“It felt like biting stones to learn that sometimes there’s no healing.”
—“Grace After Pressure,” Jaqueline McLeod Rogers
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”
It’s one thing to agree, in theory, that you believe in the reconciliation of opposites, that two seemingly contrary things can be true at the same time. But it’s another to really live out that belief in the gritty everyday-ness of your life. For me, I can state two seeming opposites that I hold with almost equal weight:
- I believe prayer can heal.
- I believe that sometimes there is no healing.
My life was irrevocably changed through a time of healing and that happened almost entirely through prayer—both my own prayers and those of brothers and sisters offered on my behalf. It is no small exaggeration to say that those prayers and that period of time changed me, healed me, and renewed my faith in God as loving and good.
And yet. There is part of me that assumed the end of that time of healing would be the end of a certain kind of pain. That God, in his mercy, would simply lift that burden off me once and for all and I would know at last what it was like to be free, to be whole. But there are some wounds that don’t heal. And the recognition of that, alongside an ongoing belief in the certainty of a loving God, is like biting stones.
God loves me. Prayer heals … but not always. And I wonder: why not me? A process of change in my life (one that again is much easier to agree with in the abstract than to live out) has included a new appreciation of the suffering of Christ, and a willingness to live in and through my own suffering. To know there are things that will never fully be healed, to feel the pain of it again some days as sharp as though it just happened, and yet to go on believing is to put myself in a place where I may finally be open enough to see what faith really means, what life as a follower of Jesus may require: the willingness on the one hand to pray, believing that anything is possible, and on the other hand to be humble enough to eat stones if that “anything” never comes. And proclaim with voice firm (or wavering, but proclaiming it nonetheless): “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).