I struggle with faith when I am sick.
Echoes of my past return and fear starts to sneak into my heart, a fear that chronic illness will again attempt to ruin my life. I find it hard to trust God, because after years of suffering it was difficult to keep believing that he cared about me.
Healing in the Bible
The Bible is filled with examples of faith leading to healing. If we look at Matthew chapter 28, a woman comes to Jesus to ask for healing for her daughter and receives it because of her faith.
In Mark chapter 10 Jesus restores the sight of Bartimaeus, and in verse 52 he specifically says, "Your faith has made you well".
We have biblical precedent to ask for healing from God and faith appears to be a prerequisite. It seems clear that God has compassion and wants to heal.
So the question remains: why do so many of our faith-filled prayers for healing go unanswered?
While I am not equipped to answer this question in relation to every situation, I have begun to see some possible reasons why God may have delayed his response to me and my suffering.
Challenges to faith
During my illness my understanding of God's character and his willingness to heal were challenged. Suddenly my church's fairly uninteresting statement of faith in God's healing power had great relevance to me. The hard part was deciding if I still believed it, even when I was suffering and the church couldn't fix it.
I had a choice. I could take the years of illness as evidence God didn't heal, or I could decide to believe that God did heal but, for some reason I didn't understand, I just hadn't been healed.
I began to see God's character was probably defined by more than just my personal circumstances, and maybe I just didn't have the full picture yet. So I chose to believe in God's healing despite a distinct lack of healing in my own life.
After looking at examples of Jesus healing in the Bible I saw that all people did was come to him and ask. So I kept asking and reminding myself it was God's job to do the healing... my only responsibility was to ask.
A faith that grows and stretches
If you had asked me at my weakest how my faith was doing, I might have said it was at breaking point. If you had asked me the same question at the moment I first felt whole again, I might have said it was the strongest it had ever been.
With hindsight I can see both the highs and the lows are woven into the story of my faith and both have contributed to who I have become today.
Working through the challenging times was when I grew the most and my faith increased. In some small ways I can start to understand why, for me, God took time to heal.
Perhaps this is what the book of James refers to in chapter 1, verses 2–4 when it says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
I still cannot answer the question of healing for you. If you are going through a struggle with illness I feel for you, so very deeply. I have no 'fix all' answers. I can only look at my journey and tell you that some good has come out of it for me, and I hope it does for you too.
Today I am sick with a virus and the voice of fear whispers in my mind. It is so tempting to give in and dwell on all the terrible things that could happen if I get seriously ill.
In the past, physical illness was my biggest trial. Now, fear and worry are my challenge. As I struggle I know my faith will stretch and God will do something good in my life even through the most unpleasant parts.
Kara Greening trained in biology, works in chemistry and wonders about the physics of the tardis in Doctor Who. She is passionate about exploring her faith and being wholehearted in life. She is married to a primary school teacher and they have two fluffy fat cats.
Kara Greening's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kara-greening.html