Healing today – what to expect?

Last updated on May 1, 2020

Healing today - what to expect?

I am deaf in my right ear. I have read Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24 which say “with his wounds we are healed.” I have prayed, and am believing in this. Others have prayed for me too, but my right ear is still not functioning. It feels like the word of God is true, but not manifesting in my life. Why? Please give me a good answer for this situation. Thank you.

One of the hardest things my wife and I find about marriage is when we don’t meet each other’s expectations. When my wife doesn’t do what I thought she was going to do, I tend to react in one of two ways: either I think “What’s wrong with her?” or “What’s wrong with me?”

Relationship like a marriage

The Bible describes our relationship with God, and particularly with Jesus, like a marriage (e.g. Hosea 1-3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:6-10). We are the bride and He is the husband. All of us have expectations about how our husband should behave and treat us, and just like in my own marriage if God doesn’t meet our expectations we tend to react in one of two ways: “What’s wrong with God, isn’t He trustworthy?” or “What’s wrong with me, don’t I have enough faith?”

In fact, this instinctive feeling that God is (or should be) our husband is so hard-wired into who we are, that I’ve found even atheists behave in this way! If life doesn’t go the way they want or expected, they will instinctively ask “What’s wrong with the world?” or “What’s wrong with me?”

People can feel let down by God

In my experience of pastoral ministry, healing is perhaps the one area more than any other where I’ve found people can feel let down by God. It’s certainly an area I’ve struggled with personally. When I was a teenager, I had problems with my teeth. At a Christian holiday I went to every summer, I was given the strong expectation that God would heal me. But despite lots of people praying, and some even claiming to prophesy in Jesus’ name, God has never healed that particular problem. For a long time I struggled with the dual feeling both that God had let me down, and that I was doing something wrong.

But over time, the Bible has helped me see that my expectation of God’s promises was both too small and too soon.

Expectations too small

My expectations of God’s promises were too small because they were only about God physically healing my teeth, but Isaiah 53:4-5 tells me to expect so much more. Isaiah says that the suffering servant “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” and that “with his wounds we are healed.” This applies to every single physical problem I have: big problems like cancer or disability; small problems like mouth ulcers or chapped lips; embarrassing problems like sexually transmitted diseases or impotency; even problems we now consider “normal” problems of ageing like wrinkling, going grey, and death. All of these are physical results of the fall, of the entry of sin into the world which brings death (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-25; Romans 5:12).

God’s promises are even bigger

But God’s promises are even bigger still! He promises to undo every consequence of the fall, not just physical ones. Being “healed” of our “infirmities” also refers to God healing our sick hearts, which are full of hatred and sin. In fact it is this aspect of healing that is more on Peter’s mind when he quotes Isaiah in 1 Peter 2:24. Peter explains this quote in the next verse: “FOR you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25). In other words, we are no longer lost sheep because we have been healed of our sinful rebellion. That’s why we can be submissive to authority, which is what 1 Peter 2:13-25 is all about.

When I got upset because God wasn’t healing my teeth, the problem was my expectations were too small because God promises to heal so much more than that.

Fulfilled in the future

But my expectations of God’s promises were also too soon. If God’s promises are so huge that He promises I would experience no sickness at all, nor ever die, then obviously these promises can only be fully fulfilled in the future, in the New Creation, when Jesus returns to make the whole world new (Revelation 21:4). The New Testament leads me not to necessarily expect healing in this life, since my “outer nature is wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16). While there are descriptions of God doing extraordinary miracles, for example through Paul (Acts 19:11-12), the reason Luke describes them as extraordinary is precisely because he doesn’t expect them to happen ordinarily! Someone as godly as Timothy had to live with a stomach problem and “frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23). And even though God did amazing things through Paul, when he prayed for healing he didn’t always receive it. He tells the Corinthians this was all part of God’s plan to keep him humble and weak so that God could use him mightily (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

Having the right expectations

It’s great to ask God for things, like healing. But sometimes God says yes, and sometimes God says no. When God’s servants suffer, that is often when God is using them or preparing them to do amazing things for his kingdom (just look at Jesus, for example).

When my wife and I don’t meet each others expectations, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her or me, it’s often because we need to learn to change our expectations. We need to be transformed. Similarly, I don’t think it’s very helpful the way some Christians can give me false expectations about my marriage with God. When He doesn’t do what I expect him to, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with Him or with my faith, but is there something wrong with my expectations?

From living the Bible out in my experience, I now expect God to keep me weak, so that He can make me strong, and over time I’ve learnt to be more and more grateful that He does that. Praise him for being a God of grace.

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