This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: healing

Jehovah-rapha, my God who heals

Psalm 16:6 “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

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God reveals himself by many names in scripture. Each strange, foreign-sounding Hebrew name reveals to us something of his nature, so that we can know him better. I have known him by many names that show him to be sovereign, master, teacher, and all-mighty. Now I know Him as Jehovah-rapha, the God who heals. Jehovah-rapha has healed my son.

 

He was 17 years old that day when he came home from school exhausted and went straight to bed. When he awoke, he was no longer the same. My vibrant, full of life son with the twinkle in his eye and the laughter in his spirit would not return to me for almost 2 years.

 
IMG_2416After weeks of languishing with fatigue and other symptoms, he was diagnosed with POTS – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a disease of the autonomic nervous system that prevented his blood from traveling against gravity back up to his heart and his brain. It affected everything from his ability to focus, to his ability to fall asleep or wake up and feel alert, to his internal thermostat, to his digestion, and required a cocktail of 7 different medications, as well as a strictly controlled diet of salt and liquid intake. Exercise was a key part of the wellness protocol, even though those living with POTS struggle even to get out of bed, let alone exercise.

 

Did I happen to mention that he also lives with type 1 diabetes?

 

About a month after his POTS diagnosis, I came across this passage from Ezekiel in the course of my Bible reading:

Ezekiel 37:1-6 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”

 

I knew the passage, and the promise of restoration that it has meant to the people of Israel at the time of its first writing and at various times throughout their history. I remembered that it was the scripture that the Jewish remnant had read at the Masada in 73AD when they took their own lives so the Romans would not be able to slaughter or enslave them.

 

But on this day, the words rang loud in my ears with a different sort of promise. A promise of healing in this life, not just in resurrection life.

 

I remembered that a friend of mine who is in the medical field had told me that the autonomic nervous system affected “just about everything that wasn’t the bones,” so when I read this passage about bones coming back to life because everything surrounding the bones had been restored, it caught my attention!

 

“Is this a word from you, God? Is this You speaking directly to me about my son through the pages of your scripture? Are You telling me he will be healed?” These were the questions that raced through my mind that cold December morning.

 

Over the following days and weeks as I prayed about what this might mean, God seemed to confirm to my spirit that yes, He would heal my son. I didn’t know when. Would it be in a year? In 5 years? During my lifetime? I didn’t know. Would my son be able to finish the school year? Would he be able to go to college? I had no answers to those questions either. But God seemed to be assuring me to trust Him in this.

 

unnamed-2And so I trusted. And I cared for my son as I waited and watched. And I cried when he couldn’t get out of bed. And I fought for understanding and for academic accomodations at his school. And my godly friends supported me when I could stand no longer.

 

And slowly, he began to heal. Yet, every baby step forward seemed to be followed by a giant step backward. Like the concussion he sustained just when he was getting back on a good academic footing. Or breaking his wrist, just as he was able to find the energy for greater athletic pursuits. Or eventually needing surgery on his wrist, resulting in many weeks of missed exercise and the fear of a return of symptoms.

 

In the fullness of time, God did heal my son. I don’t know why He chose in this situation to break through the veil separating heaven from earth and do the miraculous in the life of someone in such need of a touch from Him. Why did He heal this time and yet so many times it seems our prayers for healing fall on deaf ears?

 

We are taught to pray in faith for God to do big things, and yet we temper our prayers with small expectations, knowing that we deserve nothing from Him. This blessing of healing was not deserved, it was a gift of grace, a manifestation of the undeserved favor of God resting on us. But, whether God chose to heal my son or not bears no reflection on His love for me. Or for my son. That was settled once and for all on Calvary.

 

This healing was all grace. Pure grace.

 

And my heart sings with praise for Jehovah-rapha who has dealt bountifully with me.

 

 

Healer

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John 14:9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

 

Does God still heal today?

 

I’m not talking about the runny nose, broken bone, upset stomach kind of healing.

 

I’m talking about the cancer kind of healing. The big, bad, scary disease kind of healing. The “I can’t function anymore” kind of healing. The kind of healing that is nothing short of miraculous. Does God intervene in that kind of healing today?

 

As I ponder this question, I am struck by the idea that perhaps a better question is, why do we expect that God will intervene in this kind of miraculous healing at all?

 

Throughout history, accounts of miraculous healing are relatively few. Even in the nearly 4,000-year sweep of Old Testament history, testimonies of miraculous healing are rare, and can be counted on both hands. The raising from the dead of the woman’s son by the hand of Elijah. The healing of Naaman’s leprosy. The healing of King Nebuchadnezzar. The healing of King Hezekiah. And the healing from infertility of several of the Old Testament matriarchs.

 

By my math, that’s perhaps 1 dramatic healing every 500 years. Not quite enough to establish a pattern of expected behavior! It just doesn’t seem that this is how God usually operates – to break through the veil separating the heavenly from the earthly realm, and in so doing, breaking the laws of nature on this earth.

 

The one great exception to this pattern occurs during the 3-year period of Jesus’ ministry on earth. During these 3 years, at least 38 recorded miraculous healings took place. This time of extraordinary miracles included healings from blindness, chronic bleeding, lame legs, demon possession, leprosy, and death.

 

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What are we to make of all these healings? Why was this a time of such unusual restoration to health? Did Jesus heal so frequently because that was His intended purpose in coming to earth? To be kind to us broken humans, to touch and heal us wherever possible, doing the greatest amount of good in the shortest amount of time?

 

Not exactly. Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth was not to heal or to restore to life. His primary purpose in taking on flesh and walking among us was to introduce us to the Father and to restore us to right relationship with Him.

 

Why then did Jesus heal at every occasion when someone cried out to Him for healing?

 

The only answer is that He just couldn’t help Himself. With the removal of the veil which separated us from Him, in His unfathomable love for us, He reached out, and touched, and healed. Again. And again. And again. It is in looking at these acts of love from the hand of Jesus that we see the true heart of the Father.

 

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

 

Does God still heal today?

 

Absolutely. Even the cancer kind of healing. Even the big, bad, scary disease kind of healing. Even the “I can’t function anymore” kind of healing. But what we learn from the Word of God is that the breaking-through-the-veil, heaven-interrupting-the-natural-order-of-earthly-law, miracle kind of healing is not to be expected every day. And we learn that in our waiting and in our praying for healing, when we turn our eyes toward Jesus, we see the loving heart of the Father who longs to make us whole.

 

 

 

Desire

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Mark 10:46-52

John 5:2-9

 

“What do you want me to do for you?” What a great question to ask of one in need of a touch of kindness. It’s also a great question to ask of one who doesn’t seem to need any help at all, because underneath the offer of help is the sentiment that declares, “I see you; I care about you.”

 

But it can be a rather personal question, can’t it? One that gets us to open up and really discover what we most desire. One that forces us to be vulnerable enough to share what it is we most long for.

 

Is it any wonder that was the question Jesus asked most frequently in the New Testament? Jesus, the one who knows our needs before we fully identify them or give them voice. Jesus, the friend who sticks closer to us than a brother. Of course He would ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” And it’s the question He still asks us today. “Child of mine, what do you want me to do for you?”

 

When Jesus heals the blind man named Bartimaeus in Mark 10, Jesus begins their personal encounter with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” But even before Jesus could ask Bartimaeus this question, it is Bartimaeus who takes the initiative at moving toward Jesus.

 

When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he immediately began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” No amount of shushing would quiet him. Not even stern warnings that he keep quiet would deter him. I don’t know much about Bartimaeus, but I love him already!

 

When Jesus calls for him to come, he doesn’t just get up and walk over to Jesus. Verse 50 tells us that he casts off his cloak, jumps up, and comes to Jesus. His cloak may have been his only possession in the world. He is a beggar after all, with no profession and no money other than what he could convince others to give him. His cloak is everything, but it is nothing compared to knowing Jesus!

 

He drops everything he has now in order to get what he wants Jesus to do for him. Am I willing to drop everything I have right now for what Jesus can do in my life if I relinquish the reins…if I drop my cloak?

 

Bartimaeus yields himself to Jesus in three significant ways. He calls Jesus “Son of David”, recognizing Jesus’ kingly authority and right to rule over him. He cries out for mercy, recognizing his need for a savior and Jesus’ power to extend God’s mercy. And he addresses Jesus as “Rabboni”, meaning “my Master”, acknowledging his desire for Jesus to be his master from this moment forward.

 

Bartimaeus’ answer to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” is straightforward and comes without hesitation. “I want to regain my sight!” He knows what his deepest desire is and he feels safe enough with Jesus to ask Him for healing. And then, as Jesus does so many times when He heals, he links the miracle with faith when He declares, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

But Bartimaeus does not go his own way; instead, he immediately begins following Christ on His way on the road. When our deepest desires are satisfied by Jesus, there’s really no other place we want to be than by His side following Him on life’s journey.

 

Bartimaeus’ story ends well. It begins with his taking the initiative toward Jesus. It continues with his ready answer to the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” And it concludes with his faith making him well.

 

I want to be like Bartimaeus. I want to live out Psalm 37:4 every day of my life so that as I delight myself in the LORD, He will give me the desires of my heart.

 

But often it seems I’m more like the man at the Pool of Bethesda who has suppressed his truest desires for so long that he can no longer articulate what he really wants.

 

What if we don’t know exactly what we want?

 

What if our deepest desires have lain dormant for a very long time?

 

What if we can no longer identify what it is we truly want, because every time we let our hopes rise, the fall of unmet desire is that much harder to deal with?

 

What if I am more like the man at the Pool of Bethesda than I am like Bartimaeus? Can God still work a miracle when I don’t even directly answer His question about desire?

 

The man in John 5 had been sick for a long time, a really long time. Thirty-eight years to be exact. That’s most of his life expectancy in antiquity. Always sitting at the pool by the gate where the sheep would have been brought to the temple for sacrifice. I wonder if he wished someone would offer a sacrificial lamb for him?

 

I love that Jesus knows he had been in that condition for a long time. And He speaks to me again, “Child of mine, I see what condition you are in. I see what condition you have been in for a long time. For a very long time.”

 

And then comes the question. But, it’s not the usual question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus knows the man won’t have an answer for that question. It’s too much. It’s too hard to answer that question when you have been in this condition for such a very long time.

 

It’s not the right question for the one who has given up hope that things will change.

 

Jesus knows He has to meet the man halfway. More than halfway. Moved by compassion, Jesus prompts the man to engage with Him when He asks him instead, “Do you wish to get well?” All the man need do in response is give a simple “yes” or “no” reply. Sometimes when we are worn out from praying for the same thing year after year, all we can muster is a “yes” or “no” reply.

 

And sometimes, we can’t even do that. Sometimes our response is like this man’s—a non-response. An excuse. When we have given up all hope that things in our life will ever change, we find ourselves unable to answer Jesus’ direct questions. Instead, we—like the sick man—may just give excuses for why we are still living in the same condition after all this time.

 

Jesus’ question. “Do you want to get well?” is met with this response, “I have no man to put me in the pool…another steps down before me.” Did you notice that’s not exactly an answer to Jesus’ question? It’s an excuse for why nothing has changed in his life.

 

Have you ever felt stuck like this? Wanting something different but not sure what you want? The thing you really desire is so big, so impossible, so out of your league that you don’t even recognize it as your deepest desire. It’s too easy to come to God with our list of failures and limitations and conclude that nothing will ever change. “I’ve failed before; I will fail again,” and so we silence the whisper of desire as it rises up within us. And when we silence our desires, we can’t answer Jesus’ question of us, “What do you want me to do for you?”

 

Did you notice that the text doesn’t say that the man’s faith made him well? It’s hard to have faith in God doing the impossible when we have lost hope. And if we don’t really believe God can do the impossible in our lives, then we aren’t really seeing Him as God the All-Mighty.

 

Jesus does heal this man too, not because “his faith has made him well”, but out of sheer compassion for someone who has given up hope for a better tomorrow. I love this about Jesus. Even though God’s preference is always that we discover our deepest desires and that we present them to Him in faith, he meets the needs of both the one who knows his deepest desires and the one who has yet to discover them.

 

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