When Healing is Selective

I read this morning about Joni Erickson Tada’s recurrence of cancer being all cleared. Last week, I read about Anne Graham’s cancer shrinking so much that they believe she is healed. 

Two beautiful, humble, global women of God with a mission to live out the gospel faithfully.

I read their happy ending stories and I weep. I weep for my little, struggling faith. I weep for all the ways I prayed and hoped and believed and pleaded for God to heal my young sister. He could have done it for her, too. Instead of 4 months to live with cancer, God could have multiplied them into 4 decades. And yet, He chose not to. In His good sovereignty, and for reasons we don’t know, He chose to allow treatments to be unsuccessful and cancer to take her life.

My sister may not have had the globe as a platform, or books as her missional outreach, but she had Jesus, too. Her platform was her life as a wife and mother, her outreach was her city and church. She was very much locally “global” to us. 

I stare at these two women’s social media accounts, skimming the accolades and multi-colored emojis. And I am silent. I want to add smiley emoticons of celebration, and heart-filled GIFs of victorious miracles and yet, I sit in sadness. I’m being exposed to the reality of processing other people’s cancer victories with as much intentional gospel-focus as I did when my sister passed. I feel an internal warfare arising at seeing others healed, when my loved one did not make it passed the disease. 

My fingers roam the keyboard and the shelves of emojis while I am trying to make sense of why I feel the way I do. Though the comments on these women’s posts are multiplying with thunderous worship of our God, my comment line remains empty…

I’m processing a million thoughts and emotions at once. I’m lost in screening them through the personal, cultural, spiritual layers of realities surrounding me and my laptop at this time. I watch myself going in opposite directions. I know I’m still me. But this me is many at once. I hear myself question the equality of God’s love for his children: Does God love these women more because they must be more faithful since they are globally known? I waver in worshiping His hand so evidently present in their healing: Why should I celebrate their victory when all we’ve received is the bad end of the deal?

It’s evident from their lives that these women seek nothing but God glorified. And I’m convinced their worship would have been just as magnified if their bodies were not healed of cancer. What’s even more evident is that I am experiencing a personal, inner confrontation of self in light of others’ victories. Have you ever watched others receiving what you have been denied?

Maybe it is human to notice the discrepancies. But what makes it godly is how we train our hearts and minds to respond to how our self feels and thinks. My only comfort is turning to the heart of God in the Bible where the truth of His breathed words shape how I view others’ victories. 

Left to my own confused thoughts, I might embrace the lie that God loves other Christians more. But His own clear Word says otherwise. God loves us not based on our popularity on earth or our faithful devotion to Him, but based on His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. “No one is good, no, not one.” Jesus is the one good reason for our lives being made gloriously new in the sight of a holy, living God. No amount of earthly achievements can buy anyone’s favor with God. Only Jesus’ death on the cross provides everyone who believes in Him life eternal with God. Not only did God love my sister in Christ eternally, but He loves these women just as much, too. To separate God’s love—like a game of dice for the Savior’s clothes—is to denigrate the heart of gospel. It is to take the cruciform love of Jesus for all believers alike, and commercialize it into a prosperity love of the glamorous worldly fame. Thank God the gospel cannot be perverted to such sacrilegious lows of human merits!

If I can make myself at home in my inward self, I’d create a culture in tune with only how I feel, and not with what God says. I’d erect monuments of self-empowerment and altars of autonomous, me-centered reality. I’d sever ties with God’s people who remind me that my “self” is not the most important part of me. I’d ostracize anyone whose words remind me that God’s banner on my life pulls me away from selfish obsession into glorious, heavenly adoration. But thank God I’m not alone in my grievous battles! God’s people, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word call me out on my idolatry of self. They direct me with heavenly power to join in worship and adoration of the Lord who heals the sick and binds the wounded. I can worship God’s healing hand in the lives of others simply because He is Lord of all and He can. To withhold praising God because I did not get what I asked of Him, is a symptom of a hardened heart and an unhealthy love. Besides, God’s unchanging character attests to His working in every Christian life for His glory, at all times, and through all peoples.

The healings around me are merciful testaments of the God I serve and of the heavenly place Christians long for. Randy Alcorn wrote “What we love about this life are the things that resonate with the life we were made for. The things we love are not merely the best this life has to offer—they are previews of the greater life to come.” Body healings—even in people I don’t know—should serve as a reminder of the eternal life where all Christians will walk in eternal healing. Healings—even when our loved ones never get one—should propel us to re-examine our earthly living and dying in light of the gospel “for to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The empty comment line on their posts begs for my response. I may wait awhile before I post my praise and congratulations. In my waiting, I am finding that the most significant reply is really not on their posts. In fact, it doesn’t matter to them or anyone else how I feel about their healing. Truth is, the greatest reply I make—be it unpublished yet—is already viewed by my Lord. God reads my comment in my heart and He certainly takes interest in refining my theology of seeing others prosper even when I am not. Behind my keyboard, my own kind of healing may have begun. One that involves looking at people’s healings through the frames of Heaven—giving God glory for all that He is accomplishing in our lives (global or local) on our way home.


1 Comment

  1. Anca, this was so profound and touched on so much of what I have tried to understand over the past six years. My grief was not because of cancer but suicide. My precious nephew, Joey, the only son of my only sibling, choose to leave this world the day after his 19th birthday. He was more like my grandson than nephew. We had many hours of sitting at Orange leaf talking about his life, his dreams, his challenges. Never did he give me any indication of the struggles he was enduring under the surface. Joey was a Christian, appeared happy, and knew how he was loved. We talked about his legacy, how he was prayed for by the generations. But somewhere in those take, I missed any cries for help. The Lord knows I would not have missed an opportunity to try and walk with Joey through whatever he was experiencing… but I never knew. I’ve had to struggle with Joey’s pain and especially the pain of my brother and why I wasn’t allowed to”rescue him*. But I cling to Psalms 139 that good knew Joey’s days even before he was born. He knew that fateful day would come and I trust with all my heart that Jesus’precious hand reached out to Joey as he entered Heaven’s gates. My heart has forever been changed and I have a sensitivity that I didn’t have before….but still long to understand what I’ll never grasp. Grief is so present but through prayer and God’s Word, I find His peace “that passeth all understanding” and for that I am so very thankful. God is being glorified through you and your writing. My love and prayers for Grace and peace.

Comments are closed.