"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season." (2 Timothy 4:2a, NIV 2011).
A young Christian surgeon from the Northeast (whom I will call Jason) phoned me last night and told me the story of one of his patients. This middle-aged woman had presented with an advanced, but not hopeless malignancy. She had once been Jewish but had given up her faith in God when her husband died young. From the beginning of his care, Jason encouraged her to understand that God was in charge. When he had asked if she would like to invite God into her illness, she immediately agreed, so he prayed with her.
Jason and patient and God had been visibly working together with an initial great response to therapy.
Now it looks as if the cancer has returned and will someday take her life. Rather than letting God slip out of the picture and assume that He had failed his patient, Jason continues to pray with her. She does not yet embrace God, but she is pondering His possible presence. This week, in fact, she was passing a church and decided to enter. She told Jason that the priest had provided for her a moment of peace. "You see," Jason told her, "God loves you and has shown himself for your comfort."
One of the reasons I admire this doctor so much is that he let God handle His own defense. So often I pray with a patient for God's healing, but when it becomes clear that God has chosen not to heal, I become silent, trying to let God slip out the back door so the patient won't be angry with "the God who failed."
God never fails. His purpose is far more profound than the requests we make of Him.
His work in the lives of my patients is so much greater than my understanding that I am both naïve and foolish to slink away from my witness when their prayers for healing are not granted. In my own life, God sometimes grants me my greatest desires and sometimes does not. But He never quits working in my life. Why should I believe He would quit with someone else?
When Jesus walked the earth, He touched and healed because He loved, and so should we. However, the ultimate work of our Lord on earth was greater than the touching and healing; his ultimate work was the cross. God's greatest purpose in the lives of our patients is the transformation of their lives so that they might come home again. Within that great purpose, grounded in love, sometimes He heals and sometimes He does not.
God does not need me to defend His decisions. He is big enough to do that on His own.
Help me to continually bring you into my patients' presence, whether or not you choose to heal.