In early April, my mum will undergo an operation.
Last year, she was diagnosed with a tumour in her right parotid gland (or in other words, her salivary gland).
The location of the tumour means that we cannot take a biopsy. We will only know if the tumour is benign, or malignant, after it is removed and examined. Furthermore, the tumour is located near my mum’s primary facial nerve. Doctors have said that if something goes wrong during the operation, her face may become immobile.
Understandably, my mum is a little concerned, and it didn’t really surprise me when she asked: “So if people have been praying for me… then why didn’t God heal me?”
My mum and God – a growing relationship
At this moment, my mum is not a Christian.
Last year, she decided to visit my church’s Mandarin service. By God’s grace, she has been consistently going every week. In fact, she happily attends two different Bible studies – one that is run weekly, and the other fortnightly.
Ultimately, I praise God for this because she is being saturated with scripture.
However, I don’t think she currently understands the Gospel, and in particular, why it is important in her life. At this point, her perception of God is an almighty being who satisfies our personal needs when we please him.
I know that God will grow her – of this I am sure. However, in answering the aforementioned question, I had to consider where she currently stands with the Lord.
Two possible explanations that wouldn’t work well
When my mum first asked the question – “Why didn’t God heal me?” – two answers immediately came to my mind:
- First, I could remind her that God is good and sovereign, and we should not question circumstances that he has allowed to occur; or
- Second, I could tell her that God is using her illness to bless and strengthen others.
Ultimately, I know that both responses speak truth. However, I also know that my mum will feel uncomfortable, and uneasy, if I respond with either.
She has heard enough sermons to know, at least in her head, that God is ‘good’ and ‘sovereign’. However, telling her that our sovereign God has allowed the tumour to grow will not correlate with her conception of ‘goodness’.
Similarly, I know for a fact that God has used her illness to bless other Christians. People from the Mandarin congregation have told me that they are encouraged by her willingness to ask for prayer and her cheerful spirit. Yet, telling my mum that God is using her illness to encourage others will inevitably lead to an additional question – “But why me?”
What I have decided to tell my mum
Over the last few days, I have started reading the book of Hebrews.
The book states that Jesus is the true and complete revelation of God. As such, the writer stresses that Jesus is greater than the angels, Moses, and all the prophets of the Old Testament. All in all, Hebrews paints a majestic and powerful image of the Son of God.
However, we observe in Hebrews, chapter 2, a very different image of Jesus – an image of Jesus as ‘human’. Ultimately, this chapter reminds me that God has come to earth and experienced the temptations, the pain, and sufferings of humanity.
With this in mind, I can explain to my mum: “God may not have healed you… but He can empathise with how you feel because He has experienced the sufferings of humanity… and despite knowing the pain of death, and the suffering he would endure, He still chose to go to the cross for our behalf.”
By the time this article gets published, two things will have happened: first, my mum’s surgery; and second, a conversation between her and I that addresses her question.
Jia Pan Xiao has recently complete a Juris Doctor at the University of New South Wales. In his spare time, he watches American sports, drinks coffee and devours chocolate mud-cake. He attends GracePoint Chinese Presbyterian Church and will commence working as a lawyer in early 2017.