Beyond my own health concerns, a number of friends are struggling as well. My blog-sister Penni is struggling with both pneumonia and conjunctivitis in both eyes (yuck-o-rama, sister!). Her own mom has been dealing with all kinds of health issues, too. My sister and brother-in-law's health has been sagging lately - at precisely the time that their temporary health insurance has run out.
In addition, my adoptive sister Sandy in Kansas is dealing with asthma, and my aunt Roma in New York has been generally failing for some time. My brother-of-the-heart in Kansas City, Mike M., has been fighting shingles and emphysema and various other ailments - and for the last little while, the ailments seem to be winning.
I tell people of faith what's going on, and they say, "Well, you gotta just pray for them!"
Well, duh. No kidding?
The problem is, I have struggled for years with faith healings - running between faith, trust, and complete disbelief, at times. For a long time, faith healings (and the lack thereof) was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to belief that I had.
I have seen truly Godless people being spontaneously healed, while incredibly Godly folks, dedicated servant ministers, were prayed for day and night and still died - often horrible, senseless deaths. I kept wanting to ask God, "OK, whose side are you on, anyway?"
The worst was the loving wife of a minister, who was herself a powerful preacher and music minister. At the time when their church was reaching out in powerful ways to the middle-class black community in suburban Kansas City, cancer swept through her like a wild-fire. There were prayer vigils and prayer chains and prayers without number; faith healers; anointing with oil; laying on of hands. Nothing. In no time at all, she died. A family lost a mother and a grandmother; a church lost a preacher and a music minister; and a whole lot of people lost a friend who knew Christ in a powerful way.
It made me insane. I completely understand the envy, and the "what the heck did she, or I, do to not make it on this particular train, Lord?" Because trust me - this woman did NOT die to to a lack of faith. If faith was the answer to healing, the whole city would have been healed on her faith alone!
The one who saves me from the fire on this particular topic is Nicky Gumbel, of the oft-maligned Alpha Course, who had perhaps the best words I've heard on praying for healing:
When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. When we prayed for people, some were healed, and some were not. We have no answer for the whys and wherefores, but now I pray for everyone, hoping that some prayers will be answered.A dear friend also suggested to me that there is a big difference between prayers of supplication where I turn my prayer concern over to God and let it go, and praying just to manipulate God into giving me what I want. Ouch. There are many days I still can't find the line between those two. I know beyond any doubt that I know how to do the latter much better than the former.
And then there are the words from singer Wayne Watson's old classic, "Home Free:"
Out in the corridor,
We pray for life
A mother for her baby
A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It's sad but true
But while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is in You
You know, pain has little mercy
And suff'rings no respecter or age
Of rank or position
I know that every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray
Is slow to come
"O Lord, not mine
But your will be done....
Yeah, no kidding, Wayne. When I heard of Penni's illness, I told her, "I keep telling God, 'You're not checking my list!' And the fact that I even have a list is a good sign that I'm not quite all there, spiritually..."
In the end, I have to come back to the simple answer: God is God, and I am not. This side of the final trumpet, I will never know the "whys." All I can do is sing and pray Wayne Watson's chorus:
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free...