“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you.” (2 Pet. 3:8-9)
“Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh…Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:16-17)
Much is taught, discussed, and debated about the issue of healing in the church. Entire denominations have been built around the dispensing of gifts, with healing being primary among them. Some hold to the notion that if we just had enough faith we would never succumb to illness, but there is far too much Scripture and personal experience that contradicts this to be credible. On the other side of the fence stand those who think the dispensing of God’s miracles of healing passed with Jesus, but there is far too much Scripture and personal witness contradicting to hold to that belief either.
As with all such debates of Scripture where the combatants can find valid scriptures to back up their conflicting beliefs, I think the truth stands in embracing balance rather than dogma. There is far too much emphasis put on the administration of gifts in the one camp, and far too little in the other. Both inevitably lead to disappointment at some point, because beliefs based upon part of the truth rather than all of it tend to bring us up short every time.
As the two verses above indicate, I believe the answer is a matter of phenomena: time and perspective. From the standpoint of time, God sees every circumstance surrounding our infirmities, uses them to bring about change in our lives, and also in the lives of those around us. How many stories have we heard about the life of one person being transformed by physical infirmities, and even death, they witness in the life of another? Are we not to be living testimonies of God’s presence and power, regardless of physical circumstance? Does God only use the good times in our lives to reveal Himself to others, or to us for that matter? Perhaps healing does not come when we want it to because how we deal with our infirmities is ministering to others, and it is better we remain ill for a time, or even pass, for both our sake and theirs than be healed.
As to perspective, do we view the issue of healing in the flesh only, or in the spirit? Which is more important? If our physical infirmity leads to spiritual healing, then is that not far better? If we “recognize no one according to the flesh” who is in Christ, then how are we to regard them but in the spirit? What is going to survive when life on this earth ends, and what is going to die? While there are certainly many issues in the Bible that can be debated, that suffering leads to many good things in the kingdom of heaven on earth is not one of them. The greatest event in history for our spiritual healing came at the expense of the greatest fleshly suffering ever endured by anyone: Jesus on the cross. Was His suffering alleviated? Were those wounds healed in the flesh? Conversely, what did Jesus’ understanding of the two kingdoms [spirit and flesh] do for all of us spiritually?
If we look at our healing the way Christ viewed His [over time His immediate suffering would prove the greatest redeeming event in history], with a view that from a kingdom perspective His suffering in the flesh had to happen, then we can truly see “by His stripes we are healed.” Indeed, there is truly some measure of healing in all of our infirmities. So, if we are healed in the flesh God is glorified, others are witnessed to, and it can serve to strengthen our faith that is good. If, on the other hand, we’re not healed in the flesh God is glorified, others are witnessed to, and it can serve to teach us patience and endurance, strengthening our spirit, that can also be good. It is all a matter of time and perspective, but either way God does indeed “work all things together for the good” if we continue to abide in Him through the process regardless of the outcome. If I might put a different spin on Paul’s words to the Philippians, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in body or spirit, Christ heals us. And in this I rejoice!”