“A leper came to [Jesus} and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately.” (Mark 1:40-42)
All of the Gospels report stories of Jesus’ great compassion for the poor, the sick, the blind and the lame as he taught and ministered to the people of Galilee. Yet, we know from scripture that not everyone was healed. We also know from our own experience that many people experience illness and other adversities, prayers are offered, and the adversity appears to continue.
Why are some people healed in response to prayer and others appear not to be? Maybe a better question is what is God doing in this particular situation or need?
St. Paul says, “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope.” (Ro. 5:3-4) James tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-4)
Our life experiences also teach us that we grow more in our trials than we do in our consolations and successes. God often uses adversity to draw us closer to him. He often uses final illnesses to bring us into his presence.
A number of years ago, I was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer. My wife, children and friends prayed for my healing. My treatment included surgery to remove the prostate followed by three years of hormone therapy. The surgery revealed that the cancer had migrated outside the prostate to at least one lymph node. One of my friends, who himself was suffering from renal cell carcinoma, prayed for me several times including in the pre-op room after persuading the nurse that he was my brother [Christian, that is].
While he and I were good friends and Christian brothers before my cancer, we became particularly close afterwards. We now shared a similar adversity that could be potentially life threatening. I prayed for him and he prayed for me. When we were together our conversation often took on deeper meaning.
A couple of years later he died. I am still alive. We could ask why, but again, the better question might be what was God doing with us? Perhaps my friend was ready to come into God’s presence, and I was not. These are mysteries for which we will never know the answer in this life, “for who has known the mind of the Lord?” (1 Co. 2:16, NIV)
While we may never know why God responds in different ways to different circumstances, we can know by faith that out of his great compassion and love he “wills” to do what is best for us long term.
How has God used adversity in your life to draw you closer to him?