job wrestled over his affliction and wrestled with God’s silence in the midst of his suffering. Over 25 times he asked the question “why?” and he continually asked for the opportunity to defend his case before God. Job had entered the fiery furnace of suffering.
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. 11 My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. 12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ~Job 23:10-12
This is particularly difficult and I apparently need to be strengthened in this area. Thus the reason He has chosen not to heal me yet. It’s all about His timing and not my own. I may never know why He is waiting so long (this side of heaven) but I simply know He will heal me when He decides to do so.
5. Wisdom comes from fearing God and turning away from evil.
Humility is key. Pride can interfere with us following the wise ways of the Lord. And when pride interferes it clouds our vision, and before we know it – we are on the wrong path towards evil. Job explains in Job 28:28:
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’
This is my greatest enemy. Pride which denotes itself by arrogance. I read and I learn. I apply to my life. I teach and wonder why people don’t read and learn and then apply to their lives. The temptation is to feel superior to others as if I get something that no one else seems to but the reality is that God has made it clear to me. It is the broken and contrite heart, He will not despise. I am always at the verge of being the Pharisee - comparing myself to the despised tax collector. But in the end it was the despised tax collector beating his breast with total surrender in humility saying ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ who went home justified before God.
6. God is with us in the midst of our storms.
The Lord is our good shepherd and He never leaves our side. He walks with us through the valleys. He restores our soul when we are weary. He leads us to the path of righteousness when we have lost our way. He gives us courage when we are scared and he comforts us when we are hurting. Our God is the God of the storm. I am to be reliant on His comfort during this season.
7. God is in control.
God is the creator of the universe. He is mighty and powerful. We can trust Him with our lives. We see in Job chapter one, that nothing came into the life of Job which did not first go through the hands of his loving God. Every page of scripture points to a sovereign God – from the creation account in Genesis to the return of Christ in Revelation, our God is in complete control. Sometimes, I think we forget that fact. Sometimes, as with me now, it encourages the strengthening of faith in areas of weakness as a result. I like to have some kind of control over my circumstances. Currently, I take two multi-vitamins, 1000mg of Vitamin C, Vitamin B Complex and C, Olive leaf extract, L-Lysine, Magnesium Citrate, Fish oil, and another half a dozen things which I can’t even remember by name plus pain meds. However, it is God who is in control, not me. Something good will be brought about through this.
8. Sometimes, in the midst of our suffering, we sin.
God accepts a humble and repentant heart. In Job 42, we see Job surrender to God and repent. Job recognized that God is the creator and he is just his creation. Perhaps, from time to time during this affliction, I sinned by omitting the circumstances leading up to my current condition – namely, not telling that I didn’t go to the doctor at the first sign.
I despise myself, and repent in the dust of ashes.
9. Sometimes we sin against our friends.
Job’s friends not only failed to be there for Job in a supportive, loving way but they gave poor advice based on their misunderstandings of God.
The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. ~Job 42:7
Interestingly, two of our friends from church told my wife what caused my shingles to start up. They said it was stress and poor diet. They said nothing to encourage or help but kept making my wife feel as though the stress and poor diet was somehow a fault to be placed. Nonetheless, my wife would come home from church feeling badly having heard these things.
The reality however, is quite different. Research of many tens of thousands over many years found no causal link between stress or diet. It has been a hundred-year-old theory which lasts to this day but has absolutely no facts to support it. To date, no one knows what activates the virus leading to shingles.
10. After repentance and forgiveness comes blessings.
In Job 42, Job made a burnt offering for his friends and prayed for them as God commanded Him to do. God accepted Job’s prayer for them and THEN Job’s fortunes were restored WHEN he prayed for his friends!
Isn’t this an interesting connection? Job forgave his friends BEFORE he knew how blessed he was about to become. It was Job’s prayer that released blessings! This is where I am today.
“The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”
Our Heavenly Father feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, surely He will take care of us in the midst of our trials. And that is exactly what I think this whole thing is. A trial.
In the end, God rewarded Job for his faithfulness.
So, there you are. I hope this makes sense to you. You know, I think this email should be in my blog. Maybe something in it will encourage people or help answer why bad things happen to good people.
Well, my dear mom in the spirit, I thank you in all humility, as I ask for continued prayers. You have been and continue to be a blessing and I just want you to know that.
Take care and God bless you.
Then mom wrote back:
Maybe you missed your calling… :^) I think you should be behind the pulpit. What a blessing you are. Yes, this needs to be on your website. M
To which I replied:
Have you read my reviews in the guestbook. I think God knows what He is doing with me. I think He has me where I can do the most good for a select group of people. But what do I know. I just go as He leads.
I want to stress this point for everyone reading this blog. I love mom for her faith and her persistance in that faith. I love her for who she is, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and I respect her unreservedly without question. May all of this serve as an example whereby two Christians may hold two differing points of view but still respect each other in love.
I think of this as a wonderful opportunity to write on something I never would have thought of had I not received the phone call from mom in the first place. Had I not received the email from her, I wouldn't have seen the necessity to write on it. And so, here we are.
Thank you God for giving mom a heart for you which cares for the body of Christ and thank you mom for yielding to His authority in your life. I believe there will be people who will benefit from this post in some way and you helped make it possible. Thank you.
In His grip,