When I was a teenager, my best friend’s older sister told the story of attending a Catholic charismatic service. It was her first time. And during the service, her arm started killing her. The pain came on more suddenly than made sense. Out of nowhere, she had (as I recall it) a terrible burning sensation around her elbow. So she stood up and shared it with the other members of the group. One of the other women responded and said her arm had been in pain with exactly the same symptoms for months. The group prayed for this woman, and she was healed.
I honestly do not know if I was in a place to appreciate that story as I do now. I was full of ambition and determined to show Jesus how willing I was to lay down my life for Him. What good were miracles?
But last Saturday it was my turn. I attended the Healing Rooms, where people are regularly prayed for, and miracles are a regular experience. Not everyone gets healed, mind you: I should make that point clear for editorial accuracy. But many do. I had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit all morning and it had been increasing. But as I entered the actual room where people actually pray for you, I felt all stirred up inside. A sense of overwhelming dread and fear overcame me. God’s presence increased, but so did this incredibly lousy feeling.
Eventually a team of three individuals introduced themselves, asked what I wanted prayer for (my shoulder), and then they laid hands on me and began to pray. The power of God came upon me suddenly, and the fear I was feeling increased dramatically. After a few moments, I collapsed on the floor into a heap of sobbing and trembling.
As I lay on the floor shaking and sobbing, I felt Jesus say, “It is okay. I am going to get you through this.” He said it in the most compassionate way I could imagine. It was clear to me He was doing something deep within my heart. But I had no idea what. I mean: Why the absolute sensation of terror? And what did this all mean? So there I lay, in the middle of this deep and mysterious work.
The odd thing is my shoulder was not healed. I did not see “a miracle.” But it is clear I had just experienced something significant that certainly be called a miracle. I mean, what do you call it when you receive prayer and find yourself on the ground shaking and sobbing and God’s peace washes over you?
Some people believe God does not heal. It is not because they feel God has encountered some metaphysical barrier that prevents it. Rather, it is that He is more concerned with other matters. He is more concerned with our perfection than what we are actually going through. But in my experience, the opposite is true. He is more concerned with what we are going through than making sure we hold up our end of the bargain by being perfect. And, ironically, it is encountering God in this way that not only leads to our healing and wholeness but also our moral perfection.
Often our pursuit of healing (and not only healing but any form of God’s blessing) that draws us into a deeper experience with Him. It is not the alternate Plan B: It is the journey to Plan A. Our pursuit of God’s abundance is the means by which we are transformed.
This does underscore a thought I would like to leave us with. We all know that faith is the key to miracles. It is faith that heals and faith that moves mountains. But faith, I would suggest, is not just the thought we embrace but the world our soul occupies. It is not just the moment we dare to believe the impossible, but also the deep-seated belief we are not acceptable. Faith is all of it: The entire landscape of beliefs that dwell within us that make up how we feel, what we think and who we are. Faith is everything we have come to believe about ourselves, and about Him.
I for one have come to a different opinion about miracles. For life is not about how much I lay my life down for God but how much He laid His life down for me. That is the world I wish to occupy, both now and for eternity.