What About Healing In The Church? Six Thoughts About “Christian Super-Powers”

Artwork by Anthony Burrill

Anonymous asked a question:

Hi there, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the church having supernatural powers and providing healings in God’s name. I know someone who attended unnamed ministry and has posted videos on Facebook of him and his friends exuberant after healing people. I know God has the power to heal of course, but something about the videos he posted and the church gives me weird vibes. I was looking into the church a little bit this morning and really searching my bible for what God says about it all and I was just wondering if you had thoughts or scripture references to share. Thank you for your consideration 🙂

Hey there dear friend, thank you for the very gracious and sensitive way you asked this question. Though I know we’ll all see differently on this topic, please allow me the grace to offer a few difficult thoughts about healing within the Christian faith. Please know that I’m rather hard on this issue because I’ve seen the way it’s hurt sincere people, and while I’m open to these things, I also don’t want to mince words to cater to anyone. Usually I attempt to be very nuanced on both sides of an issue, but I speak with a grieving heart of love for those who’ve been damaged by shallow doctrines. I’m coming from a tender heart of witnessing reckless spirituality all over the place.

I know I’ll probably alienate a few dear brothers and sisters in Christ here, so I can only admit I could be wrong, that I’m limited in knowledge, I’m open to correction, and these answers are informed by harmful experiences. Please totally feel free to skip around and to disagree.

1) What about the hospital? What about the shelters?

If I knew for a fact that I could heal people, I would be at the hospital or a homeless shelter. Immediately. I wouldn’t post videos on social media. I’m not condemning anyone who’s excited enough to post about it on Facebook, but really: if I suddenly learned how to fly, I’m dropping off Happy Meals at the inner city. Life is too short and too precious to play around with this kind of stuff.

2) What about the people who don’t get healed?

The problem, of course, with something like “healing in Jesus’s name” is that it’s completely biased and self-verifiable. When it works, then God did it. If it doesn’t, then someone didn’t have “enough faith.”  This causes massive distress and depression to those who are over-promised and under-delivered.

3) The Bible itself only has three distinct periods of miracles.

The entire storyline of the Bible has very few miracles. You’ll be surprised to find only three major time periods when there was a surge of healing or super-powers. Moses didn’t part the Red Sea every Tuesday. Mostly the Bible is punctuated by everyday failure and the rare act of bravery empowered by God. Those three eras, by the way, are Moses, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus/the first century church.

4) What are we actually chasing?

Here’s the thing: To feel good vibes about a painting is not experiencing God. There’s a difference between aesthetic beauty and the radiance of Christ. Yes, the beauty in a sunset can point us to God. Yes, a song or a sermon or a friend or a long drive can trace back to God. But to confuse these things as God means that we’re chasing a phantom. It’s like marrying someone for their money instead of simply just for them.

A Christian who’s interested in big-time miracles eventually becomes an opportunistic, entitled, gold-digging idolater. I’m sorry to be so harsh; it’s just that I’ve seen it happen dozens of times and it kills me inside. I’ve seen friends turn God into a genie, and it never goes well. There’s no quicker way to go spiritually blind than to chase a divine dazzling bag of tricks over God Himself. Jesus laments, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48) — in other words, depending on miracles to believe Him is not real belief.

5) Healing is wonderfully facilitated by medical practice.

How about recognizing that doctors perform miracles? How about giving credit to the millions of nurses and CNAs and surgeons and researchers who have poured countless hours into repairing the human body? When Christians become fascinated with overnight magic, we inadvertently diminish the miraculous work of medical professionals who deserve much more credit than simply “helping the process.” I thank God for my wife, a nurse, and her huge calling into a scary, unpredictable world of sickness that requires a meticulous attention to detail and a lifelong compassion. She’s the real miracle.

6) God can heal. But whether He does or not, He’s still God.

To be very, very clear: I absolutely believe God can heal anything. Really. I don’t mean to be so hard on any ministry that sincerely prays for recovery of the body. I’ve seen quite a few healings in my life that were downright unexplainable, and I celebrated like crazy. No, it doesn’t happen every Tuesday, but it happens. There’s nothing wrong with the church getting excited about someone being free of illness and pain. I’ll cheer for that without shame.

Yet I’ve also seen the disappointment and disillusionment in those who were never healed. I’ve been close friends with those who have lifelong, terminal illnesses. The great Apostle Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 talks about his “thorn,” which he begs God to take away, but God doesn’t. Paul tries to guess at why, but in the end, he merely confesses, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

This is Paul, by the way, who heals perhaps hundreds of people throughout his ministry. We never find out what kind of illness he had, but it was something so damaging that it caused others to question, “How could God be working in a guy like this?” And yet, there was no doubt that God was working through him. For when Paul was weak, God was strong.

Dear friend: I have tons of physical ailments and “disabilities.” I had to breathe on a machine when I was in elementary school and I carry around a epi pen since I’m allergic to just about everything. I’m certainly not comparing myself to so many others who wrestle with worse, but I know that I’ll be afflicted for life. Yet — I trust Him in my weakness. I’m not saying that God purposefully gave me limitations to instill faith; I refuse to make that connection. Yet my physical body is no measure of God’s love for me. It doesn’t indicate that I “don’t have enough faith.” It merely means that when I do God’s work, it has to be all His strength, and that’s miraculous. The fact that I can pull off anything in this frail body is a testament to His greatness.

And let’s say I’m healed of everything today. Then what? I still have the rest of my life to serve, sacrifice, and surrender. If my every temptation ceased to exist — then what? There’s more to our faith than simply being free. We are free for something else and something bigger.

— J.S.

9 thoughts on “What About Healing In The Church? Six Thoughts About “Christian Super-Powers”

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful response on this. It’s an issue I’m currently struggling to understand. What would you say to Christians who believe that we must have the kind of faith that transcends intellectual belief in God’s healing, and instead takes the healing as already done at the cross by “reaching out and receiving” it? For example, I believe, as you said, that God can heal anything at any moment, but when I’ve prayed for healing for myself, I’ve often doubted that God would actually choose to heal me. So some would say that’s because although I believe in my mind that God could do it, I’m not taking it on faith that he’s already done it at the cross. I’ll admit much of my hesitation with this view comes from my own and others’ experiences and not necessarily purely from the Bible, but I’ve been studying up on it and do see a lot about “your faith has healed you” and all that. How much do you think we should base our views about healing on experience?


    1. Hey dear friend, I can see two distinct questions in what you’re asking (and please correct me if I didn’t get it right) —
      1) That the healing we receive on the cross, if believed “enough,” should extend to our physical bodies, and
      2) That there’s a connection between the work on the cross for our eternity and for our physical bodies.

      I’m not entirely sure about these assertions; they seem a little unfair in putting a huge burden on us, when the Christian Gospel is always about taking burdens off. Christianity must either be “What I must do” or “What God has done.” The more we make it about “my work,” the more guilt and fear and anxiety that will ensue.

      I think it’s unfair to connect our belief in the cross to our physical healing today. By demanding God to “heal me,” that imprisons both God and me into an impossible double-bind that would leave me bitter and miserable. The cross is necessary for our sin, but the lack of physical healing can’t really be blamed on you nor me. In the end, the cross and resurrection is for the healing of our sin-torn hearts, and anything else we receive in this lifetime would be bonus.


  2. This hit really close to home, as a close family friend recently passed away from cancer. What’s interesting is that my dad is a survivor of cancer, and they walked through their illnesses together, except one lived and the other didn’t. Both were going through seminary and planning to become pastors. This past week, my dad was ordained as a pastor, and the other pastors who ordained him talked about the miraculous healing that God did, saying that God saved him for this purpose and what a blessing it was. Certainly it is definitely a blessing, but I couldn’t help wondering how our friend’s family might have felt, knowing God didn’t heal their dad.


    1. I’m very sorry about your friend and all that happened. I’ve had friends with terminal illnesses and my wife’s aunt has stage 4 cancer; it can be cruel and swift sometimes.

      I’m reminded of Acts 12, when James and Peter were both imprisoned — James was beheaded, but Peter was let free by an angel. Why did James die and Peter live? Why did Peter get the miracle and James didn’t? It’s never answered. I think the only thing we know for sure is that they were both supposed to die, and it’s a miracle that Peter lived at all. It’s still unfair and I still don’t get it, but I celebrate Peter’s miracle while mourning over James’s death. Such is the world, and to make a moral connection on their lives (such as one being more worthy than the other) would be even more unfair.


  3. In the days after the 27 men were martyred by ISIS, I questioned why God hadn’t performed a mighty miracle and wiped out the murderers on one fell swoop. Show your power God and people will believe. I was full of sadness and anxiety. Then, my thoughts changed and I was comforted with the great miracle that the men went to their deaths proclaiming Jesus. The men who committed the travesty were left here, still able to process that witness and be saved. Like “slow art,” God’s works are sometimes only apparent after careful observation.


    1. I believe what ISIS is doing is absolutely atrocious. I do agree with what you’re saying and I promise I’m not putting words in your mouth, but I don’t ever want it to be okay that it happened, even if it’s to justify that the men proclaimed Jesus as they were dying. It would’ve been better that certain protections would’ve prevented this from happening at all.


      1. Oh goodness, I am so not okay with this either. The persecution of Christians across the globe is horrific. My thought was that, we could be a generation that sees astonishing things and still choose to turn away. Skeptics will be skeptics and a miraculous occurrence on the news at 6:00 and 11:00 would be explained away as a hoax. The thought about their executioners is a total side thought, me trying to find a way to wrap my head around an evil situation. The miracle was that the men held fast to the end. It’s a miracle that any of us accept and continue to follow God, whatever our end.

        I struggle with my stoic fatalistic outlook and the desire to pray for change – in someone’s health, in protecting martyrs, in my faith. So I guess the crux is, do I believe in miracles? Yes, but mostly not the kind our human perspective might want. Certainly not the kind on a stage.


        1. Totally agreed, I apologize that it sounded like I was implying something you didn’t say. The world continues need to prayers & healing more than ever.


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