What If God Doesn't Heal Me?
What If God Doesn't Heal Me?
(Written by Ben around Easter time, a week after I was diagnosed)
The celebration of our Risen Savior has, this year, come at a rather unique time and caused me to press greatly into the reality of the center of my faith, Christ’s death and resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 demonstrates clearly that this death and resurrection are the crowning piece of the Christian faith, hence why communion is the most regularly practiced ordinance in the Christian church. For it is only in Christ’s death and resurrection that our sins can be completely dealt with, both the judicial consequence but also the physical perpetuity. In dying he suffered the cosmic loneliness and pain our sinfulness deserves and which finds its ultimate reality in eternal hell. In conquering death, the only truly innocent being, the only true God, proved to the universe that absolutely nothing, not even death itself, is more powerful than he. In doing so, he proved His sole authority in pronouncing whomever he saw fit as righteous and free from the guilt of sin, per their acceptance of the free gift of life through His son’s life.
I have realized this year that at some point I can no longer explain my way through this because this kind of grace is so scandalous, so undeserving, so radically different than our standard way of human living, that I must simply accept it in all its glorious and radical beauty. I am truly humbled and filled with the greatest joy at the reality of what Christ’s death and resurrection mean for me and have provided for me this year.
As we walk through this trial of lymphoma with Ali, the resurrection of our Savior has taken on a new meaning. For many, a diagnosis of lymphoma is distressing and confusing. Frustrations have arisen from those I know of why this is happening to Ali who is such a beautiful and kind soul. Yet we know from Scripture (Matt. 5:45) that God allows both good and bad circumstances to come to those who are righteous and unrighteous. Moreover, it is Christ himself, the ultimate innocent, righteous being who was slaughtered in the place of every depraved human being; the ultimate injustice. Walking in his footsteps, it is to be expected that our life would follow the same course and, as Christ’s suffering did, can only be expected to bring glory to God’s name.
This cancer journey speaks to the nature of evil in this world. Those who expressed confusion or frustration at this besetting issue for our family move to question the goodness of God, but this is an improper thought process. As stated earlier, the ultimate injustice of good suffering evil was Jesus so God Himself is the most familiar with this. Instead, suffering and every manifestation of the power of evil, death, opens our eyes to the reality of a world cursed by sin; a glimpse into the heart of the kingdom of darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. This temporal discomfort we experience is only a small taste of what hell is like and it is through the suffering we experience and the cross that we bear through it that we can draw the eyes of people’s hearts, minds, and souls to the Risen Savior through whom the pain of our suffering finds its ultimate healing, in part, now, and completely, in eternity with Him. This is the glorious reality of the cross! If we want to blame someone for our suffering, Jesus already took it!
A historically verifiable man named Jesus walked this earth, claiming to be God, and proving it through miracles, taught that the path to true life and eternal healing, freedom from sin was to follow him, and proved it in His death and suffering, and said that when our life on this earth came to an end we would be with Him forever (not stuck in a grave indefinitely), and proved it when he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven! It is this God that scoffs at something like cancer as if Satan can threaten the glory and goodness of our God by throwing this upon His children. Death has no sting, the grave has no victory!
Something too has come to mind during this season (and it is the sadly recurring theme of the last few years of my life) that far too many of us are slaves to the fear of death. This comes straight from Hebrews 2 where Paul exhorts the believers to not drift away in their faith because their salvation is a present reality that will be made fully complete as guaranteed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fear of death has time and time again become clear to me to be the greatest fear that all humans wrestle with.
In talking with a friend about Ali’s diagnosis, he expressed great concern over what the future may hold for us. When I told him that even if the worst were to happen and the cancer were to take Ali from us, that I was not afraid of that possibility, absolute horror crossed his face. Please don’t read this wrong, I wouldn’t even know where to begin again if I lost the love of my life, but Ali and I refuse to be slaves to the fear of death (see the difference?) It was then that I asked him, “Are you afraid of death?,” to which he replied, “absolutely”. This here is the ultimate test of faith for many. Death is the force which will rob them of all they have, which is everything intrinsically tied to this earth. Sadly, they are slaves to that which Satan, uses to control the hearts and loves of all humans, dragging them from faith in Jesus. Fear is his best weapon as it is deceptively enticing as fear pushes us to process and interact with the world around us as if we can ultimately control all of reality around us; that we can be like God. But this is not true and never can be. Every god of history has ultimately ruled by fear, pushing humans to commit themselves to their cult through fear of punishment or distress by things they cannot ultimately control (weather, seasons, war, childbirth, harvest, etc.).
Living in a day and age of unprecedented wealth and human technological achievement, we control so much of our lives that we are extremely surprised when the tiniest things prove to us otherwise, like cancer, aging, broken down cars, etc. These are a very small fraction of the examples of death’s influence in this world through decay and corruption of the natural world. So much of our lives are now wrapped up in producing technologies that mitigate the fear of death touching us, but the reality is that in “tasting death”, as the Bible calls it, Jesus took on our ultimate enemy and proved to the world that this world is not the end, that our true home is with Him in Heaven, that decay and corruption in this life are nothing compared to the glories to come and that, ultimately, we will never die. I repeat, never die! See Matthew 11:25-26, Jesus himself, the author of our salvation, says very clearly, that those who believe in Him will never die. So we have nothing to fear!
And so I can tell my friend that because I believe in Jesus, fear cannot rob me of anything, that all I have in this life will one day will disappear but soon I will be in my true home, where my soul’s greatest longings are found, where death will be no more, where everything I hope and dream for will be a reality. See, our hearts cry desperately for love without end, for trust without disappointment, for joy without pain, for life without death. It is the longing of our souls from our first ancestors who were expelled from the garden; a longing to return to that time and place. And so we look forward to that reality that is guaranteed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and, as so much of Christ and his disciples say, we must believe, we must hold fast, we must have unwavering faith in Him as we look forward to that day. We must not forget that death and Satan have been conquered and that the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8 are true:
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
And so we say, “come soon Lord Jesus, come soon Emmanuel”.