By Tammy Darling
One infertile couple conceives while another remains in grief. One cancer patient goes into remission, living a long, productive life while another continues to suffer for years before dying at an early age.
Why God heals some people and not others has perplexed his followers throughout the ages. Even as born-again believers, it’s difficult to deal with the reality that some people will not be healed while on this earth.
God dearly loved the apostle Paul, and yet God orchestrated a painful thorn in the flesh and then declined Paul’s request for healing. It’s an aspect of God we simply don’t understand.
Many people struggle to comprehend why bad things happen to good people. The sin aspect is easily explained. We were created with free will and the choices we make often result in unwanted consequences.
It’s not so easy, however, to explain why a 3-year-old girl develops leukemia and dies within a year. It’s equally difficult to explain why God appears to heal an elderly man with a plethora of health problems but doesn’t heal a 37-year-old woman with breast cancer leaving five young children motherless.
Some people reply with simplistic answers such as, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will” or “Her faith just wasn’t strong enough.” But I beg to differ—first of all, it is not God’s will that we suffer from physical diseases and illnesses since Jesus Christ bore stripes on his body for our healing (see Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). Second, while God often heals because of a person’s faith, he has and does heal those with little or no faith as well.
When God doesn’t answer our prayers to heal us or those we love, we may begin to question: “Can I trust God with the outcome? Is God listening? Does he even care?” King David asked such questions. “Why Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
Recently I spent three weeks suffering from severe sinus and ear infections. I prayed. My family prayed. My church prayed. It seemed as if I would never get back on my feet. My prayers for healing were going unanswered—or were they?
I finally decided to ask God what was going on. “Why aren’t you healing me? Is there something else going on?” Once the Lord had my full attention, he began to deal with some heart issues and faulty thinking in my life. Had I been healthy, or healed quickly, I would have been pushing on at full-speed in an attempt to accomplish everything I thought needed to be done—and I never would have heard his still, small voice.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he delayed two more days before traveling to see him. Was it because he didn’t care? Of course not. Jesus had a far greater purpose in mind than to heal Lazarus of an illness—he wanted to raise him from the dead.
Part of the Plan
We’re easily frustrated when God doesn’t heal how or when we think he should. But even when our limited human perspective doesn’t allow us to grasp his greater plan, we can rest assured he has a purpose for every experience.
Our belief in Jesus Christ will lead to wholeness, but that doesn’t always include a physical cure. This is a fact many Christians do not fully understand, and can result in disillusionment causing them to abandon the Christian faith altogether.
God has arranged for us to be made whole—but in his own special way and timing. Whether or not it happens in this lifetime, total healing is part of God’s plan.
If we are to experience healing in this life, he will bring it to pass. If a season of suffering is to be withstood, he’ll use it for our ultimate good (Romans 5:3-5) and through it help us minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).
When I was in danger of experiencing a miscarriage, I prayed desperately to God to spare the child. But he didn’t. Five months went by and I had another miscarriage, and two years later a third.
I spent a lot of time asking God to prevent the miscarriages to no avail. Altogether I had four healthy children and lost three to miscarriages. Why did I have some and not others? I don’t know. I may never know. But I know God is good—all the time. Whether or not he chooses to answer my prayers for healing—for myself or for others—I must continue to trust in his goodness.
The Bigger Picture
Sometimes, however, explanations are available as to why God doesn’t heal. For example, I have suffered from migraine headaches for about 10 years. I have prayed to be free from them and others have prayed faithfully as well.
Some of my migraines are the result of unhealthy habits—lack of exercise and poor eating habits. If God had healed me when I was oblivious to this fact, my bad habits would have continued.
What loving father gives his children a stone when they’ve asked for bread, or a snake when they’ve asked for fish (see Matthew 7:9, 10)? Without realizing it, we sometimes ask for a stone or serpent when we pray for instant healing. God wants to provide solutions that will nourish and sustain, not harm us in the long run.
Since I have begun to exercise regularly and started to eat healthful, natural foods, my migraines have greatly decreased in frequency and intensity. Now I understand why I wasn’t healed sooner—God had something better in mind.
Through this experience and the experiences of others, I have learned that when God doesn’t heal, it may be that he wants us to make some practical lifestyle changes.
Holiness before Health
Perhaps if God answered our every prayer for healing, we would begin taking him for granted. Prayer for healing is not a transaction between God and man; it’s an interaction between God and man.
Above all else God wants our lives to emanate holiness. In all things he wants to be glorified. He desires that we cling to him alone. These things can happen only as we place our confidence in God’s Word and character no matter what happens.
Our holiness is more important to God than our physical health. While God values our bodies as his temple, he is concerned with more than our physical comfort.
Sometimes lessons of submission, trust, and dependence can be attained only by physical affliction. The writer of Psalms said, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (119:71). Our holiness is foremost in God’s mind.
Wait for Direction
We may not know if a person will be healed, but that shouldn’t prevent us from praying in faith. I am learning to wait upon the Lord and listen for his direction before I pray for healing alone.
Recently my husband has been experiencing ongoing back pain, which is unusual for him. After praying for his healing with no change, a few of us from our church decided to wait upon the Lord concerning the matter.
As we did, we began to believe his back pain was a physical manifestation of carrying too many non-physical burdens. Instead of casting his cares upon the Lord, my husband was taking them upon himself.
Once we felt we had determined the cause, we were able to pray along those lines while my husband worked on releasing his burdens to the Lord. Only then did his back pain disappear. Had we continued to pray for physical healing alone, we may never have seen results, as it appeared to us the Lord had something better in mind—the healing of body and soul.
At some point nearly every Christian questions God’s method and reasoning behind answering prayers for healing. When our prayers for healing seem to go unanswered, our faith in God’s character can be strengthened and our love for him can increase, knowing that in God’s good time, all of us who belong to him will be made whole.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Christ the Healer
by F.F. Bosworth
Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds
by Beth Moore
(B & H Publishing Group, 2009)
The Essential Guide to Healing
by Bill Johnson, Randy Clark
God’s Creative Power for Healing
by Charles Capps
(Charles Capps Ministries, 2004)
Good Questions on Belief & Doubt
Free Indeed: Downloadable Lessons