I went walking with my friend the Anonymous Agnostic last weekend. As we were strolling along the beach, we were discussing family experiences around death, ill health, suffering, healing and miracles.
We have both experienced first hand the suffering and the trauma and the difficulty that cancer brings to a family. As, I’m sure, most of you who are reading this have done. One of the questions that it provokes is of course the age old “why does God heal some people and not others?”
It occurred to me that we might have it all the wrong way around. Perhaps instead of God being mean and selective, or instead of us not having enough faith or not doing X or Y or Z – maybe, just maybe, we’re not meant to expect healing. Perhaps we’re not entitled to it in the way we have come to think we are.
We’re quick to pray for healing. Maybe that’s okay. But I wonder if sometimes we have – in charismatic Christian circles at least – become so accustomed to “healing” happening that we actually get confused when it doesn’t happen. We’ve got our own little Christian version of entitlement culture.
We don’t have a God who is, in my view, meddling frequently in our lives. We have a God who guides and directs us, who teaches us what love looks like, who modelled life for us. But not a God who is forever changing and tweaking the way things are. That doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of God the Christian God is. He’s quite laissez faire. But not in a bad way – I actually think it’s a positive thing. For it allows us the freedom to choose to be what we will, and it allows us to create and be creative and to love without requirement.
The upshot of course is that this God does not expect to come in at every given opportunity and eradicate cancer from someone’s body. He doesn’t make every leg grow to the same length as another. He doesn’t give sight to every blind man.
Instead, healing is a rare occurrence – to be celebrated of course – which I think is perhaps beyond our understanding. We don’t know what the consequences for anyone involved (from the beneficiary, to their family and friends, to those present at the time, to those who hear about it, and so on).
It seems to me that God gets particularly, intimately involved when things are about to cock up big time. The flood, Jesus’ death on the cross, Daniel and the Lions den, Joseph and Pharaoh – there are countless stories of divine intervention right at the last minute, in the extreme situations.
It makes me wonder if God reserves intervention for the big stuff, but continues to relate to us in all of the small, little things. And of course, our perception of what is big and what is small is very different to God’s.