I RIDE BIKES WITH TIM. He has multiple sclerosis.
One day I asked some of my Facebook friends what they would ask God if they got the chance to ask a single question.
Tim’s wife, Barbara, submitted her question:
Will you heal my husband?
Tim and Barbara are both in my Bible study group. We actually did a session on the topic: “Why doesn’t God heal Tim?”
We don’t have a clue.
But we know what to do.
I remember the Sunday Tim broke the news to our Bible study group. Several years ago, now.
Our church was meeting in a middle school at the time. Our class met in the room of a home economics teacher – or whatever the politically correct description is at the moment. There were sewing machines and lots of needles in the room. You had to look before you sat. Yessir.
A prayer for Tim
I don’t know who suggested we pray for Tim at the end of our class session, or who suggested we bring in the pastor to join us.
I know it wasn’t me.
Someone also suggested that we gather around Tim and Barbara and place our hands on them like people did in Bible times when they asked God to heal the sick.
There wasn’t room to do that around the chairs where they were sitting. So they rose and stood near the south wall of the room. We circled around them. There must have been about 20 of us in there.
Several people prayed.
I didn’t want to.
Ever since Dad died back in 2001 I melt too easily around the topics of suffering and death. I don’t understand those things at all. They are God’s worst ideas, if he came up with them. On occasion I tell him so.
When the people prayed for Tim, they asked God to give him and his wife strength and comfort and peace.
I noticed that no one asked God to heal him.
They did ask God to heal him – if it was God’s will.
But no one asked for healing without including some kind of loophole of a clause giving God wiggle room.
Thinking back on it now, I wonder if that’s because we know too much about MS – because we doubt that prayer could have that much of an effect on such a consuming disease.
We believe God can give Tim and Barbara strength. We know he can comfort them and give them peace.
But would he cure Tim of multiple sclerosis? Would God go that far?
I was bursting inside. I thought someone should ask that question. More than that, someone should dang well tell God what to do.
So I prayed.
Maybe a little too far over the top
I told God I don’t give a rat’s rear end how he does it, as long as he does it.
Send down power into these human hands that are touching Tim.
Send an angel if he has to.
Heck, we would even settle for a medical breakthrough.
But do something.
We have seen multiple sclerosis before. We don’t want to see it again – not in Tim.
Make it so. In Jesus’s name.
I don’t buy into the idea that some say Jesus’s brother taught:
“A prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well” (James 5:15).
I don’t take that literally, as a promise for everyone for all time. It’s not that simple – not in my experience. We can’t measure faith in a cup, and then when we think we have enough we pour it out in a prayer to God.
Our faith isn’t in the power of our prayer. It’s in the Person to whom we’re praying.
Only God knows how the pieces of our world fit together in space and time from beginning to end. Only he knows how Tim’s sickness will affect other souls, whether Tim is healed or whether I have to read God the riot act at a funeral.
Well, I may not actually read him the riot act. But I would be feeling it. And if I were God, I wouldn’t want to risk me causing a scene.
In the meantime, I’ll keep praying for a touch on Tim from heaven.
I would settle for a medical breakthrough.
As a backup, I’m all for strength, comfort, and peace.
But the dickens with that. I want Tim healed.
Please, God, make it so.
PS. In September 2014, Tim completed a 2-day, 150-mile bike ride to raise research money to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. It’s an annual event Tim has been attempting for 5 years. This year he finally crossed the finish line.
Whether the story of Adam and Eve is literally true, or not, it makes an excellent point. We are placed in this world to undergo much trial and challenge. The free ride God originally gave us, well, it was undone by our own disobedient hands. Veering off of your topic a bit here, but, have wondered for a longtime how many blessings God has to withhold from any of us because of our inability to accept them as intended?
As for illness and disability of any kind, a fundamentalist would say it is a product of (original) sin, evil and Satan. Until a better explanation comes along, who can say? However, as a man of faith, I do not allow Satan his victories without extracting payment of some kind, whether it be a prayer, get well card, hospital visit, etc. I have noticed our Lord uses illness to draw us closer together in this too fast-paced and electronically wired world. I think only God has the power to make something positive of tragedy, but He cannot if we do not do our part.
Watching people suffer so really does stink. As a pastor, I feel so helpless. I’m not God. All I can do is cry with them, suffering the losses right along side them. I know no words can comfort them, so I pray with them. Somehow the Holy Spirit gets to do the rest. Somehow, God’s Presence gets to take control and heal in ways we could never imagine. And somehow, in that Strength and Presence, we are able to continue the hard work of getting out of bed every day to do it all again – this time with a newness mixed in so deeply with the bitterness and loss that even that makes sense. Somehow.
And that’s when the rest of us step in – to hold, to fix meals, to answer phone calls, to share moments through the months and years ahead. And we do this until we are again reunited in the very Love that created us.
Somehow this all makes sense. But it hurts like hell either way.
Thank you Tom and Stephen for posting this today.
Stephen M. Miller
Jill and Tom, thanks for weighing in on this. Misery loves company, it’s a fact. God bless you both.
I really appreciate this line from your blog post: “Our faith isn’t in the power of our prayer. It’s in the Person to whom we’re praying.” I don’t know why things happen as they do…we live in a broken world and we have bodies that are dying every day. I do know in my own experience that asking why is dangerous, anxiety-producing and takes my eyes of of Him. But that is just my own experience…I would suppose that some people may need to ask why – need to grapple with it and with God. I have no clue. But I appreciate the topic.
Good writing today Steve….suffering is real and when we hit it all our armchair theology flies out the window. I have had those same conversations with God too — usually outloud. I have discovered from experience when healing does not take place the way we want it — that it takes place in another way usually on a greater scale! Look how many people are impacted by this blog today and the compassion and prayers being shared with Tim! We are all being healed today as a living community of Christ!
Stephen M. Miller
Erin and Wayne, thanks to both of you. Tim and Barbara will read your words, too, and find comfort in them.
Gary Lee Parker
I do not understand God’s healing ways either. I have seen some people healed while others are not. I know Tim and Barbara and I would love to have him healed, but than again I think of other people with MS including Dan Croy and why God doesn’t heal him as well as others including the woman who works at Turner USD or the man the is a member of Shawnee Nazarene Church. What is up with the way God heals or not heals. I have even heard of young couples who heard from a doctor that there baby would be born with disabililties and people prayed and the baby was not. I heard of a people who was disabled who could only lie on a bed in South America and a JESUS film team prayed and he got up and walked. What about all the other people who are disabled, why are they not healed or even included in activities of the church? Any thoughts!
I’ll be praying for Tim and for Barbara. God bless.
Steve, Your blog about Tim took me back to my childhood. A younger brother came into our family…he was disabled badly – I think by birthing methods. I spent many years praying and praying for God to take him as he was and let him start being a “normal” child. This did not happen; but God has His reasons. That child turned out to be so very loved. He taught the whole family a new level of love. Three of my older sisters are gone now; however, the closeness that my brother brought to us remains still with my remaining sister and me. I think Russell helped me and my sisters be totally aware of others and the problems they face. My only child has devoted her life to training and teaching the disabled and less fortunate. So I can see that through my brother, one was brought to serve the neediest of citizens. LaVerne
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, LaVerne. Isn’t it wonderful that God can take something that seems like a problem and turn it into a solution? Like a disabled child who enables the family to love one another in a way that lasts a lifetime, and that even jumps to the next generation. Good job, God. Well done.