Alright, I’ll admit it: Jesus’s healing miracles make me nervous. Not nervous in a don’t-do-that-to-me way. Nervous as in, I’m not sure they actually happened. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one. Why is it we can believe in the existence of a god, but not that he would actually heal someone? The gospels and book of Acts are full of stories about healing. I hear stories all the time about God healing people. Heck, a lady in my church diagnosed with cancer claims God healed her after prayer. Is she blowing smoke? Better question, why do we struggle so much to believe God actually heals?
Yesterday was Easter. During the sermon, our pastor calls for God to perform miracles. Here we go, I thought. Whenever churches try to do miracles, I always grow tense. I’m afraid when pastors make promises in the name of God. What happens when they don’t happen? I guess I’m afraid it’ll prove God doesn’t exist.
A few weeks ago I started my yearly yard work. It’s finally stopped raining enough in Oregon that I can get out, mow, and pull weeds. My gas-powered edger wasn’t working, so I grabbed the hand edger. The one where you stop it into the ground. I like a manicured lawn, but confess I’m horrible at gardening. My parents put Better Homes and Garden to shame. That gardening gene skipped me, apparently.
A day later, I noticed my hand was hurting. Something as simple as twisting the lid on a milk jug caused pain. When I pointed out the pain to my buddy, my initial thought was tendinitis. I’m a gamer and work on a computer for a living. Makes sense to me. My buddy pointed out that it was probably stress from hand edging.
Three weeks later I’m listening to the Easter sermon. I cringe when my pastors wants to perform miracles. One reason I joined a pentecostal church is to see miracles. Like many in my generation, it hasn’t been enough to know stories about God. I want to experience God. So why can’t I get excited at the prospect of witnessing a miracle?
Inevitably, the pastor calls out for God to to heal. The pain in my hand hasn’t gone away, so I’m starting to get nervous. In a bit of humor, he says that God cares about healing everything, even pain from stupidity. Well, I suppose that covers my gardening skills, so I raise my hand.
The people closest to me gather and laid their hands on whatever part of me they can reach. The idea of laying hands on each other is strange. I’ve been the guest in church when a pastors tells people to lay hands on each other. I’m an introvert, so I prefer to be left alone in a crowd of new people. I joke that I married my wife so she would make new friends and introduce me to them. That’s how anxious I feel around new people. Add to that hands all over me, and I start working my way to the door. It feels so weird. Since then, I’ve always felt bad for the new person who gets stuck with strangers hands resting on them.
When reading through the book of Acts, one can’t help but notice that laying hands on each other happens all the time. For prayer, healing, exorcism, you name it, on goes the hands. There’s something powerful in touch. Turns out, it can decrease violence in our children. It can even boost our immune systems. What is it about our culture that we’re afraid to touch each other? We need it more than ever.
So there we are. Hands are on me and prayers begin. Help my unbelief God, I whisper. Imagine my shock when seconds later my hand begins to stretch. It’s like the muscles took a deep breath. You know the morning stretch you take right before getting out of bed? It’s the best feeling in the world, right? I swear my hand was doing that.
For the rest of the day, my hand was no longer in pain. Help my unbelief indeed! I can all but hear God laughing at my surprise. See! I do heal. Stop questioning me. It’s amazing how God sometimes slaps you upside the head at the perfect moment.
Today, my hand hurts again. While it’s the same hand that hurts, the pain moved. There’s 34 muscles in our hands that move fingers and thumb and 17 in the palm of the hand alone. Different muscles hurt now.
It would be easy to rationalize it away. After all, the pain isn’t gone, right? If God healed my hand, why forget these muscles? I tell myself that it must have been adrenaline. I mean, we’ve heard stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children. Heck, given how complex the body is, wouldn’t spontaneous healing be possible?
I guess I’m crazy cynical. It’s easier for me to believe that my body can heal itself than that God will heal me. Writer, professor, and pastor A. J. Swoboda in his book A Glorious Doubt writes:
“Cynicism is using whatever means possible to get everyone in the sunlight into your own personal cesspool of dark hopelessness. Cynics stay in the tomb. Because the tomb offers us the safety of hopelessness and doesn’t propel us to action.”
The truth is, my hand feels better than it did these past three weeks. I’d be lying if I said nothing’s changed. Sure, it didn’t heal all the way. But that’s isn’t the pain God seems to have targeted. While those with hands on me were praying for healing in my hand, my heart was screaming out for belief. My hand didn’t heal completely, but belief got a jolt.
Turns out, God does heal. Though to be honest, I’m still skeptical that he hears every prayer and heals every hurt. But in that moment, he answered prayer for deeper belief. If today’s pain is any sign, though, he’s not letting me off the hook. I still have to decide if I believe in this stuff or not. Am I willing to step into the sunlight, or will I stay in the dark tomb. Jesus left the tomb. Am I willing to?
Has God ever healed you? Has he ever shocked you into deeper belief? Or has cynicism kept you in the tomb, ready to rationalize it away?