By Natalie, Editress of Visionary Womanhood
I’m going to introduce you to a little gem today: Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering by Elizabeth Johnson. Elizabeth didn’t write this book in a vacuum of personal comfort. She is, herself, a chronic sufferer, and she has had to wrestle deeply with what this means for her faith in God.
“Before my diagnosis, I considered God’s healing power as something reserved for someone else. I knew, of course, about the healings in the New Testament. I had heard stories of intercessors and those prayed for receiving miraculous healing. I knew God was able to heal, but I had never really personalized that truth. Then I ended up in the hospital, close to death, and suddenly the question of healing became extremely personal.”
Maybe you are reading this today because you could relate to this topic from personal experience. Maybe you did an Internet search because you are looking for ways to help a loved one who is suffering physically. Elizabeth goes on:
I slowly began to notice people talking about healing: Does God heal? Whom does God heal? Why does God not heal? I began to resent the little by-the-ways preachers insert into their sermons. I felt their monologues on healing did not apply to me.
My sickness was not due to sin, nor could it have been avoided by anything such as personal habits or lifestyle changes. I was not living in sin; I was faithful in my prayer life and church attendance; and I was trying to live for God’s continued glory. Yet, I was not being healed. I felt my case had been overlooked somehow. I began to struggle with discouragement and even resentment whenever someone talked about God’s power to heal.
I’m betting almost everyone has had these same questions at some point in their life. I know I have. And I’ve had hard conversations about this subject with friends. Elizabeth talks about the current information available on this subject:
Many charismatics have written books and articles about healing, asserting their dramatic views of faith healings. Others have written from the mind-over-matter viewpoint, proclaiming if we would believe ourselves to be healed, or have enough faith, then we would find ourselves healed. Still others have purported, if we were truly living in God’s will, then we would not even be dealing with sickness. None of these views, however, seem to agree with Scripture—the standard of truth by which everything must be measured.
There are, of course, many book outlining generalized topics regarding trouble and suffering that stay true to Scripture. There are innumerable studies on the character and works of God, which refer to and expound upon what is already established in the Word of God. There is a myriad of resources available regarding our response to these things. Yet, where is a resource about healing that is biblically accurate, or even better, a resource that combines all these things and remains true to God’s Word?
This is what I’ve endeavored to do through this study. It is not only for my personal enrichment, but also with the prayer that it may help others who face the trial of a long-term physical suffering.
Elizabeth covers so many nuances of this one subject in her book. She takes a look at God’s character, His works, the certainty, origins, purposes, and examples of physical suffering. She takes the reader through Scriptural principles for healing, physical means of healing, and sinful attempts at healing. Finally, she talks candidly about what happens when healing never comes. Here are some of my favorite quotes regarding that:
Time and space limit the stories we could share. Yet, our stories would all prove the same truth: when God chooses not to heal, it is because we can glorify Him better through our suffering than through our wholeness. Sometimes, that glory may even be through death.
Death is not something we anticipate for anyone, even though eternity will far surpass our earthly lives. Yet, death is a natural progression of life. As soon as we are born, we begin to die… Life is a vapor which exists for a moment, then vanishes completely.
However, God sovereignly controls the length of each life. Man’s “days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). God ordained the number of our days before we were even conceived. We can neither lengthen nor shorten them on our own.
Sometimes God ordains our days to be concluded by terrible illness. Sometimes, He lovingly takes His child home by severe physical suffering. It is certainly not easy to watch a loved one suffer toward death; however, he alone determines the span of every life.
Sometimes it requires stronger faith to trust God when healing does not come. It is a harder path, but He still leads. It is more physically difficult, but the spiritual rewards can be bountiful.
She concludes with practical suggestions for dealing with illness along with suggested reading for further study. This list of resources is excellent, by the way.
You can also get a FREE study resource that will take you through each chapter with relevant questions, further thoughts, and discussion questions if you wanted to go through it with a small group.
I can highly recommend this book. It is meaty, thorough, balanced, and saturated with Truth. The Kindle version is only $2.99. UPDATE $9.99. (Yikes! They changed the price on me!)