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.