When God Doesn’t Heal

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I know the story I am supposed to tell.

 
I am supposed to tell the one about my miraculous healing when I was just six days old.
 

I could tell you I was rushed into the best children’s hospital in the country, as the doctors explained to my parents that I had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and there was nothing they could do. I could tell you about my parents crying with helplessness over their 6lb first-born baby, as the machines beeped and the doctors muttered words like ‘vegetable’ and ‘unable to ever read or write’ and ‘prayer’.
 
I could tell you of the nurse who offered to pray with my then-agnostic parents; the surprise of the doctors the next day when the scan showed my brain was completely better; the doctors telling my parents, ‘this is what is known in the trade as a miracle.’ I could tell you of my parents wandering into a church several months after that, and finding God because they knew He had saved their daughter, and He might be interested in saving them too.
 
This is the story that would be told to a packed stadium at a Christian conference. We love to hear the story of the paralysed man who now walks and leaps and praises God. I could tell it well. I could tell it so it would bring glory to God. It is a true story, and it is a good one.
 
But I have another story to tell: the lesser-told story, the ongoing story, the one that we wouldn’t tell in a big Christian conference because we wouldn’t know whether we were supposed to applaud at the end.
 
I have a story about being miraculously healed, but I also have one about not being healed.
 
I was diagnosed with M.E. nine years ago, but I had it for ten years in a mild form before that. That’s ten years of being wiped out every time I had a virus, and not knowing why; ten years of doctors telling me my tiredness was probably from depression, even though I didn’t feel depressed. That’s another four years of suddenly being unable to walk more than five minutes, needing to be pushed in a wheelchair, needing to cut down my work to four hours a day, then just four hours a week; the doctors looking perplexed and concerned. That’s a further five years of deterioration: being unable to walk more than a few paces, getting a stairlift for the house, hiring a nanny to help me lift my baby, spending most of each day resting in bed, leaving the house once a fortnight in my wheelchair for a happy hour in the sunshine; the doctors silent and unsure. That’s nineteen years of slow deterioration and disability, and a whole lot of helpless tears and holding hands and prayer.
 
Once more, the doctors are saying that they don’t know what to do and it would take a miracle to get me better – but that miracle just doesn’t come. The years go by, the uncertainty and the coping strategies continue, but the miracle doesn’t come. God can heal me, this I know – He did it before. I don’t doubt His power, and on a good day, I don’t doubt His goodness either. Sometimes He heals; sometimes He doesn’t.
 
We don’t tell these stories in the stadiums of Christian conferences – the stories of the non-miraculous, the ongoing, the unresolved. It’s not like I can even say I’ve seen great spiritual benefits to offset the suffering: God hasn’t been closer to me in my time of suffering; I haven’t been any holier. It’s just been hard.
 
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But I am telling my story anyway, because sometimes we need to sit in the middle of the story without knowing the end. Sometimes it is braver to share the messy middle, without the redemption, the lesson, the part where it all starts to make sense. Sometimes we just need to sit in that tension and feel the lack of resolution: that hunger for the world to be put right; for death and disease to be no more; for God to be near; for every tear to be wiped from our eyes.
 
This is my story: I have cried. I have thrown spiritual tantrums. I have ignored God. I have submitted to God. I have yelled at God. I have begged Him to bless me.
 
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I am not the paralysed man, now walking and leaping; I am the opposite. I am Jacob, the one who wrestles and struggles. I am walking through it all, but with a limp. My faith is bruised, but still I cling to Him.
 
Like Jacob, sometimes you wrestle with God all night, and all He gives you is a limp and a new name. I am learning to call it ‘blessing’.
 

 
(This post was initially published on Prodigal Magazine, and has been updated for publication here). 
 
Tweetables:

[tweetit]”I have another story to tell: the lesser-told story…” – @Tanya_marlow [/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”Sometimes we need to sit in the middle of the story without knowing the end.” @Tanya_Marlow[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”I have a story about being miraculously healed, but I also have one about not being healed.” @Tanya_Marlow[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”My faith is bruised, but still I cling to Him.” – @Tanya_Marlow – When God Doesn’t Heal:[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”Sometimes it is braver to share the messy middle” – @Tanya_Marlow – When God Doesn’t Heal[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”I am Jacob, the one who wrestles and struggles.” – @Tanya_Marlow – When God Doesn’t Heal[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”The years go by…but the miracle doesn’t come.” – @Tanya_Marlow – When God Doesn’t Heal[/tweetit]
 

Over to you:

  • What is your relationship with the mystery of healing?
  • What lesser-told story are you carrying?

 
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40 Responses to When God Doesn’t Heal

  1. Seth pittham 24th October, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    Well, I’m afraid to tell you that it’s very evident that *sometimes* people just simply do get better from seemingly terrible ilnesses, rare, not explainable, but it evidently does happen.
    Indeed it is rare that this happens inexplicably or without good reason.
    It’s also very evident that *most* serious illnesses remain that way, unless medicine has a solution.
    It’s just the way it is… sometimes it’s a mystery, and sometimes unexplained but it doesn’t mean a god is involved.
    If so, he’s pretty mean in curing just a few while leaving so many to suffer.
    Time to realise that it’s just the way things are and we are all on our own on this planet and be thankful for the amazing mysteries that sometimes, but rarely happen.

    Mysteries and unexplained things do not imply a god.
    Good luck to all of us.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Hi there Seth – thanks so much for the time you took to read my post. I appreciate that you are coming from a different perspective. I definitely agree with you that it is rare that illnesses are mysteriously cured – but that’s what makes them ‘miracles’ rather than ‘every day occurrences’, surely? I think that anomalies in and of themselves would not necessarily imply a God, but they definitely raise some questions that are not fully answered by a closed system scientific philosophy, either. I think one of the great questions your comment points to is ‘how can God be good, if he is all powerful, and suffering exists?’ The answer to this, at least my answer to this, is not to be found in a philosophical treatise, but in the personhood, life and death of Jesus. I realise it may not satisfy you, and on some days it doesn’t satisfy me either, but I find it more palatable (and reasonable) than the atheist alternative that if you’re one of the billions living their life in suffering or pain, that’s just bad luck.

      I really appreciate you stopping by and offering your thoughts. Best wishes to you.

    • MICHAEL VINCENT TEWS 4th November, 2017 at 10:18 am #

      Seth, this is Vince Tews in San Antonio TX. Are you the Seth I met at the Methodist hospital in Nov or Dec 2011? I have been wanting to talk to you and have prayed for you thousands of times. Please let me know at mvtews@gmail.com. I have worsening severe Sensory Neuropathy as searing pain continuously in scalp, shoulders, both arms hands legs feet.

  2. Amy Young 23rd October, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    You know the phrases I love because I told you (well, I actually love all of this). But more than the phrases, the face and person behind them.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Yes, Amy – you are definitely the Queen of the Messy Middle! I’m so glad I have you hanging out in the middle with me. (Maybe we should sing that song ‘stuck in the middle with you’??) Thank you, friend

  3. Michele Morin 20th October, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    Yes, Tanya, this is golden, because the truth is that we all are living in the messy middle. If we demand resolution of our problems and instant gratification from God on this earth, we are certainly going to end up in the midst of a “spiritual tantrum” (love that term), because it is the nature of God to do most things very slowly — and sometimes not at all, at least on this planet.
    Always blessed by your words!

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele. And, oh yes! God does do things very slowly – it’s a really interesting concept to ruminate on.

  4. Mark Allman 20th October, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    Tanya
    While stories of people being healed or having their prayers answered in a special way leads me to praise God they don’t necessarily inspire me. To know someone who struggles with tough issues and still clings to God and their faith is inspirational. People like you who shine out of their darkness to positively impact others are in a way miraculous. I dare say this miracle in the making by God and you can have a greater impact than a one time miracle. Tanya I know your reach and impact is world wide and in huge part is due to how you have dealt with your struggles with such grace in the face of not being healed.

    You rock as an ambassador for those who struggle and cling to God in face of unanswered prayer.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Thank you so much, Mark, for this hugely affirming comment. I also admire those who struggle with tough issues daily and still seem to cling to God – there are so many around when we stop to look. I am so grateful for your continued encouragement and friendship. Thank you

  5. Stephani Adkins 20th October, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    Thank you, Tanya. …Your words resonate.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Thank you so much for reading – I’m really glad that it is resonating with you.

  6. Rebecka 20th October, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    “God hasn’t been closer to me in my time of suffering; I haven’t been any holier. It’s just been hard.” <— Yes, yes, yes. This it absolutely what it feels like!

    Sometimes I can’t help wondering what it is that I’m not doing or learning as if as soon as I’m holy enough God will heal me. Then I start worrying that I’ve made an idol out of being healed and that that’s the reason it hasn’t happened. I have to keep reminding myself that God isn’t waiting for me to be perfect and healing isn’t a reward for good behaviour. (Just as illness isn’t a punishment.) And no matter what happens, He is still good.

    Thank you for sharing your messy middle story. It is indeed brave and it has meant a lot to me and I’m sure to many, many others.

    P.s. This post on Prodigal magazine was how I first found my way to your blog and you were the first person who also had ME that I connected with and I’m so, so glad I did. Much love. x

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. “I have to keep reminding myself that God isn’t waiting for me to be perfect and healing isn’t a reward for good behaviour. (Just as illness isn’t a punishment.) And no matter what happens, He is still good.” – Yes. And Yes. and YES. I know you are not a blogger, Rebecka, but I always find such thoughtful wisdom and maturity in your words.

      And I am SO GLAD!! that I posted in Prodigal and thereby found you! Didn’t know that’s how we ‘met’! 🙂

  7. adrian tremblay 20th October, 2015 at 5:38 am #

    I love your honesty on this subject Tanya. I recently told my story of suffering in a book along with some other women, SACRED SUFFERING. since its release the enemy has being doing a number on me, such as ” my life was hard and still is hard. the fallout from my hubands stroke stinks, my beloved son is still on drugs and iam still depressed. Where is the victory, my stories is a joke!” I know its a lie. The truth is, life is hard, God is faithful, his ways are higher than mine and I will love and serve him even if things don’t change. that’s the victory!

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Thank you so much. It sounds like you are having to deal with so much all at once – but I am so glad you were able to tell your story. There is such power in being honest about our stories, isn’t there? Thank you.

  8. Rachel 19th October, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

    Hi Tanya,
    So glad to have found this post and therefore to have found your blog. I look forward to reading more and getting to know you and your story better. I relate very much to what you share here. Healing can be a difficult and painful issue for those of us who are Christians and know that healing can happen, but are currently not experiencing it. I live with Relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis and with infertility. There are times when comments about healing, or lack of it, have been the most painful thing about it all. So glad that we have a God who has no problem with us being real. Thanks for being real in this post.
    Rachel

    • Tanya 9th November, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – these past two weeks have been crazy. Dear Rachel – I am so glad you found my blog! I love your blog, and really appreciate you stopping by. “There are times when comments about healing, or lack of it, have been the most painful thing about it all.” – I totally get that. Thank you for being real along with me.

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