It is with some embarrassment that I return to the blogosphere after an unexplained absence of almost two months. Also, given that this blog is devoted to talking about the glorious extension of God's Kingdom, as the waters cover the sea - including the outbreaking of His mighty power in healing and miracles - it might seem strange to report that my absence has been due to illness - an illness that will not go away (yet!).
A little over a week after my last post I started feeling "under the weather" with a sore throat, cough and tiredness. Within three days this had transformed into raging fever, a constant cough, sleeplessness for nights on end and, when I did sleep dark dreams, where I was being pounded by demons, and I was totally exhausted - hardly able to get out of bed.
Various visits to the doctor achieved nothing, my prayers seemed to be receiving no answer. I had pneumonia, or something very similar, and a whole load of spiritual attack. After two weeks of this, the elders came to pray and anoint me with oil - and I slept!! Properly for the first time in two weeks. I began to get better, but so slowly. My mind and heart were renewed but my body seemed to still be miles behind.
I did get back to preaching for two consecutive Sundays, which was great. But then last week again, I began to get worse. I have now been told I have suspected plurisy (which is inflamation of the lining of the lung) and am awaiting the results of an x-ray.
So that is a brief history of the last seven weeks! I have spent much of the time very discouraged, wondering where the complete healing was that I had prayed for. I had laid hands on myself and rebuked everything I could think of, and I was not fully healed.
I do believe the Lord has used this season to teach me much. In terms of my personal walk and ministry, I have been called back to intimacy with Himself, and away from overdoing activity. I have been challenged to make Him, and not my ministry, the priority. I have been reminded that the Lord tells us to "redeem the time." All these things have been so precious, and worth experiencing the darkness to learn.
But - this week I have been saying to myself "I am still not healed, what is wrong?" During the last few weeks I have been "helped" in different ways - one of which was to tell me that if the sickness is not responding to prayer then I have lost my authority in Christ - so I must not be standing in righteousness. I didn't take such things on board, but such attacks play on the mind.
I suppose the question is - if as children of God we a blessed of the Lord, how can things still go wrong? This morning I was helped by a scripture pointed out to me from Genesis 25v22.
Answered prayer but still a battle
In Genesis 25v21 we are told that Isaac sought the Lord for his wife because she was barren. That prayer was answered. So everything was fine... Was it?
I have received answers to prayer during this season of sickness. I have received partial healings and steps forward, and had precious times in God's Word and a taste of the intimacy that the Lord had spoken to me about. But was that it? Alas no - there was still a battle.
Genesis 25v22 tells us of the battle that followed Rebekah receiving the answer to prayer. There was a mighty struggle within her, and she was distressed. We can experience similar things - both struggles within and without. We receive a new job in answer to prayer, but it is a great battle. We receive a call to a new ministry and it is so hard, fruit is so long in coming. We move to a new location, and we wonder if God has left us. We get married, absolutely certain that God has brought us together with our partner, but it all seems to be falling apart. Or, we receive answered prayer for healing and the next moment we get ill again.
It might have been very easy for Rebekah to wonder if there was something wrong with her. That appears in the question: "If it be so, why am I thus?" (Gen 25v22, KJV). Why couldn't she be like her mother-in-law Sarah - a straightforward pregnancy? Part of the reason is that God simply deals with people differently. We might ask the question - why isn't my church growing like the one down the road? Of course there may be issues that we have to address, but often there is simply the purpose of God. There are lessons to learn, character to be developed, and the mercy of God in bringing us to a place of desperate crying out to Him, where prayer moves from being the formal duty of a Christian, to the desperate need of a hungry and hurting child of God.
The cry of the heart
Rebekah could have prayed, "Lord I thank Thee for Thine omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, that Thou knowest all things, the struggles and ups and downs that Thine providences in my life give unto me. I thank Thee that Thou art always so abundantly merciful. I realise that Thou hast a purpose with this affliction I am suffering at the moment, and I chose to submit to Thy afflictions and pray that Thou wouldst teach me Thy way and lead me in the path everlasting...."
But instead there is a cry of the heart - if you have blessed me, why is it still such a struggle?
There are times when we need to get the politeness which many of us have been brought up on - the lie that it is impolite and reflects a lack of faith to ask God "why?" If we believe that, then we condemn Rebekah here, as well as the psalmist.
God is able to take our questions. He is merciful to hear the cry of our hearts at the lowest point of all. We shouldn't be shy of struggling, but nor should we settle for struggling. We must cry out, and He is gracious to answer. I believe I have received some answers over the last seven weeks that my perhaps more polite and rounded prayers before hand could not receive. I also believe that there are still battles to fight when the answers come, and that we should not be discouraged by a continued fight.
And I believe that the desperate cry of "why am I thus?" is not some major theological heresy, but a cry that the Lord will answer. After all He is good, and His mercy endures forever. He remembers that we are dust and He has compassion upon us as a Father upon His children. He knows the thoughts He has towards us, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope.
And He says we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. Sometimes the valley is the place where we truly seek.
And I thank God too, that He is the mighty healer. I thank Him for the journey, for the progress towards healing, and for the complete healing that shall come - and the battles that shall follow.