While Jesus was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. – Luke 5:12-16 [ESV]
Yesterday I wrote, “I believe it is God’s will to heal. In every single case. Every. Single. Case. I base that on God’s expressed will that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. And in heaven there is no sickness, illness, disease, death, or sin of any kind. So it’s not a matter of if God wills someone to be healed. It’s a matter of when…and of faith.” And I promised to deal with that today. So here goes…
On the one hand it’s really easy. I’ve already explained it above. When we pray for healing, we do not have to say, “If it is your will.” For we know it is God’s ultimate will. For all people. For God, “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) And salvation is ultimately experienced in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
This is a mystery promised in 1 Corinthians 15:42-43: What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
If we are saved – and we have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) – we will be raised. Our perishable bodies will be raised imperishable. I’ve already promised a wheel-chair-confined brother in Christ, that we’ll have a race down the garden path in heaven. That will be a sweet moment. My achy shoulder, artificial knee and hip, and whatever else is not 100% perfect will be 100% perfect in the life of the world to come.
That’s all well and good. Truly good. But there remains these moments and days. Our beloved daughter-in-law died of cancer. My own sister succumbed to it too. My dad succumbed to the same disease 37 years ago. Friends have been taken from us by this terrible covid disease. Children and pregnant mothers have been brutally wounded and killed in Ukraine. Certainly prayers are going up for them even now!
“How long, O Lord?” writes the David. (Psalm 13:1) “Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Jesus himself tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But we are not looking only for relief from our troubles this side of eternity. We are looking toward the perfect and complete culmination of our redemption in the life of the world to come. As we wait we may still pray, thy will be done, knowing that god’s ultimate will is pure, perfect, good, and gracious.
To all this I guess I’m with C.S. Lewis, when asked about his seemingly unanswered prayers in behalf of his wife who died of cancer. When pushed on this issue, he said, “I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” And I surely do need to be changed…and I will, along with all those who wait for Jesus, we will be changed, in the blink of an eye. Peterson paraphrases it well:
But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. – 1 Corinthians 15:51ff