Some people don’t believe God does miracles. I can empathize with them. It’s a lot easier to believe in a God who never does anything than one who heals, rescues, delivers, and saves, because it’s easier to defend this God when he upholds his end of the bargain and, in fact, does nothing at all.
This can be a cool God, a friendly God, a compassionate one, even a loving God. But he often becomes a distant one, as well.
The real God is an intimate Friend. And he has an important lesson for us there, right in the midst of the face-smacking. God does miracles. But sometimes the slowest ones are the ones that mean the most.
First, let’s get some good ole’ notion-dispelling out of the way. God heals and when he does, he heals big. If you’re struggling with faith, take a look inside this panorama of Biblical enlightenment:
O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. (Psalm 30.2)
This is David who felt like he was in the depths. Think you’ve got problems? His best friend’s Dad, the king, tried to kill him. He had to live in caves for years. And when he was handed revenge in the form of a night-scavenging party he crashed, he had to offer it back to God because his pure heart for God compelled him to love and fear the king.
But this saving power isn’t limited to life situations because,
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147.3)
God reaches into your despair, even the deepest brokenness of heart, and heals. Just ask this guy who everyone despised, but God befriended,
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. (Jeremiah 17.14)
And God gives you Christian friends to help heal your emotional wounds, your sins, and any other needs you have.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5.16)
This is a God who gives you more than friends for support. He came down to earth and died for you, guaranteeing you healing, wholeness, and life, rather than death and despair. Because,
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2.24)
I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11.24)
You have victory and authority in Jesus’ name. Don’t ever let the world or your circumstances convince you that you aren’t an otherworldly boss who’s one of the King’s kids. David summed it up nicely — the gospel, but also healing now for all you doubters:
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, (Psalm 103.2-4)
You’ve got it. It’s yours. Ain’t goin’ nowhere. THAT is the joy of life abundant in God. That can never be stolen from you.
This is not a post about that. This is a post about when healing doesn’t come. And when God seems to smack you in the face for sport in the process.
When God Doesn’t Heal But Smacks You in the Face, Instead
See, life is real. Which means there are hard questions and in the face of simple realities, sometimes hard answers get slapped around.
So let’s return to the Word of God for when he seems to be slapping your NOT-healing in the face after your faithful prayers.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5.10)
There’s a theme of Scripture we sometimes miss. It’s hidden in “after you have suffered a little while.” God takes life circumstances and uses them to mature you.
Peter also says,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5.6-7)
Notice “in due time” and “cast…anxiety on him.” Those are circumstances when time passes. Cares need to be dealt with. Anxieties given up.
This is the Word of God, a revelation of God’s perfect nature. And sometimes God allows due time to pass in his perfect plan of healing. Remember, he isn’t limited to our reality. He could circumvent it, but he chooses at times to work within it — not always — we have an omnipotent God who I will NEVER put in a box. But this Scripture reveals that at times when he seems to be smacking you in the face with his non-healing, he is performing his greatest work.
In other words, God does miracles in a moment.
But sometimes his most effective miracles are slower.
This is because of a reality he crafted into the foundation of the world: humans ONLY mature through suffering.
Paul reveals this when he says,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9.24)
The point of this verse is that hard times come, and you have to persevere to the end. Does God heal sprained ankles? Sure, miracles happen. But this faith race has shortness of breath, side cramps, and shin splints. So much that many give up. We’re in a race, baby. One we’ve already won if we persevere in faith with our eyes on the prize.
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5.3-5)
It takes suffering to produce character, from which hope comes in this fallen world.
But here’s what your intimate God says in the midst of it:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. (Isaiah 43.2)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34.17-20)
It’s such an obvious truth buried beneath the words of a God who also says “whatever you ask in my name, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” that it’s no wonder we haven’t seen it. There’s a wonderful paradox here. God heals, but he uses time to do his most intimate miracles.
God uses time to do his most intimate miracles.
For he says,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12.9)
What a wonderful surprise hidden in God’s love. He cares about us enough to train us like a runner to win the race, like a soldier to win the war, like a plant to become an “oak of righteousness” (Isaiah 61) that has to struggle to push its little stem up through the dirt before it can bask in the glory of the noonday sun.
You see, no one ever matured through an instant miracle. God does them all the time. I’ve seen people freed from demons, healed of sicknesses, restored in a moment from drug addiction, smoking, or sexual promiscuity. But God’s greatest miracles may be when people change their thought patterns, are healed of hopelessness or depression, grow strong in God through the maturity of reminding themselves the Word of God, setting their eyes on their beautiful savior, and running the next inch of pavement ahead of them.
If you don’t think you can make the next stretch of track remember,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10.13)
This is a God who loves you enough not to always snap you out of your place of need, but strengthen you in it, so you will never find your way back again.
This is a God who absolutely loves you, and is always bringing you to a better place in him, no matter how it feels.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8.28)
So when God doesn’t heal you but smacks you in the face instead, realize it isn’t God. It’s life — circumstances — it’s the race, the war, the rock you’re growing around, through the dirt, to reach your tiny stem toward the sky. And it’ll never keep you from becoming an oak of righteousness.
In which birds of the air come and find rest in its branches.
For your roots, as you grow, will run deep and long to God. There will come a day when they stretch farther and wider than the oak’s branches above, and no drought will ever overtake you.
Maybe God isn’t smacking you in the face, after all. Maybe he’s growing you wider and longer — like his love — stronger rather than quicker, healing you by inches rather than yards, grooming you in a world in which you need to soak every drop of life from him.
Those are times that can hurt. But those are also times, surprisingly enough, that God is doing his greatest miracles.
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