Two people I love are struggling with physical ailments right now—the kind where doctors can’t quite figure out what’s going on and recovery is agonizingly slow.
I’ve been praying for a miracle for them—a miracle of the quick variety. There is some precedent for these kinds of speedy healings in the Bible. Many times throughout the Gospels, Jesus puts his hand on someone and brings instant recovery. The deaf hear. The blind see. Pick up your mat and go home.
After reading story upon story in the Gospels when Jesus merely says the word and a little girl is healed, or a woman touches the hem of his garment and is immediately restored, I was a bit surprised by Mark’s account of a blind man who was brought to Jesus for healing:
Some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”
Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.
Why, I wonder, did Jesus have to touch the man’s eyes twice before he could see clearly? No doubt Jesus had the power to heal in one fell swoop if he’d wanted to, as he’d done on numerous occasions in the past. So what was different this time?
I can only venture guesses as to why. Maybe the gradual healing was for the blind man’s sake. Maybe he was able to more fully appreciate his sight when it was unveiled to him one step at a time. Or maybe the phases of healing were so the blind man could share his unique story afterward.
I recently had the privilege of hearing Steve Saint speak. This once active man, the founder of the nonprofit ministry I-TEC, spoke to my company via Skype from his bed, where he has been confined for the past several months. In June of this year, he was injured by a piece of equipment he was testing, leaving him an incomplete paraplegic.
Steve is currently in the agonizing process of relearning the most basic of skills—figuring out where his hand is and then trying to make it move. People around the world are praying for a miracle for him, but at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the one-step instantaneous type of miracle. It looks like for him, healing may come in stages.
But as difficult as this process must be for him and for his family, I am struck by the extraordinary testimony Steve has to tell as a result. It’s one thing to remain faithful to God when he does the quick miracle and you’re back to life as usual. It’s another thing altogether to proclaim God’s goodness while you’re flat on your back, struggling to swallow your own saliva.
“The church in America is used to serving out of a place of strength,” Steve said. “But now I’ve been given a gift. I’m learning what it means to serve out of my weakness.”
At the end of his talk, Steve shared the words of a poem called “The Thorn.” He knows now, in a whole new way, what it is to be a mendicant, a beggar, before God’s throne.
I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.
—“The Thorn” by Martha Snell Nicholson
* * *
Lord, we are beggars, every one of us. We beg you for healing, whether it comes in a moment or a lifetime. In the meantime, give us the story you want us to tell—and the courage to tell it.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.