This is part one of a two-part series (March 29, 2022)
In an effort to bring hope and encouragement, those who speak from the pulpit or give testimonies tend to focus primarily on the good: Jesus heals, Jesus answers prayer, Jesus frees us from oppression. I believe their intent is good and true. I myself have experienced healing, answered prayer and freedom from oppression. But what happens when you don’t experience healing? When you don’t get your prayer answered the way you wanted?
The problem isn’t that we are sharing encouraging stories. The problem is that we are not giving equal time for stories of people who continue to follow Jesus despite not getting what they prayed for. The people whose loved one died instead of being healed are hardly ever brought in front of the church to give a testimony. They are hardly ever talked about in sermons. We must consider that not every testimony has to end neatly wrapped up with a bow. Some stories are just raw and difficult because that is the way life is sometimes.
The church is a body and thus made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of circumstances. Some of those people are disabled and will never see healing in this lifetime. Some are miraculously cured. Some are barren and unable to adopt due to life circumstances. Some miraculously conceive. Some pray that their loved ones get healed but instead they die. Some see miraculously healing. But why are only the happy stories told in church? In 1 Corinthians 12:22-26, Paul writes:
“Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Why aren’t we letting people who are faithfully bearing hardship give testimonies to the church? How about people whose prayer wasn’t answered yet they kept believing? To me, people who endure suffering and stick with their faith have done the harder thing. How easy it is to give testimony about answered prayer. How hard it is to keep going when prayer isn’t answered in the way we wish. How truthful to say from the pulpit that sometimes we will not see God’s promises to us fulfilled in this lifetime.
Following Jesus does not necessarily mean that we will not suffer. If that were true, there would be no Christian martyrs. In fact Jesus promises us in John 16:33 that we will have troubles. His calling is to deny ourselves and be prepared to die. The invitation He offers is that “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Imagine using that in your church marketing. Come join our church where you will suffer for Jesus. Of course we must take these verses as part of the whole counsel of God. Yes, Jesus heals. Yes, Jesus frees us from our sin. Yes, God is renewing us daily. But also, yes our trouble will continue. We must find space for this truth to be talked about as well.
This is the Gospel! Love your blog post today! Our ability to take in all that we experience in life is what makes us human and in need of the hope that comes through Jesus Christ. But in that hope, we can be honest and openly admit that suffering is real and the rain falls on us all. John 16:33 is one of my favorite passages because it pertains to the reality of life, the tragedy and the triumph. Thanks for sharing Kim!
Thanks, Harlan. I appreciate your encouragement.