Healing is one of the greatest miracles that we fervently seek from God whenever we have an illness. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude (CCC 1500). For some, praying becomes more frequent and intense. For others, praying becomes the “only option” – probably an option resorted to for the first time. Believers, when caught in a situation of serious illness, exert an incredible effort of going the extra mile. A family, for example, would not mind the costs of going for a long pilgrimage, bringing the ill family member along, to seek and receive healing. No matter how far the distance is, no matter how rough the road may be, the ill member has to be brought to that miraculous holy place, or to the priest who performs faith healing, in the hope of health restoration. We do everything to please God. We offer sacrifices – ones that we probably have never done before. We show God that we badly need Him. We recite every novena religiously. We beg on our knees. All is driven out of faith and belief that a miracle will happen.
But why doesn’t God cure everyone who fervently prays for healing?
I remember two years ago when my sister-in-law was rushed to the ICU for a serious attack of her long-time illness, the first thing that I did was, run to the chapel of the hospital. To seek refuge, I prayed the rosary dedicating all decades and mysteries to the recovery of my sister. I was shaking and crying while trying to focus on my prayers. I asked God to send rescue. I sought for Jesus’ healing hands. I prayed to the Blessed Virgin to intercede for my begging. I even bargained with God certain things in exchange of my sister’s life. It was the first time I cried so hard in prayer, in faith, that God would hear me. But God had greater plans.
Our faith lets us believe in a God whose ways remain mysterious. His ways are incomprehensible; His love is paradoxical. He is a God of surprises, revelations, mysteries. He allows suffering to purify us, to allow us to experience Him in new and unexpected ways. Suffering is God’s way of telling us that we are human in an imperfect world and we need His provision. It allows us to surrender, deny ourselves and offer up a situation that causes much pain. As the books of Job and Isaiah reveal, suffering enables us to participate in the life of Jesus, who himself suffered. Contrary to some beliefs, suffering is never a punishment from God. In John 9:2-3, Jesus rejected this idea by saying, “It was not this man who sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God be made manifest in him.” In reality, God is with us in our suffering. He is as devastated as we are when we suffer. As one author puts it, “He is like the God who groans with loss in Isaiah, and like Jesus who weeps at his best friend’s tomb. God is not standing outside our pain, but is a companion within it, holding us in his arms, sharing our grief and pain.” God fits into our fragileness and weakness. He does not leave us alone carrying our cross. He carries our cross for us only if we allow Him to. God understands and sympathizes because through the Passion of Christ, He experienced an even more excruciating kind of suffering.
God uses illness and suffering to give us an opportunity to choose to be with Him, intimately. Illness and suffering can lead to despair, or even wrath against God, but they can also be a way for our conversion. Illness and suffering (of oneself or another’s) can make us rely on God more, pushing us to depend solely on His grace, mercy and compassion. We are propelled to humble ourselves before a God who is in control of everything. Eventually, we invoke the Holy Spirit to help us examine ourselves, and then we are led to seek for God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness that initiates healing. However, healing cannot take place if we do not seek forgiveness to begin with. In other words, in illness and suffering, we are given the choice to decide on which path to take – revolt against God or total abandonment to God.
Likewise, God uses healing to reach out to us. In the first book of Kings, Elijah called out to the Lord then the son of the mistress, who stopped breathing, was brought back to life. The gospel of Luke reveals the same miracle when Jesus commanded the young boy to rise from the dead. Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people” and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand (CCC 1503). The power of the Lord does not only heal physical illness. In the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul reveals his conversion from a persecutor of the Church to becoming the most ardent messenger of the Word of God. St. Paul was healed from spiritual blindness to see the Truth. Therefore, the Lord’s healing is not only sought for the physically ill, rather it should also be as equally important for us who suffer from spiritual illness. An integral and essential part of Jesus’ healing power is His forgiveness. He does not only restore the body, but also the soul. He is the physician of the sick – the sick being all of us, sinners. The best thing to do is to consult our physician with an open heart.
God may not cure all physical illnesses according to our prayers, but one thing is absolute, He never fails to grant healing to every person who seeks Him with a trusting heart. Indeed, healing is such a beautiful gift of love from God! We must be reminded, however, that believing in the healing power of God is one thing, and trusting in the ways of God is another thing. May we live out a life that reflects full trust in our Almighty Healer.
Father God, thank you for coming to my rescue when I called out your Name. You never cease to make me feel Your presence in all circumstances of my life. I am sorry if I doubted Your love when my prayers were not granted. Please never tire to remind me that Your plans are always greater than mine. Lead me to seek You through repentance and the Eucharist that I may constantly trust Your ways. Use my weakness and brokenness to heal others. Amen.