Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Joni Eareckson Tada's new book, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty, (David C. Cook Publishing, 2010).
It's natural to desire healing when you're suffering from any illness or injury. The pain and frustration of not having a healthy body can be intense. So you pray for relief. You believe that God can heal you if He chooses to, as He does for others sometimes. But what if no healing comes your way? Does that mean you don't have enough faith to be healed?
Don't assume so. Many people with great faith never receive the healing they hope God will give them. Instead, God chooses to keep them physically afflicted to accomplish a greater purpose for them and those who care for them. If you've prayed for physical healing but haven't gotten better, you can always keep asking God to heal you, if it's His will, at the right time. But you can do much more - even if you never experience healing. Here's what you can do when God chooses not to heal you:
Accept the pain and embrace God through it. Don't fight against this pain that God has allowed into your life. Instead, accept it and ask God to give you the strength to go through it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to thank Him for His love for you in all circumstances. Keep in mind that, when you reach out for God, He'll meet you wherever you are and embrace you.
Break free of shame. Don't let people make you feel bad about yourself because they think your illness or injury is a result of a lack of faith on your part. Rest assured that only God really knows how much faith you have, so other people's judgments shouldn't matter to you. Acknowledge the reality that God reserves the right to heal you or not, as He sees fit - no matter how much faith you have. Express your faith by praying for healing and then trusting God to respond however and whenever He chooses, according to what He knows is best. A person who can trust God to do what's best rather than trying to manipulate Him is someone who does have faith.
Ask God to make His desires your desires. Pray for God to replace your self-centered desires with His own desires for your life, which will result in greater good. As a result, you'll experience peace even when you're suffering.
Discover the benefits of your suffering. Suffering can: turn you away from a dangerous path of sin that you would have headed down otherwise, remind you that your strength lies in the fact that God meets you in your weakness and empowers you, restore beautiful purity to your soul that you've lost while living in this fallen world, increase your thirst for Jesus alone to satisfy your longings, and increase the amount of good that you can contribute to God's kingdom.
Gain the strength to go on. Even when your suffering doesn't end, you can go on because God is with you every step of the way. Trust in His promises that He knows what you're going through, and that He cares. Keep in mind that God can use broken instruments like unhealthy bodies to make incomparable music. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can think encouraging thoughts that will help you go on. Remember that everything you choose to say and do has eternal consequences in the battles going on right now in the spiritual realm - so choose faithful words and actions while you're suffering.
Use your pain to bring God glory. While your illness or injury limits you, there's no limit to the amount of glory you can bring to God by choosing to trust Him in the middle of your pain. Live with gratitude for what each moment brings, acknowledging that every breath you breathe is a gift from God. Ask God to teach you whatever He wants you to learn through the suffering you're going through. Be humble and filled with childlike wonder about the world God has made and all you can continue to learn in it. Be eager to serve God wholeheartedly however He leads you to do so. Keep taking risks to keep going on adventures that God leads you to take.
Regain the right perspective on your circumstances when you become discouraged. Pray for encouragement whenever you need it, and God will give it to you. Refuse to focus on your fears. Instead, focus on God's constant presence with you and His promises to help you through any situation you face. Rather than dwelling on your own problems, learn more about how some other people are suffering and reach out beyond yourself to help them. Sing songs that praise God for His wonderful qualities that remain constant even when circumstances change. As you choose to act in faithful ways, you'll be able to view your situation as God sees it, and you'll experience the peace you need.
Find ultimate healing. Look forward to enjoying heaven, where you'll never suffer any physical problems again - and even better, where you'll never be weighed down by sin again.
Help others who are hurting. As a Christian, you're connected to your fellow believers in such a close way that your suffering is their suffering and their suffering is yours. Ask God to empower you to help carry the burdens of other believers you know who are in pain. Intercede for them in prayer, and meet whatever practical needs they have as God leads you.
Adapted from A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty, copyright 2010 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published by David C. Cook Publishing, Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com.
Joni Eareckson Tada is the founder and president of Joni and Friends, an organization accelerating Christian outreach in the disability community. An acclaimed artist and musician, Joni is also the author of nearly 50 books and a popular speaker around the world. Joni and her husband, Ken, live in Southern California.
Publication date: September 22, 2010