”I left Trophimus sick at Miletus.”

Last week was another tough week. I visited the sister-in-law of a good friend. She was dying of cancer. My friend is a Christian and so are the patient’s three sons. Much prayer had been offered in faith. But no healing had been forthcoming.

I also met up with an old friend and mentor from seminary days. I last saw him in ’87. We talked about common friends and Christian ministers that we knew. Almost all the names we mentioned were people who had undergone very painful circumstances. These were all people of faith backed up by communities of faith. Again, God had not always intervened to heal in answer to prayer.

Even in the Scriptures, there were times when the apostle Paul had to accept that people he prayed for, were not healed. Trophimus was one such example (2 Timothy 4:20). Just what is God up to?

Some preliminary convictions come to mind.

1. God’s overall desire is for healing and wholeness.
This is very clear from the beginning of the bible, Genesis 1 and 2, before sin enters the picture. Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God, with each other, and with creation. No hint here of illness and death, no broken relationships or emotional problems. God’s desire for wholeness is also very clear from the end of the bible, Revelation 21 and 22, when the new creation has been completed. Then there will be ”no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4b NLT).

2. Therefore we should actively pray for healing when we encounter brokenness and disease.
James 5: 13-18 specifically instructs us to pray for the suffering and the sick. There is no question that broken bodies, broken relationships, broken emotions, etc. are not things that God desires. Indeed Christ died to remove sin and the effects of sin ( 1 Peter 2:24). Hence these things shall be no more when the events of Revelation 21 and 22 occur. In the meantime we call upon God to intervene and heal broken people and broken relationships, as demonstrations of the reality of the in breaking Kingdom of God.

3. However, there are times when God chooses not to intervene.
Like poor Trophimus, so sick that Paul had to leave him behind. And Paul himself had to come to terms that God was not going to intervene to remove the ”thorn in his flesh” whatever it was (2 Corinthians 12: 1-10). But God had a reason for not intervening. God wanted to use Paul’s weakness to humble Paul and to teach him to depend on His grace. And poor Job had no clue whatsoever why the Lord did not deliver him from his many horrendous afflictions. As a devout man he would have prayed regularly. But God did not intervene in answer to his prayers. Though God did restore his fortunes in the end.

We have to conclude then, that though God”s ultimate desire is healing and wholeness, there are times, this side of heaven, that He chooses not to intervene to heal for His own higher purposes.

4. Whatever happens we continue to exercise faith and love.
What do we do then when confronted with human brokenness? We pray for healing. What happens if healing doesn’t come? We seek the Lord and ask Him what He is up to, why He doesn’t choose to intervene. What if He doesn’t choose to tell us? We continue to trust Him believing that He knows what He is doing and that He is working out His purposes in history and in our lives. And that a day will surely come when His Kingdom will come in its fullness.

In the meantime we continue to love the broken hearted, doing what we can, while waiting upon the Lord to do what only He can.