Faith and Healing
Luke 5:12-26, 17:11-19, 18:35-47
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Some wise thinkers have suggested that asking why is futile because we would never be satisfied with the answer, assuming there is one. But in matters of the faith, particularly concerning the problem of disease, illness, really all kinds of suffering, why seems like a logical question. Why are some healed and others seemingly overlooked by God? If God loves us all equally, why does he show preferential treatment? Why did Jesus tell people, “Your faith has made you well,” when our faith seems to make little or no difference when we need healing? Why does a just God allow so much suffering? Why, God?
In “J.B.: A Play in Verse,” his modern reinterpretation of the book of Job, Archibald MacLeish had a character propose this conundrum: “If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God.” Meaning that if God is all powerful and could alleviate suffering but chooses not to, he cannot be good; conversely, if God, being good, loves us and cares about our suffering but is unable to prevent it, he cannot be omnipotent. Seems like quite the disconnect, right?
And yet, the idea that God is either good or powerful but not both points to a deficiency in our understanding of who God is. We know he is omnipotent: he spoke all of creation into existence and is, even now, at work in it. We know he is loving: he did not spare his own son to free us from death and destruction. And we know that his ultimate plan is to save everyone. We think we know how he intends to accomplish this, but we are probably wrong, not because we doubt what scripture tells us but because we cannot reconcile our suffering and God’s extravagant love that encompasses all of creation. Here’s where we must imagine God as the kind but stern parent who, perhaps amused at his children’s efforts to make sense of a problem they lack both the maturity and perspective to solve, says, “It is not for you to know.” Not only because we wouldn’t understand, but also because we might not approve.
Certainly we, with our inflated sense of self-importance, would take issue with the idea that God might, just might, allow sickness because suffering, and how his children handle it, shows unbelievers what faith is all about: the substance of things (health) hoped for and the evidence of things (complete healing) not yet seen. Surely we would resent being a means God uses to bring others into his Kingdom, and reject his authority over us. That kind of thinking reveals a disconnect in us, as well as a lack of faith. Let’s face it. Eager to be free from the chains of sin and death, we embrace Jesus as Savior, but, attempting to maintain a managerial role in our lives, we deny him as Lord. Despite a Bible full of evidence that his plan is perfect and that everything he does is for our ultimate benefit, we do not trust him to do right by us. We resist the thought that once we are fully his, bought and paid for, we serve at his pleasure and not our own.
Might we be too attached to this world and too removed from our real home, the kingdom God is building that unites heaven and earth, eliminating suffering and death for everyone, forever? “Disturb us, O Lord,” wrote Sir Francis Drake, “when in loving time, we have ceased to dream of eternity.” Our faith does make us well, if by wellness we mean a returning to the God who loves us so much that he sacrificed himself for us, and the restoration of a broken world, one unbelieving observer at a time.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available), then stay afterward for Discovery Hour (classes for all ages, preschool through adults).