Had the healing occurred slowly, my condition improving gradually over time, I would still have been thankful to God. I probably would have attributed the healing to unknown natural causes that He was able to use to bring it about (aka “providence”). If God wanted to heal me, He certainly could have done it in a more subtle way. Which begs the question, Why did He choose to do it in such dramatic fashion?
Eric Metaxas is right: “When God pokes into our world through the miraculous, he is communicating with us….”1 And that’s exactly how I understood my healing.
As I mentioned in Part 1, God was, for one thing, blowing the walls off the box I had put Him in, graciously correcting one of my erroneous beliefs about how He does and does not work. But I’m convinced He intended to do more than that. After all, He could have made that point any random time. Why did He choose that day? Surely there was some significance to the timing. I mean, after struggling with the condition half my life, I get married and immediately I’m healed? It doesn’t take a Greek philosopher to discern a connection.
From the beginning I believed—and I still do—that God was placing His stamp of approval on my marriage—confirming, if you will, that I had chosen my spouse wisely. (As satisfying as that is, I’m still a little bummed that it wasn’t my wife who got the miracle. Why not commend her brilliant choice? Oh well.)
Why would God do that? I don’t think it was because, as my wife once jokingly quipped, I would have left her a long time ago if it weren’t for that divine confirmation. Not at all.
Looking back from my current vantage point, I’ve come to believe God had a couple of purposes in mind. First, I think He was, in part, trying to show me that He does in fact still communicate with us (i.e., not just through the Bible). And here’s the strange thing: I got it, yet I didn’t.
You know how you can sometimes embrace two things in your mind at once without realizing they conflict with one another? Maybe you make a doctor’s appointment for next Friday at 2:00. You make a mental note, but you haven’t yet discovered the necessity of having a day-timer, so it’s soon out of mind. Then, a day or two later, a friend calls and wants to meet you for coffee—next Friday at 2:00. “Sure,” you reply, not remembering the first appointment.
You might go for days believing you will keep both appointments. When the doctor’s office calls with a reminder, you confirm that you’re still coming. When your friend sees you later and says, “I’m looking forward to our visit next Friday,” you confidently respond, “I’ll be there!” Eventually, though, at some point you make the connection and realize the conflict: you can’t possibly keep both appointments.
Have you ever done that? The same thing can happen with our theology. We can hold two contradictory views at the same time, and because we never make the connection between them we don’t notice the conflict.
That’s what I did. After the healing I believed God had communicated with me through that miracle. Yet, if you had asked me how God speaks to us today, I would have repeated what I’d always believed: “Only through the Bible.” For more than a decade I held both beliefs separately yet simultaneously in my mind, blind to the obvious fact that both can’t possibly be true.
Eventually I studied my way to the position that God still speaks—and guides—in many ways today, just as He is said to do in scripture. With that theological shift the long-undetected conflict was finally resolved.
Not long after that, through prayer I experienced what I describe as a “personal revival” that transformed my life. As I began asking and expecting God to speak personally to me, I started to experience it. To my surprise and immense delight, one of the ways He communicated with me was through healings. And in every case where the healing was instantaneous, it came at a critical time of change. Either I had just made a decision to go a new direction I believed God was leading me in, or I had just followed through with such a decision.2 Every time God seemed to be conveying His blessing—just like He did when I married.3
This is the second thing I think God was doing. It’s as if, those many years ago, He interrupted my life and shook up my world to initiate a pattern He would later use repeatedly in our walk together. God knows I’ve been trained to look for patterns. It took me a while to catch on, but I think He’s made this one quite clear.
In that light, that first healing makes sense. As one of the most important events in my life, my marriage to Janel was an ideal occasion for God to express—for the first time—His approval in a dramatic, unforgettable way. It fits with how God has chosen to relate to me in recent years. He was, I believe, giving me an early glimpse of how He would later work in my life after I learned to seek Him more intently.
Am I guaranteeing this is also how God will relate to you? No. Am I using these experiences as evidence that I’m spiritually superior to others? Hardly. God relates to different people in different ways. The way to learn to hear God’s voice, aside from studying scripture, is by experience. My hope is that as I periodically describe my own experiences of hearing God, and those of others, in this blog, it might be of some benefit as you try to discern His voice in your own life.
Whether the Lord’s guidance is subtle or shocking, whether He uses a whisper or a megaphone, living the led life is an adventure like no other. But as you’re learning to listen, don’t rule out the miraculous. He’s still “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
1 Eric Metaxas, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (New York: Dutton, 2014), p. 21. This is implied in one of the New Testament words for miracle: “sign” (Grk semeion). A miracle signifies something; it communicates a message.
2 You might be thinking that a sign from God after the fact doesn’t seem terribly helpful. It seems like it would be far more beneficial for God to supply the sign before the person acts. In response, in some of these situations the healing came right after I decided to obey what I believed God to be telling me, and before I took action. So the healing, in those cases, served as part of the guidance—confirming I had understood correctly—and was far from superfluous. In the other cases, I still believed the guidance God had given was sufficiently clear for me to act. And though the healing came after I’d obeyed, I was nevertheless deeply grateful for the confirmation it provided. An interesting example of God granting a sign after His orders were carried out is found in the story of the Exodus. God told Moses at the burning bush, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain” (Exodus 3:12).
3 If physical afflictions can signify God’s disapproval (e.g., Job 33:14-30; John 5:14; Acts 12:23; 1 Corinthians 11:30; Revelation 2:22), is it a stretch to think He can use a physical healing to indicate His approval? Obviously bodily ailments don’t always imply divine displeasure (see the book of Job; John 9:2-3; 11:2; 1 Timothy 5:23; etc.). Likewise, a healing can be experienced apart from God’s intervention (through medicine, surgery, the natural restorative powers of the body, etc.) and may not signify Heaven’s assent. But just as God’s direct involvement in causing infirmities is sometimes evidenced by their sudden, otherwise inexplicable onset (e.g., Genesis 12:17; 19:11; Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27; Daniel 4:28-33; Luke 1:20; Acts 13:11), His direct involvement in healing is often indicated by the instantaneous, otherwise inexplicable elimination of the malady. And if the God-produced afflictions typically indicate God’s dissatisfaction, it makes sense to think that Heaven-sent healings could, at least in some cases, demonstrate the opposite. (Though my focus here has been on healings, I have, I believe, experienced God’s reproof at times as well. Not nearly as pleasant, but just as valuable.)