Unhealed: Exploring Faith and Illness

February 13, 2019

“We are children of God! Cancer can’t live here.”

It’s a sentence I’ve heard, many a day, listening to preachers and TV evangelists, alike. This particular day, I listened as the preacher fervently spoke about how disease and faith cannot co-exist in the same person.

The implication being, if you pray hard enough, believe deeply enough and have faith the size of a mountain, healing is not only possible, but inevitable.

As I sit here, glancing out at the mountains, visible from the table in my father’s kitchen, I think of him.  The dishwasher rhythmically hums behind me, and all else is quiet.  Even though it’s noon, he’s still resting.

Normally, he’d be up reading the Bible or listening to a sermon.  It’s how he starts many mornings.  But, today, he’s resting in a bit.  We snuck into town and surprised him with a visit.  We went on scenic drives, out to dinner and even squeezed in a movie. I wonder if we wore him out.

Or maybe, it’s the cancer.

Either way, he needs his rest. I know we are not meant to live on this earth forever.  I don’t know if the next time I say “I love you, daddy” will be the last.

I do know two things: he’s got cancer, and he’s got faith.

They are co-existing in the same person.  I’m sure he has moments of doubt and anger (as we all do).  These emotions are normal and do not negate faith.   In fact, faith would demand the we embrace these emotions and do the hard work of exploring them.

Look, I don’t understand supernatural healing.   But, I believe it exists.  Not because someone told me to, but because I’ve been privy to witness it myself.

When he was 8 or 9 years old, our son was thought to have leukemia. His blood work and physical presentation all lined up with the diagnosis.  Our pediatrician referred us to an oncologist. I was almost incapacitated by grief and fear.  Shellye began praying for healing.

Before we could even get to the first appointment, the oncologist called me on my cell phone to tell me that he did not see any abnormalities in his lab values.

Being in the medical field, I examined his blood work meticulously and noted all the abnormalities, way before we even scheduled with the cancer specialist.  We never got a physical copy though.  Just viewed it online.

When we went back to his pediatrician, she too was baffled.  All…and I do mean all of his lab values were normal.  Not that we drew new labs and they came back normal (although we did that too), but the ones which prompted the referral in the first place, the old ones, were…normal.  HE was normal. Running, playing, laughing.

We all looked at each in eerie amazement.

He was healed.

So, here I sit at this table.  Now, my dad is up and moving.  He’s laughing and cracking jokes like always.  Our now, 17 year-old-son sits across the table from me snacking on an apple, wondering why I stare at him sometimes with tears in my eyes.

I look at my dad, and I am reminded that Jesus did not heal everyone.  There were hoards of sick and infirmed following him, yet we always hear about those who were healed.

What about those who weren’t

What if their illness physically kept them from reaching Him?  What if they were next in line when Jesus needed to retreat and get on the boat?  Did they not have enough faith?

I don’t think that’s the case.  In fact, I’m sure of it.  I’m always hesitant to share my story of my son’s healing, because I am painfully aware of the many other parents who children’s healing came in the form of death.

I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t.  I would venture to say no one does.

I think of my many friends who have passed on before we were ready to say goodbye.  I think of my patients, old and young, who suffer in grace and courage.  I think of my terminal patients who enter death with a faith I strive to reach.

I cry alone in my car for my patients who wonder when the suffering will end.

Faith and disease co-existed in them, too. Mountains and mountains of faith.

So when I hear someone say, “We are children of God! Cancer can’t live here”, I respectfully and fervidly disagree.

I think of Matt 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted” or John 20:29b that says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

As I sit here with my faith-filled father and my miraculous son, I hold these truths in my heart without need to reconcile their seemingly overt contradiction:

1. Supernatural healing is a thing.  A real thing.

2. Not everyone receives healing in the form of prolonged life. That is not necessarily a reflection of the depth and breadth of faith.

3. Disease and mountainous faith often co-exist in the same soul.

4. God does not deny healing because we struggle with our faith.

5. Sometimes disease can grow faith. Sometimes death can make us struggle with our faith.

6.  Our faith can help our healing.

7. Even the most faith-filled person questions their fate.

(Our son, me, my dad)

As a person privileged to accompany many people through disease, I can say with certainty that God is aware and present.  God has not abandoned you.  Neither will I.

If you are walking the road of disease and pain.  I will pray with and for you, knowing that you have the right and freedom to struggle with your faith during this difficult time.

As always, thank you for reading.  If this blog has blessed you, sign up and receive the weekly entry via email.

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