Last weekend I attended a celebration, where Christians from many churches in this city joined together to praise and worship God and support one another. During the meeting we prayed for one another, and a lovely man prayed for healing for me from my stroke. He called on a loving God, and claimed the promise that Christ's suffering heals us (Isaiah 53:5). I gave my 'Amen' to the prayer, but I don't entirely agree.
No one likes to see someone suffer, and it is a blessing to be able pray for them. There are indeed promises about healing, but claiming them too readily leads to disappointment. How do we reconcile unanswered prayer with a loving God who would not want unnecessary suffering?
For me, the key word is 'unnecessary'. Through my stroke, God has changed my character and given me many blessings I could not otherwise have had. God uses suffering to break down our defences and get rid of bad characteristics in us. He uses it to test us and build new, good characteristics into us. Who am I to determine that He has finished that work?
Sometimes the work that God does through suffering is not only in the life of the sufferer. There are the carers, the family, others who look on and wonder why. What is God doing in their lives? When we pray for healing, we cannot know the greater plan. We ask God to end the suffering, to heal the hurt. But we must bow to His will and trust Him to know best.
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