One of the things I address in “31 Prayers for Healing” is the idea of peace. It goes hand-in-hand with healing. Because if there’s one thing the secular world has taught us in films and books and stories and comics and TV shows… it’s that good people, in spite of being good, suffer… a lot. People get sick, and sadder still for those of us left behind, they die. So why pray for healing from the Lord, when He may choose to take you home instead of repairing your broken body?
Because of peace. Peace is important for our troubled mortal souls. Grief torments us, and when we think of ourselves and our loved ones being subjected to physical suffering… we suffer emotionally, too. The turmoil that injuries and illnesses can bring forth in our hearts is sometimes too much to bear. Depression, a very real psychological danger, can set in and send us spiraling down into the depths of our consciousness until we believe the lie that we have begun to tell ourselves: that God doesn’t really love us.
After all, how could He? If my child gets Alexander’s disease, or if my mother gets breast cancer, or if my grandfather gets Alzheimer’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease or… well, when a loved one suffers, how can that exemplify the love of God? Suffering is a Bad Thing. God is Good. How can He allow suffering?
It is a difficult question to answer. And the cliché, the one everyone who suffers hates to hear, is Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NASB). And when we suffer, we do not like to hear this repeated to us, because it sounds so impersonal, and it sounds so ridiculous – how can this suffering work toward anything good?
But the answer lies in the Scriptures surrounding this verse. To quote it alone is to forget its context, as many do. Consider the whole passage:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:26-39, NASB
The Apostle Paul is not saying that we shall not suffer in this life. Of all people, Paul knew that followers of Christ suffered – for once he made them suffer, and later, he himself suffered for the Name (consider II Corinthians 11:22-29). Instead, Paul wants us to see that suffering is not without a purpose. Good may rise from the ashes of evil’s destruction.
For example, the loss of a loved one may lead you to exemplify God’s love to another. Saving lives is laudable, but saving souls is eternal. Jesus Christ suffered and died that we may be saved, not from temporal suffering, but from eternal suffering. If even Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, suffered in human flesh, how could we be exempt?
We may suffer tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or the sword, but in all of these things, we must be faithful to the Lord God, not for His sake, but for ours. In John’s Gospel, the Lord tells us, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2, NASB). God prunes fruitful branches, as all vinedressers do, trimming the rough edges and clipping away at our faults so that we may grow into completeness, into perfection. Our suffering helps us to mature, to grow, and most importantly, to become conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29, quoted above).
This is why we pray for healing. Yes, we seek freedom from the suffering of the flesh, but we also seek healing for our souls and growth in the Holy Spirit of God. This soulful healing is peace. In this, we acknowledge what Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (NASB). When we agree with Job, that we must accept both blessings and adversity from the Lord and trust in Him always, we come to recognize God as Nahum the Elkoshite did when he spoke of the destruction of Nineveh: “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
Nothing, not suffering, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. He has already conquered the world, and through Him, we too are conquerors. Illness and death may still afflict us, but they no longer enslave us, for the chains of death have been broken and our souls are free in the Lord.
So when you pray for healing, pray first that you may be healed to bring glory to God through His power and His mercy, and pray second that whether your body is healed or not, your soul may be healed with peace and love for God, that He may be glorified in you always.