Sorry for the short hiatus. The busyness of Easter and some other recent events have made it difficult to write for the last few weeks. Today, I will pick up where we left off in this series of posts on healing.
- Acts 3:1-16
- Philippians 2:9-10
- Luke 7:50
We had a rough day on Saturday. We are all adjusting to being in a new environment here in Indiana and everyone is doing well for the most part. Saturday, however, a trip to the park turned into a major ordeal for my son and an exhausting experience for us as his mom and dad. No need for details here, but we ended up leaving the park with a very upset child. We told him we would try again another day very soon… maybe even Monday on our family day if the weather was ok. Well, Zachary decided to pray that God would keep the rain away so that he could have another chance at the park. It rained anyway. Last night as I was tucking him into bed he asked me if God had heard his prayer. I assured him that God heard his prayer, but his follow-up question was right to the point, “Then why did it still rain?”
Why? That’s the question, isn’t it? Why don’t things turn out the way we hope? Why do bad things still happen? Why doesn’t God just heal everyone? People pray all the time and don’t get the kind of results they are hoping for or expecting, so what do we do with that?
Well, I won’t pretend to fully know the answer to these questions. What I do know, however, is God is often at work responding to our prayers in ways beyond what we can see. Often, as we are able to step back from the urgency of a situation and reflect on the experience it becomes much easier to see how God was present and at work in ways we didn’t realize in the moment. I was reminded of the many ways God heals as I read this text from Acts this morning.
1Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.4Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. 6But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”7Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.9All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. (Acts 3:1-9 NLT)
Yes, the man was physically healed, but God was at work through Peter and John even before the man stood up and walked. The text says, “Peter and John looked at him intently…” Other versions say the looked him right in the eye. I would argue that this small detail in the story marks a significant moment of healing in this man’s life. In the culture of the day this man would have been an outcast. It was widely believed that physical ailments were the direct result of sin, and this man had been lame since birth. That meant that he was being punished for the sins of his parents. No one wanted to be associated with someone like this, so he was excluded from the normal flow and function of society and left to beg to survive. No one wanted to talk with him, no one wanted to go near him, and certainly no one would look him in the eye. Have you ever met someone begging on the street? Often they will look down or all around but they will rarely make eye contact. And let’s be honest, a lot of times we don’t want to look that close. Looking at someone so directly humanizes them. It gives them value. When we look at someone in the eye it makes them difficult to ignore. Peter and John didn’t have silver and gold to give the man that day, but they gave him so much more. Yes. God heard and answered their prayer and the man walked away praising God. But they also offered him his humanity… something that had long been stripped away. This man had value in God’s eyes. This was God’s child begging on the streets. Peter and John knew who they were as children of God and looking the man in the eye offered him assurance of his identity as well. In his book, The Furious Longing of God Brennan Manning says this,
“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus; namely His unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be. He loves me whether in a state of grace or disgrace, whether I live up to the lofty expectations of His gospel or I don’t. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am. When I have passed that same reality on to another human being, the result most often has been the inner healing of their heart through the touch of my affirmation. To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary.”
I don’t know why things don’t always work out the way we hope or expect, but I do now that God heals and is at work in ways beyond what we sometimes see.
Is there someone you might speak a word of assurance to today?