While We Journey On
Two weeks have past since Claudette’s operation and she has come through the worst of it. After only two days in the hospital, she was discharged into the care of her ill equipped husband. However, with lots of support from the local church, prayers and encouragement, we managed and Claudette is back on her feet (not without effort)! Most of life is back to this new normal and many of the side effects are under control. She is bright, smiling, working, cooking, and has regained most of her independence. The boys are content and life has regained a sense of ‘it’s OK!’
While the op (phase 2) took out the big cancer ‘party’, now we need to target the sleeper cells, scattered throughout the body. Once the pathology report comes back pinpointing any suspicious areas, the oncologist will determine what cocktail of chemo is suitable to kill whatever renegade cells are still around. Local radiation will nuke any left over cancer in the pelvic area. By the end of it all, she will be so radioactive, she will be glowing in the dark.
This is a time of learning to live with the disease; a time of adaptation to a new way of doing things; a time of managing side effects. As all of this is going on, I have become aware of my blindness to suffering in general, and how vastly different this is from God.
There is a story in particular which comes to mind: a woman struggling with severe bleeding for twelve years spent all she had on doctors, to no avail. Besides the obvious physical limitations such suffering involves, there is the shame of having to live with it, the frustration of expensive bills, the hopelessness of useless treatments and the loneliness which comes from isolation. To top it all up, this illness prohibited her from accessing the only other source of healing available: God (she was excluded from the Temple). But, in spite of it all, the woman in the story kept searching.
When the appointed time arrived and God came to live amongst us, in the form of a carpenter’s son, she snatched the opportunity and literally, stole a miracle. Concealed by the crowd, which surrounded Jesus, she touched His garment and was healed instantly. Jesus realised what happened and He stopped the oblivious crowd asking ‘Who touched my clothes?’ When no one replied, Peter offered the obvious explanation ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing on you!’ But Jesus knew there was more to it than just a touch in the crowd. This was the touch of desperation! This was the touch of years of pain! This was the touch of frustration and perseverance and discontent with the situation! This was the touch of enough is enough and the need for dramatic change! And God’s heart recognised this touch and was moved by the courage (if that is what it was). In fact, Jesus gave it a different name: ‘Your faith has made you well!’
I am very reluctant to build an entire theology on this story because while inspiring, I know that for every one such woman, there are thousands who are not healed. And they are all brave and believe. However, there are a couple of things that apply to every situation:
I need to clarify this last statement: God’s answer occasionally comes in the form which we request e.g. physical healing. Many times, however, it comes in a different package. When you think of it, most greats of faith are just that, because they accepted God’s answer to their prayers, even though it came in a different way than how they asked:
How did God answer their prayers? Perhaps that which they needed was not so much deliverance from the evils of this world (though this is what they prayed for), but to learn to trust the heart of God. This is a deep and very personal trust in the goodness of God, in spite of the evidence and therefore it is, arguably, the greater call. Most of us settle for a stolen miracle and God obliges occasionally. However, Jesus reckons that: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed!’ God is inviting us to a far more intimate knowledge – one which doesn’t see and still believes.
So, can it be, that those whose prayers are not answered as they are offered, and yet choose to believe in the goodness of God’s heart, are those who are the recipients of the greater blessing? As for those who receive that which they ask, Jesus bids them, as He did the woman: ‘Go in peace!’. However, the greater peace which cannot be found in this world, seems to be reserved not for the miracle thieves, but for the prayers answered according to His Will and not ours.
May you reach out for His garment knowing that He is fully aware of your pain and suffering, even as you hide in the crowd!
May you believe that no matter how undignified your situation may be, in His eyes, you are His precious child!
May you trust in the goodness of Your Father’s heart, especially when His answer is different than your request, and get to enjoy the greater blessing!
NOTES: Luke 8:42-48; John 16:33; John 20:24-29; Phil 4:7