July 19 is an auspicious date for me, the day that both my mom, Nancy and brother, Roger died in 1977 and 2014, respectively, 37 years apart. In memory of them and to offer hope to many loved ones today whose passionate prayers for healing seem to go unanswered, I again share this reflection I originally wrote after Roger's death. I pray it ministers to you.
Recently, cancer took my brother Roger's life. Even though the insidious disease resisted treatment every step of the way, he managed to hold it at bay for over thirteen long years. Meanwhile, he was able to see his two children into their teen years and to solidify a life legacy that those of us who knew him will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Roger is ninth of my parents’ ten children that I am oldest of. A simple man by choice, he was devoted to his family and successful in his work. Accomplished in golf, the game was not so much a platform for his golfing skills and intense competitiveness as just another avenue through which he touched others with his character, wit, warmth and genuineness. Family, golf, character and a great sense of humor are four common descriptors expressed about Roger.
A significant number of people cared about his Roger’s well-being and deeply desired for him to beat cancer. I have no way of knowing how many people prayed for Roger during his illness but a few expressed to me their belief that faith-doubters would be swayed toward belief by Roger overcoming cancer. While I know my own faith would be bolstered by that happening, I think the relationship between healing and belief is weak.
Healing WAS a big drawing card for Jesus’ earthly ministry but when he began to shift away from healing to focus more on his true mission - to sacrifice himself to redeem people from the curse of sin, his popularity waned and the crowds thinned. That the throngs were drawn more to his miracles than this message didn’t sit well with Jesus.
As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (Luke 11:29)
Healing and miracles demonstrated Jesus’ power over biology and chemistry but the cross is where Jesus’ greatest demonstration of power occurred - where he sacrificed himself to break the stranglehold of sin that is the cause for all that we suffer - sickness, pain, despair, trial and death. The power of Jesus' cross occurred where the real action is - in the spiritual realm.
By bringing Roger to God in our prayer, we followed in the footsteps of those who did the same in Jesus time. On two such instances, Jesus acknowledged the faith of the bringer(s) in the healing of the brought - 1) the centurion who requested healing for his servant (Luke 7: 1-10) and 2) the friends who lowered the paralyzed man through a hole they dug in the roof of the house to where Jesus was teaching below (Mark 2: 1-5).
So did God answer any of our prayers for Roger?
Diagnosed in 2000, his disease was arrested briefly between 2006 and 2010. The rest of the time, this usually fast-progressing disease worsened steadily but slowly. Although he endured through several crisis and sampled a few new treatment developments that emerged, surviving as long as he did could be attributed as easily to medicine as to God. Ultimately he shared the same fate as those who Jesus unquestionably healed during his ministry. Roger experienced the fate all of us will also face - mortal death.
While Jesus was able to heal bodies effortlessly, those healings were temporary whereas the much harder work he did on the cross made something more permanent possible - eternal life for all who believe in him. In contrast to the difficulty of Jesus’ work on the cross, our belief work is easy and just a little earnest faith is all that’s needed…. as little as a mustard seed…
(Said Jesus): "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. (Luke 17:6, NIV)
…. as meager as mere crumbs of food that fall from someone else’s table….
(Said Jesus): “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:26-27, NIV)
Two days before he died, Roger opted to begin hospice care. Perhaps sensing his mortality, he put the word out for family members to visit with him if they wished. I was able to see Roger the day before he died.
As Roger’s body faded, I prayed for his faith to rise up in him, to know beyond doubt and be comforted by the sure and steady hand of his Lord and Savior gathering him in.
I firmly believe that only when we are finally face-to-face with our Lord will we truly understand why healing wasn’t why he came.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11: 1, NAS)
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9).
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelations 21:4)
Originally posted by Road Report on August 19, 2014
Image by Aaron Burden via Unsplash