Quick poll: Who could do without sickness or disease, entirely? It is inconvenient, humbling, unsettling, and it can be downright terrifying. Before the fall of man there was no sickness, pain, or death, so it follows that we would long for the days when our health is no longer a concern, or something to be maintained or protected.
But we live in a fallen world, and the reality of human frailty is too present for us to ignore—ignorance will only harm us further. Our deepest hope is that this world will not always be this way, and that God’s power is always greater than any bacteria, cancer, or virus. What wonderful grace we are given as beloved children, and heirs to whom God has left his Word. It ministers to us in our time of need and strengthens us for the times to come.
Here are 7 stories from the Bible that show God’s power over sickness, teach us about the true character of our healing God, and give us courage over fear.
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God’s Healing Power in the Old Testament
1. Miriam and Moses
Moses’s sister Miriam ended up with a case of leprosy when she and Aaron decided to oppose Moses and sought to lead in positions God had not designed for them. Even though he was betrayed, “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘Please, God, heal her!’ The LORD replied to Moses, ‘If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.’ So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back” (Numbers 12:13-15).
The beauty of this passage is in the sympathetic cry of Moses—he seeks out God on behalf of another, and God answers with mercy. This passage should lead us to ask ourselves: How have I been crying out for other people? What do my prayers look like as someone who has lived in and through times of pandemic? Are our societies willing to wait out sickness so that many can be brought back, or are we so concerned with our own schedules that we would leave the ailing behind?
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2. Elijah and the Widow's Son
God had miraculously provided for Elijah at the home of a widow who lived in Zarephath, but the joy was short lived because her son suddenly became ill, and died. The widow lamented and accused Elijah of bringing this sorrow to her home. He took the boy from his mother into a room and, “Then he cried out to the LORD, ‘LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’ Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, ‘LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’ The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (1 Kings 17:20-22).
While it’s easy for us to default to assigning blame in light of our suffering, this story not only shows God’s power over sickness, but over the worst part of sickness—death. Charles Swindoll encourages us in his book A Man of Heroism and Humility: Elijah, to remember that our God is “...’the God of impossibilities,’ the One who has limitless power, who has never—and will never—meet an intimidating obstacle He cannot overcome, an aggressive enemy He cannot overwhelm, a final decision He cannot override, or a powerful person He cannot overshadow. Because Elijah believed in “the God of impossibilities,”not even death caused him to doubt.”
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3. Elisha and Naaman
Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army and though he was a man of valor, leprosy did not discriminate and he became ill. His servant girl had heard of the prophet Elisha and suggested he seek out healing from this man of God. Naaman was desperate enough to make the trip, but when Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman with instructions on how to be healed, Naaman’s pride almost prevented his ability to receive healing from God. As he went away in anger, “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’ So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (2 Kings 5:13-14).
It is a frightening thought to think about how many times our own plans and expectations might get in the way of our seeing God move in miraculous ways. When we raise ourselves up too high, we ignore the simple instructions and admonitions of those God has sent to help us. When we are pleading to God for answers, we must take care not to be blinded by privilege and prejudice, but with humble hearts and seeking eyes wait for the instruction of our Lord.
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Christ’s Healing Power in the New Testament
In the gospels we see Jesus heal a multitude of people. Not all the healings are detailed, or counted for that matter, but over and over we see people bring their loved ones to Jesus for healing, seeking their own healing, and receiving healing. During a time when “pandemic” emerges as a common vocabulary word in homes across the world, what a relief it is to see Jesus has unquestionable authority over ailments and that his healing is extended to all generations.
4. Peter’s Mother In-Law (the Older Generation)
This story gives us a glimpse into Peter’s family life, and also shows Jesus’ care for the elderly. He cared personally about his disciples, as well as those who mattered to them. “Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them” (Luke 4:38-40).
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5. The Woman with the Issue of Blood and Jairus’s Daughter
Mark 5:21-43 tells the story of how two women’s lives become intertwined in the person of Jesus: an adult woman with an issue of blood and a twelve-year-old girl, both desperately in need of healing. Jesus was on his way to answer the plea of a Roman soldier, Jairus, who sought help for his dying daughter, when a woman who the doctors could not help reached for Jesus’ robe with great hope, “because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:28-29).
Jesus stopped to talk to her and tell her that her great faith had healed her. He then proceeded to the household of Jairus after being told the girl had died, though it quickly becomes clear that Jesus has other plans in mind for the young woman: “he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around” ( Mark 5:40-42).
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6. The Apostles
Jesus granted his spirit to those who believed in his name and trusted in him for salvation. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples continued in the work of preaching the good news and many began to believe. They not only saw conversions but also a great display of the power of God working through his children, “... people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed” (Acts 5:15-16).
All of them were healed. When death is too frequently the unwelcomed companion to our existence, stories like this can feel like fairy tales; but they’re true, these really happened. God chose to move this way at these times, so we can ask for the miraculous, and pray expectantly to be witnesses to it. May we as the church, trust in his power at work within us, and pray that God shows his might.
A Model for Us All
7. Jesus Heals the Man with Leprosy
This story is fantastic because of its simplicity; the whole story is told in only a few verses. Matthew 8:1-3 says, “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” This man with leprosy is the model for how we should approach God in our requests—he goes boldly and submissively. He knows Jesus can heal him, but also recognizes that the finality of that decision belongs to God alone. Jesus says one sentence and supernaturally brings healing, and hope.
There is no sickness or disease outside of God’s control. He is good and worthy of our trust. We may not always be able to identify what he is doing or why he is doing it, but we need never worry that he has become too exhausted to take action. God loves us. He sees us, and if he is willing, he can heal us immediately. The good news is that for those who trust in him ,healing will come. It may not happen on our timeline, but we are promised that when Jesus returns, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
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Originally published Sunday, 18 April 2021.