The loved ones

I heard a heart-breaking story on the radio yesterday.  A young girl enrolled in the Children’s Wish program had said her wish was to “meet the Pope.” She wanted to ask him to bless her so that she would get well.

For the media, this was a charming story of a commendable girl, who pleased her parents and amazed her friends by choosing the Pope over a pop star or a visit to Disney World.  But I am afraid for this girl. If the blessing from the Pope does not heal her, will her faith be shattered?

I feel that within some Christian circles an odd perspective has developed. There are those who are desperate to see the sick healed – partly for the sake of the healing itself, but mostly to prove that God is really there. They read of the miracles that Jesus performed, and ask, “Why not now?” They think that if only people could see God heal the sick, then they would believe in Him.

There are also sick people who believe that if God loves them He will heal them – and if they are not healed, then either they don’t have enough faith, or God does not love them, or perhaps isn’t real after all.

When I look into the Bible, I do see people healed – just as I have known others who have experienced healing no less miraculous. I pray for healing for my sick friends, and ask them to do the same for me. But I also know that healing is not the only result of being loved by God.

Think of Mary, chosen and beloved by God, named “blessed among all women.” The son she will bear will be called “Son of the Most High” and his kingdom will never end. But the prophesy over her is that “a sword will pierce your own soul.”

Think of the rich young man who asks Jesus how he can be saved. Jesus looks at him, and loves him, and then says, “Sell everything you have and follow me.” And the man turns away sad.

Think of Stephen, stoned to death. Think of Peter, hung upside down on a cross. Think of Paul’s litany of the Hebrew faithful: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them.”

And perhaps in the most famous story of all, think of Job. In Chapter 1, he is God’s poster boy – blameless, upright, blessed. He is robbed of everything he holds dear, and inflicted with every horror – even as God continues to love him.

These are the stories of people who are entirely loved by God, and love God entirely in return. It is no wonder that the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says, “Wert thou my enemy, O my friend, How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost Defeat, thwart me?” Or that Tevye, as one of God’s Chosen People, asks God, “couldn’t you choose someone else?”

There is no evidence at all – in the Bible, or among my own circle — that God’s love always yields wealth, health or ease. But I do believe that any encounter with God is life-changing, and fills one’s life with meaning. The stories are not always happy, but they are always significant. I have a bundle of them myself. But first, I want to hear from you.

Friends, I am interested in your insights on this subject. What are your own experiences – or your own observations or reading – of the impact of the love of God?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The loved ones

  1. Kathy Campbell

    For me this is a big issue right now as I have and do face some of the greatest challenges of my life. At times I am so aware of God’s presence and intervention; at others I have felt abandoned. This is usually at night when I cry out for sleep and get no answer; then I wake up having to face another day with little or no sleep. Yet, through it all I can see God.

    How? Well, I can see him insisting that I have compassion on my daughter, who works very hard and some nights gets little sleep–not enough to sustain her needs. I can see his wise and gentle hand leading me to put aside pride and take medications to deal with the issue. I can see his guidance and councel encouraging me to set a proper routine for myself, which works for someone in my vulnerable position. Because a proper night time routine is condusive to sleep.

    Then there is the issue of God’s grace: Jesus’s finished work on the cross and the joy that this budding revelation gives to me. The joy of reading a scripture hand picked by God for me. But most of all he does not give up on me although he daily sees the wrong things that I do.

    There is a mystery in how God knows me. I am grateful to be known. I believe that knowing me so well and not giving up on me is a proof of his love.

  2. Julie MacLean

    I asked for strength & God gave me difficulties to make me strong,
    I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve,
    i asked for courage and God gave me obstacles to overcome,
    I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help,
    I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities.
    Maybe I received nothing I wanted but I received everything I needed
    This was posted by an eight year old Muslim girl in my clubs and all her friends pushed the like button-talk about the wisdom and humility of children,eh? Strange too that this has been the theme in my life of late along with a confidence that God is in control, He wants the best for us and He uses everything for good and his glory. so thank you for your post joy -God spoke to me through itand it has been stirring in my mind. I don’t mean to say that God brings bad or gives us sickness etc. i just mean to say He overcomes all things even death. There is a happy ending.

  3. Elizabeth Sherk

    “If the blessing from the Pope does not heal her, will her faith be shattered?”
    I don’t think so. If a little sick, catholic girl gets to see the pope, whether she has remission of her cancer, or not, she will feel loved, affirmed & honoured, all of which feelings contribute to health & wellbeing. One can die “safe in the arms of Jesus.”One can die & not be afraid: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for THOU art with ME.” In the realtionship of “I/thou” with God or with those who know & love us, described by Martin Buber, we can face death with equanimity.

  4. Elizabeth Sherk

    A little more to add to my first comment–
    When I was thirteen, my protestant missionary parents were travelling with us back to Canada from Northern Nigeria via Rome. We got into the crowd of devotees in the square outside St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican. My mother had bought me a beautiful pale blue stone rosary as a souvenir. I had it in my pocket. The pope appeared at a window high above us all & invited any who had rosaries to take them out & lift them up to let him bless them. I felt it was a very risqué thing to do, being a devout little protestant evangelical, but I did it anyway. That year when we arrived in Toronto, I went to a Jr. HighSchool where my Grade 8 home ec. teacher became very ill with cancer. Somehow I had learned that she was Catholic, so I wrapped up my pretty little blue stones & gave them to her with a note that told her that they had been blessed by the pope. I believe she received my gift as a token of blessing. She died, but I still feel a connection to her in what the Apostles Creed calls “belief in the communion of saints”.

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