Talitha KoumiAs I said, this story has always been a favorite of mine, but I'll tell ya, it was hard to hear when Kraig read it to the kids not long after Keren died....
He spoke like a song
Though lifeless and cold
At once I became strong
He spoke with a smile
As he handed my father back
His only child
The inevitable question comes. "If Christ is so good at healing, why didn't he heal Keren?" And it's an old, old question, asked by so many. Why didn't God heal Sarah, a fellow mom of a special-needs daughter who died one month before Keren--two months after a cancer diagnosis. Why didn't God heal Ethan, one of Keren's classmates who died last May? Why didn't God heal Aimee, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of family friends, who died on Thursday as a result of a head-on collision caused by another driver cutting into her lane...a driver who survived with few injuries.... Why are thousands upon thousands dying now in Haiti? It doesn't make sense....
I would be lying if I said I didn't ask those questions. I would be lying if I said I had the passing thought that I was too cynical and didn't have enough faith to bring about their healing. But I would also be lying if I said that those questions dragged me down and caused me to doubt God. Because they don't. Because it's an issue that I've realized is much bigger than physical healing.
When Kraig and I learned that Keren would be born with some significant problems, we prayed that the diagnosis might be wrong, but we knew we would keep her, and we knew that we loved her no matter what. When Keren was born with Trisomy 18, we didn't pray that she would be healed of it. How can one be healed of something that's not a disease? We prayed for her health because that could go either way, but her diagnosis was in the genes. It was a part of who she was! Since she died, many have said, "Isn't it wonderful that now she is whole in Heaven?" Now, I believe this to be true.... When I picture her in Heaven, I see her running around, learning everything she can, and probably even talking up a storm. I see her climbing up into Jesus' lap and giving him a bone-cracking hug like the ones she used to give us. Clare and Ev are experts at helping me keep this perspective; remembering the future hope of seeing Keren again.
I understand with my head that those who say this to me say it with complete belief as well, and a deep desire to give me comfort. The only problem is, thinking of Keren whole and healthy in Heaven doesn't really comfort me. It would be kind of like someone saying to Aimee's parents (and I pray no one ever does), "Just think! Aimee is whole and full of life in Heaven. Imagine the struggle she would have had if she'd survived the accident. She might never have been the same vibrant girl again." My mental scream is, "But I want Keren here! I want her healthy here! I don't care that she wasn't 'whole'. She was our Keren-girl, and that is all that matters." My comfort does not lie in the fact that she is "healed" but in that I will see her again.
And that brings me to a different kind of healing, the "miraculous healing," the sad things Jesus made untrue.... It's a truth that has been confirmed to me over and over, and slowly I'm putting the words to it. Recently I've seen it again in Beth Moore's study, Jesus the One and Only, which works through the Gospel of Luke. The first time it struck me was in a discussion of the people bringing Jesus their sick in Luke 4:38-44. There were so many of them, and they kept coming and coming. Jesus knew he had to leave, yet they tried to keep him there. The word "keep," Beth says is "'katecho,' meaning to 'hold fast, retain, or hold down, quash, suppress."
The people's attempts to hold onto Christ may not have been limited to the vocal and emotional. They may have hung onto Him physically, too. How His heart must have broken for them. I believe He may have been torn emotionally, but He was not dissuaded. The best thing he could do for them was to stay true to His goal. (p. 63)And what was his goal? "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent" (Luke 4:43). And why was preaching the good news of the kingdom more important than healing all those people? Because the kingdom is permanent and spreading the news about it was Christ's top priority. And I realized that if I believed that (which I do), then the fact that he let Keren die and didn't heal her meant that it would help in spreading this news. It is the only answer that makes sense.
A few lessons later I came to the story of the paralytic man whose friends let him down through a roof so he'd get face-time with Jesus. A phrase in the passage jumped out at me this time--one that I hadn't seen before: "And the power of the Lord was present for [Jesus] to heal the sick" (Luke 5:17b) Huh? What did that mean? Were there times Jesus didn't have the power? That didn't make sense! Sure enough, Beth brought this point out and gradually unwound it. The Greek word for "power" used here is "'dunamis' meaning 'power, especially achieving power'" in contrast to another word used at times, "ischus" which means "power, strength, or might." The idea is that "dunamis" refers to what God does while "ischus" is what God has and is. Beth says:
I hope you caught the inference that Christ was ready and willing to apply his ischus to specifically achieve (dunamis) healing that day. Christ healed many times, but the implication is that healing was a far more specific agenda in certain instances. We can break it down this way: Christ is always willing. Sometimes He is more than willing--He is utterly resolved." (p. 70)And what healing was Jesus "utterly resolved" to do? Here's where it became really interesting.... The passage had already set up the context: That day Pharisees and teachers of the law from all over had come to hear Jesus teach, and as the King James Version then translates immediately after this: "and the power of the Lord was present to heal them." "Them," not "the sick" as the New International Version puts it. In fact, the Greek word used is autos, meaning "self...the same" so definitely referring to these teachers of the law...who were not physically sick. As Beth states it, "Christ hadn't just come to heal those who were physically sick. He came to heal those who were sick with sin!" And as the passage unfolds, and the paralytic is put before Jesus, the first thing Jesus does is forgive the man his sins. Only later, to show the Pharisees that he has the authority to do just that does Jesus give the man physical healing. The sickness of sin was/is zillions of times greater than any physical disability....
I was bowled over by this because it spoke to me again so powerfully the truth that I've been learning this past year. God loves us and longs to be reunited with us so much that He sent Jesus to earth to rescue us. Yes, Jesus physically healed many. Yes, Jesus took Jairus' daughter by the hand and brought her out of death. Yes, there have been many instances of people being healed miraculously even these days. But not all are physically healed, and if Christ's primary purpose was/is to physically heal then he's done a lousy job.
But if, rather, his purpose is to heal the hearts of the whole world, to rescue us from sin, and that his death and resurrection made the way for that, and all I have to do is believe that yes, this is indeed why he came, then his purpose has been fully accomplished. It also means that when he physically heals it's to help people see this purpose...and when he doesn't physically heal, it's also for this purpose. Keren's death, Aimee's death...they are pieces of this amazing, incredible purpose. In an article I read today about Aimee's death, her Pastor is quoted as saying that Aimee "recently wrote that she finally felt settled for the first time in her life. She described it as wonderful, but felt God would soon bring change and she put her trust in Him. 'If you summed up Aimee's life, that's what she did. She pointed others to Jesus,'" her pastor said.
I wish I knew why Keren and Aimee (...and Sarah, and Ethan, etc., etc.) weren't ones God chose to heal--why it was that their lives and deaths were ones He chose to help point people toward His Son. I don't know why our families are the ones who were asked to hold this particular grief. But the key point is this: since I do know the Healer, I can help others find the miraculous healing He provides.