Imagine you’re dealing with a serious physical illness or injury that’s life-changing in some way. You recognize God’s sovereignty, yet naturally, you want to be healed of it. So you pray faithfully for healing. You remain steadfast in faith. You prioritize your spiritual well-being, but also use the gift of medicine that God has provided.
And yet, you’re still waiting for God to answer. He hasn’t said no to your pleas for healing — but He hasn’t said yes either. So now what?
Do you get overwhelmed with the seeming delay? Shrug your shoulders and “grin and bear it”? Retreat into some hiding place, whether books or movies or shopping therapy? Make demands of God to heal you now?
None of those things will help! We don’t need to sit around doing nothing, but we don’t need to stress about doing everything either.
1. Keep Your Heart Pure Before God.
None of us will be perfect until eternity; therefore, continual confession of sin is necessary for our prayers to be heard. The psalmist wrote: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” God cannot abide the presence of sin, and He turns His face away from those who continually dwell in sin. Fellowship with Him is broken, and communication with Him is rendered ineffective. Thus, we are responsible to seek His forgiveness and cleansing when we commit sin. Only then can fellowship can be restored! Then, and only then, will He hear our supplications and pleas for help during times of trouble. Our daily prayer ought to be that of David’s in Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
2. Be Continually Surrendered to God’s Will.
He is our Master Potter, and we are merely clay in His hands. He determines what shape we will take. As we surrender to Him, He will fashion us into the shape which best accomplishes His purposes, not merely whatever shape is easiest for us to live. He is our Creator: He has the right to make with us what He desires! God chooses to remove our afflictions only when it will most glorify His name and proclaim His deity, not according to our sense of comfort.
3. Patiently Rest in Him.
The first chapter of James reminds us trials produce patience, or steadfast endurance, and endurance brings forth completeness in Christ. The final chapter of James reminds us of the prophets and Job, who remained patient through suffering, waiting uncomfortably but peacefully for God’s perfect resolution in His perfect time. They experienced God’s goodness and mercy as a result of their faith and obedience! The psalmist also exhorts us to rest steadfastly in God: “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
4. Remain Steadfast in Thanksgiving.
Even while we wait expectantly for God’s healing touch, we are to rejoice evermore and give thanks in everything.We can do all these things because He is faithful, and will not tempt or try us beyond what we can handle — with His help, of course! We are not expected to carry the weight on our own: whether He provides healing or allows continued suffering, He will never lead us to a situation which we cannot survive by His grace. Keep cultivating a “gratitude attitude” and you’ll be surprised how it lightens the burden! Today, no matter what storms are raging around me, choose to give thanks to the God you serve.
5. Continue Faithfully in Prayer.
So often, we assume God always heals instantly. When He does not, we stop praying for healing. We get tired of repeatedly asking for the same thing, and stop praying. Or we see some small progress in our health, and stop praying. Or we simply get busy with life and other concerns, and stop praying.
However, we are to pray without ceasing and according to the principles in God’s Word until we perceive His answer — whether it’s a yes or a no. For instance, after Paul prayed several times about his thorn in the flesh, he received a definite answer to stop seeking healing: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” God clearly indicated his infirmity would not be healed! To continue praying for healing beyond that point would have showed unbelief in God’s answer, and a lack of trust in His grace. It would have been sinful.
We must also pray without ceasing for other believers, bearing their burdens before the throne of God. This particular type of intercession is exemplified throughout the New Testament, as many men and women were healed from affliction as a direct result of the apostles’ intercession. Eutychus fell out of a third-story window and was presumed dead, yet Paul prayed over him and he began to regain strength. Peter was delivered from prison because earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. John even records a prayer for his brother Gaius to be in good health. We, too, are to pray for the spiritual and physical well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ!
6. Remain Steadfast in Faith and Sound Doctrine.
As we continue in this sinful world, where man ever attempts his own path to God, we are certain to discover even more false teachings and sinful practices. We know from Scripture that many will part from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. And John teaches us that many antichrists have come already!
We must constantly be on guard to discern truth from error, and refute whatever (or whoever) contradicts God’s Word! We must test every possibility against the truth of God’s Word. We must try every new claim against the promises and commands of God’s timeless truth. We are must be diligent to not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Remember: even when God does choose to heal, it does not always take place instantly. How will you spend that time waiting?
Learn more about this topic in my book, Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering. See especially Appendix C, “Practical Suggestions for Dealing with Illness.” Visit the website to learn more, download the free study guide, and find related reading recommendations. Or buy your own copy of the book here!