(Originally posted at ClobberBlog)
My first post on the matter attempted to cover several things: namely, when it comes to miraculous workings of the Spirit, I have the heart of a believer and the mind of a skeptic. I believe in the possibility of speaking in tongues in the modern day, but so far I have not seen firsthand an example that I could not debunk. I believe in the possibility of miraculous healing, but so far I have not seen someone healed to the extent that science can not explain it. I’ve heard about limbs growing and cancer vanishing and people with deformed body parts being restored, but I have never personally seen it.
The Spirit Moving?
When I came home for the summer after my first semester at BYU, there were plenty of charismatic happenings in the college group of my aforementioned Presbyterian church. There was much talk of the power of prayer and miracles and driving out demons. I went on a mission trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and on one evening one of the other young women on the mission with me was praying face-down on a couch in our condo and seemed to stay that way. We all tried to rouse her and she was completely unresponsive. She was obviously not asleep as you could hear her whispering, but she would not take her face out of her hands or talk to us. We all went to bed not sure what to do, and she was fine the next morning. She claimed she had stayed like that for hours, physically unable to move from the spot, because God had been talking to her.
How did I feel about this? On the spiritual side of things, I need to say that I believe my friend. I don’t understand it completely, but suffer it to say that I trusted this woman completely and if she said it was God’s doing, I believe her. On the skeptical side of things though, I saw a woman laying on a couch for a few hours. Hardly a miraculous thing. So my heart and my mind tell me different things.
The Failures of Faith Healing
At our Presbyterian church there was a little girl who was maybe three or four named Anjulee, a beautiful girl with long, curly, bouncing blond hair. Her mom was a single mother and a faithful member, and she loved Anjulee. Her daughter meant the world to her. Poor Anjulee had a rare form of childhood brain cancer though. The doctors had made it clear that, short of a miracle, Anjulee did not have much time left.
Those of us in the college youth group got together, and we prayed for Anjulee, very charismatically. We commanded her to be healed. We commanded demons to come out of her. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed, and I was sure God would hear us and heal Anjulee. She had to live. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, and she wasn’t even my kid.
God did not heal Anjulee. Time went by and Anjulee died. The beautiful little girl who bounced up and down along our church’s pews was no more. And it hurt all of us. I went back to college in Utah and tried to leave the pain of losing Anjulee behind me, but trust me, thinking about it still hurts.
When God Lets You Down
So what do us believers tell ourselves when our prayers for healing do not work? Well, there’s really only two answers. Some folks will tell you that it’s your own damn fault because you did not have enough faith. These are the people you have to try hard not to laugh at when they themselves get sick and aren’t healed, because while it’s not funny that they’re sick, they did kind of set themselves up for that.
And the other answer is, God let it happen because he wanted it to happen and he had a deeper purpose for it. I mean hey, the Bible says that Jesus deliberately let Lazarus die so that he could show up after the fact and perform the miracle of raising him from the dead, and if that’s the case, surely God lets other people die for other reasons. So this is the one we usually tell ourselves. But sometimes you hear it so much that it does little to stop the pain of losing the one you love.
There’s a song by the O.C. Supertones that talks about this, called “Wilderness”. You can listen to it via the music video on YouTube here if you want, but these are the lyrics:
The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked
Mine is not to reason why this is
In this I rest in this I find my refuge
That my thoughts and ways are not His
I spend my life on looking up the answers
It’s rare that I can’t find a reason why
But reasons fail at children without mothers
His plan is more than I can know
Have you ever held in doubt
What this life is all about
Have you questioned all these things that seem important to us
Do you really wanna know
Or are you a little scared
You’re afraid that God is not exactly what you’d have Him be
What should I hold to and what should I do
How do I know if anything’s true
I’m somewhere in between Canaan and Egypt
A place called the wilderness
I’m not one who always trusts their feelings
I don’t believe in what you’d call blind faith
But faith that You can do all that You promised
And You said it all works for good
It’s safe to say I don’t see the big picture
I can’t see the forest for the trees
And if five hundred lives
Were mine to get to know You
All could be spent on just this
God, do You really understand
What it’s like to be a man
Have You ever felt the weight of
loving all the things you hate
Have You struggled have You worried
How can You sympathize
I have spoken too soon
Put my hand over my mouth
I can’t contend with You
Your ways are so much higher
And we pass through the fire that
Christ endured before us
When You were in the wilderness
My next entry will talk about my recent experience in Silverton, Oregon and conclude this series for now.