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?