July 5, 2017
“Jesus wants you healed!” Anyone who’s watched any of the popular televangelists has heard words to this effect. It’s hard to argue against such a statement, even if it’s not entirely accurate. Usually, when we hear these words, they are referring to the healing of the body, but wholeness in the biblical sense is a lot deeper and more comprehensive than that.
Healing has an impressive pedigree. In a time when people didn’t understand diseases and had little means of treating them, healing was much more than what often passes for divine healing today—a backache, toothache, recovery from surgery. So when Jesus came on the scene, healing the sick and casting out demons, people naturally flocked to him. But he was careful to link healing with the advent of God’s kingdom. In other words, it was more than getting bodies in working order.
The same was true of Paul. He often was an agent of God’s healing, but on one occasion, he left one of his sick co-workers behind. He didn’t heal him. And his companion Epaphroditis almost died from his illness without Paul’s intervention. Apparently, healing is not always the highest priority for God, even if those who need it most might wish it were.
For the past few days, I’ve been limping around with a sore left foot and hip. It’s by no means in the same league as friends who have faced cancer, Crohn’s Disease, kidney failure. But it reminds me of the story of Jacob wrestling with God. It was a ferocious struggle lasting all night, and though God was obviously the stronger of the two, Jacob refused to give up until God, as the text says, “touched him on the hip.” I suspect it was more than a touch, as his hip was dislocated. When the sun arose, Jacob limped away from the encounter, given a princely new name by God himself. Here was one time when instead of healing the body, God was actually the source of Jacob’s bodily discomfort. I suspect that from that day on, every step Jacob took reminded him of that strange night that changed his life.
Modern Americans seem to take it as a moral axiom that God wants us free from all pain and suffering. We analyze, medicate, and anesthetize in our quest for pain-free existence. But what if God wants to use pain to call our attention to an emotional, spiritual, moral, or social shortcoming? Jacob would never have become Israel had he not limped away from that all-night wrestling match. I know that I tend to sail through life oblivious to those sins and shortcomings that prevent me from becoming the man God intends me to be. Discomfort, whether it be physical, emotional, or relational, drives me to my knees and makes me realize how dependent I am upon the grace of Christ. I don’t like the pain in my foot and hip, but I am grateful for how it opens my eyes to the deeper issues of life.