We get a lot of questions raised on our Facebook page, that many within our community will step in and either give an answer or an opinion. The strength of our community is the diversity of those opinions and the flow of helpful discussion.
One such question this weekend has been on the issue of healing meetings especially when held instead of the usual Sunday gathering. Some of our members feel more than a little uncomfortable with this for quite an array of reasons.
I just wanted to take a little time to unpack this emotive subject – not to give any answers, but rather open up a little more thought and theology on it.
This whole question is a mix of theologies; the theology of suffering, thinking around God’s sovereignty and the fairly new theology of belonging, as well as how we see heaven and what we mean by ‘made in God’s image’. Did God make disabled people like that or is it a fluke of nature? Add to this the fact that many of us with a disability don’t see it as something to be healed. Neither do we see it as something we ‘suffer from’ but rather a part of who we are. Something to be celebrated – not something to be fixed.
Then of course, there’s the whole question of not having enough faith or sin being a cause. For the record, when it comes to disabled people not being healed – faith has no bearing on it, and Jesus squashed the sin causing disability question over 2000 years ago in John 9:1–3 (especially the context of other similar passages), so I’m not sure why that keeps coming up!
John Chapter 9 Verses 2 and 3
Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned? Was this man born blind because he sinned? Or did his parents sin?”
“It isn’t because this man sinned,” said Jesus. “It isn’t because his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God’s power could be shown by what’s going to happen.
When a church says that a one off Sunday service will be given over to healing ministry, quite often the reason is nothing to do with their theology on any of the subjects mentioned above, but more to do with their desire to be helpful. They want to make things better for people, to fix the perceived problem – which for many people is appreciated and readily received. But for those of us with disabilities or additional needs it brings up a whole lot of questions around God’s presence in suffering or disability… or not. For many, the very presence of God shining through disability is sacred – what some call ‘a thin place’ – where the meeting of heaven and earth is clearly felt. So why does it need healing?
Most times, the idea of the healing service is not to say we are ‘less than’, but sadly this is the message we receive because of the clumsy way the message is given.
I have many friends who are comforted by the idea that God ‘allowed’ their disability to happen, some even believe he gave it to them. Others, including myself, struggle with that concept and err towards the theology that we live in a broken world where bad things happen. By His choice, God’s full power is currently restrained until He chooses to return in His full glory. BUT, there are times where God can bring good out of those difficult times, or our disabilities and by doing so His power is magnified through us.
If you found that last paragraph a little too much – in summary: God chooses not to intervene at this time in history but can redeem and bring about good through disability and/or suffering.
Psalm 139 verses 13-15
13 You created the deepest parts of my being.
You put me together inside my mother’s body.
14 How you made me is amazing and wonderful.
I praise you for that.
What you have done is wonderful.
I know that very well.
15 None of my bones was hidden from you
when you made me inside my mother’s body.
As we look at the well known verses (above) in Psalm 139 that talk about God putting us together in our mother’s womb, it’s easy to take that as meaning God deliberately put us together with our disabilities. The process of us coming into being, “being made inside our mother’s bodies” is His creation – this is the miracle of life! But does this mean he deliberately adds a chromosome here and there, and takes a tiny piece of a chromosome out over there. Or maybe He changes the way a spine comes together or a heart works for this child or that? . Some commentators believe that when the psalmist speaks of our ‘inmost being’, he is actually talking about our ‘spirit’. They also believe the whole flavour of those verses are referring to us being ‘set apart’ – different, unique….holy, and not referring to the details of our physical make up. I’ll leave you to think those questions and thoughts through!
On the flip side of those questions, I know many parents of children with additional needs and disabilities who hate being told they were given their child with additional needs because he thought they were special. (In my humble opinion – this is appalling theology!)
I don’t know where you stand in the whole ‘God made me like this’ debate, but one thing is sure – The Image of God we are made in is not about being well, non-disabled, or even neuro-typical – there is much more to what the image of God looks like in each of us. I know many children and adults with additional needs/disabilities, and in them I can see God shining through. His image, his power using them to teach a thing or two to the rest of the world.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us the question “What is the chief end of man” [Or, what is our purpose?], The answer it gives is “Man’s chief end is to [Or, our purpose is to] glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
In other words, this is what we were created to do.
Whether or not we have an additional need or disability, this doesn’t change. Our abilities have no bearing on it.
So my other question is – where does healing fit into that?
I do believe we need to gently challenge the perceptions surrounding the whole healing debate. It is often said there is a distinct difference between ‘healing’ and ‘curing’. When most talk about healing, what they mean is curing. One of the commenters on the Facebook group thread made a good point: We all need ‘healing’, we don’t all require curing.
And I think that is a good thought to finish with, But I’ll give the final word to Peter – and notice, what he writes doesn’t depend on our abilities:
1 Peter chapter 2 verse 9 (NRIV)
But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give Him praise. God brought you out of darkness into His wonderful light.