When Faith Heals and When It Doesn’t

August 24, 2019

Acts 14:8-10 (in context)

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.


Today we see something that is all at once profoundly encouraging yet deeply disconcerting. The scene has been re-enacted countless thousands of times by evangelists and faith healers and the like. I have met the victims too many times. They went forward at some kind of crusade or meeting for some kind of demonstrable healing and it didn’t happen. The blame always comes back to the lack of faith on the part of the person seeking help. And it is devastating, abusive, and should not be tolerated.

On the other hand, faith matters. Remember, Jesus either could not or did not do any miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith. So many times the Bible takes pains to recognize the faith of the one being healed as instrumental in the process. What gives here? Is healing a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit or does healing depend on the faith of the one seeking it? While I don’t understand it, I think the answer is yes.

What if one characteristic of the “faith” to be healed is the capacity to abandon oneself to God no matter the outcome? I don’t mean that “hedge your bets” way of praying things like, “If it’s your will, please heal him or her.” I’m talking about the “full court press” kind of faith that boldly asks for and even claims healing in the name of Jesus without if’s and buts and other stated contingencies. At the same time, this quality of faith is prepared for any eventuality, because faith is not placed in a particular outcome but in the ultimate goodness of God. While it is never beyond God’s power to heal, sometimes the brokenness of a situation can be so complex that it just doesn’t happen.

While miracles are normal in the Kingdom of God, they are also exceptional. Kind of like grand slams in baseball, miracles are not the norm (else we wouldn’t call them miracles).

While it was helpful for the man in Lystra that day, I think it might have been more helpful to us if the demonstrative miracle had not happened. What would Paul have done then? (W.W.P.D?) My hunch is it happened all the time—the miracle didn’t come through, and that’s just not news.

To put a closing thought on this conundrum I’ve created here, I believe healing has as much to do with the love of the healers than it does the faith of the one seeking to be healed. Whether the cancer goes away or not, where there is great love, miracles always happen.

I have written this with a family on my mind whose 18 year old diamond of a son came down with cancer. They prayed and prayed and the depth of faith and love present in the community held mountain moving potential. And he died. From my vantage point, the real miracle was the eternal quality of life exuding from the sick son. The never-give-up-come-what-may hope in this man was palpable. I experienced it and never met him. In the end, though, the miracle didn’t happen . . . and yet it did and keeps on. I’ll bet it’s stirring you right now.




How do you sort out this conundrum of faith and love and healing and not?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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