Meaning Without Answers

This week health has been on my mind. On the one hand, we have a scripture that deals with Jesus healing a woman who was “bent over.” Probably such an extreme form of Arthritis that she could hardly move. On the other hand, my children have started school (Rowan for the first time), and with the start of school comes all sorts of wonderful germs. Both have been down for the count for extended periods this week—not fun! Imagine though, I struggled with sick kids for a week, and we are told this woman suffered for 18 long years and was healed!


This kind of healing raises all sorts of interesting questions for us: How do we make sense of biblical miracles? How come we don’t often experience healing in this way? Why are some healed and some are not when facing debilitating diseases? Why can’t the synagogue leaders celebrate instead of criticize for this healing on the Sabbath?—That’s the one we will tackle on Sunday.


On top of my typhoid Finch problem at home that had me thinking of health, I had a powerful experience on Monday this week. I was in the office, reveling in the quiet (church usually closed on Monday), when a woman that we have helped before came in. She came with the news that she has terminal cancer, and 3 kiddos at home. There is no other family support. If ever there was a woman in need of healing, it was her. She asked me to pray for her. She asked me to heal her. She believes that faith will take the cancer away, and she wanted to know why a friend of hers who had terminal cancer and survived was healed, and yet, things look so bleak for her. I had no answers. I still don’t. There are so many platitudes that we offer for times like these that ring hollow—or worse, bring despair! “Everything happens for a reason.” “We don’t know God’s plans.” The worst of all, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” (By the way, that last one is a butchering of scripture, Don’t use it!)


I don’t know why our friend is dying of terminal cancer. I don’t know why some people experience miraculous healings, and others don’t. I don’t know why such cruelty can happen to someone who is already in such desperation. There are plenty of “answers,” but none of them are truly good ones.


Here is what I do know. My time praying with this woman was powerful. I do believe for her, as well as for me. She overflowed with thanksgiving for Chris’ ministry with her, for the support of the deacons, for my time with her. She showed me what faith can look like in the midst of deep despair. I know how much my own heart was breaking for her, and how deeply I prayed to God for healing. I do know that our calling is to do what we can to help heal each other, and anytime we stand between someone and healing, we are no better than the synagogue leaders. I do know, that as we sat there together with tears in our eyes, I experienced the presence of Christ with us. I do know that I have been haunted this week by our prayer together. As I read a passage from Ecclesiastes 3 to the gathered session and deacons on Wednesday night, I couldn’t help thinking of our friend, “God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in our hearts, without enabling us to discover what God has done from beginning to end.” I do know that this week, I have experienced what it is to pray without ceasing for someone—I hope you will join me in prayer for our friend.


There are not always real answers, but that does not mean that there is not meaning. Although God has placed eternity in our hearts, we will not know in this life, why some things happen. I do know that there are often times where other answers and meaningful questions present themselves, even when our original questions go unanswered. Finally, I do know, that in the face of such big questions, there is but one response from those human hearts chasing after eternity…Prayer. Will you pray with me?


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