There are people undergoing great struggles that pray for God to help but nothing seems to happen. I’ve been that person. I’ve struggled with a debilitating auto-immune disease for more than 2 decades. I’ve seen God do nothing as the disease took everything away – my health, my career, my relationships.
I remember one time, I was between 25 to 30 and had been languishing for more than 5 years now. I was at the front of the prophetic charismatic service to be prayed for. This is probably the 5th or so time. I had eczema all over my flesh, the person next to me had a bad limp. We hear stories of Jesus loving us so much that he healed all those who came to Him. We hear the power then is available now. The South African preacher laid hands on us, his hands were trembling in “power”. Both of us left the building unhealed. One week later, my problem continued to get worse. Each time this happened, I asked myself what is wrong with me? Then, evolved to what is wrong with God, and then what is wrong with the church? The church seemed to become more indifferent to me the longer I languished, how can a guy who memorized so much Scripture and gave up so much time and money to spread the Gospel struggle so much? I was wrestling with real sickness, real depression came from recognizing the slow-motion car crash that I was in, and the church members were taught to only open themselves to people that “bring you life” or a type of churchy positivity. I guess you can say my existence was a contradiction to them, and they mistook my honest questioning about life as a lack of faith, and my dissonance on how a good God can allow evil as negativity. To the extent they were wrong on both counts is the extent I became a pariah.
When this happens to people, two things tend to happen. 1) it challenges the narrative they know about a loving, good and powerful God, and their faith in Him. 2) If the church around them is not mature, they may end up ostracizing him, not knowing how to place him in their worldview box. After all, if there is nothing wrong with God or His Word, the problem must be him, right? The combination of the two cause vicious cycles that leads them to drift away, turn numb from dissonance and finally leave the church, or maybe even the faith. I know this cycle too well.
This problem can be accelerated by charismatic preaching movements. The good thing about them is they emphasize parts of the Bible that are important, the authority of the Word, the ability of God to cause breakthroughs and respect for the living power of God. These were foundational in my growth as a Christian that believes we can walk in the world in victory instead of shrinking from it. The bad thing is that magnify and accelerate the above problems because 1) such services put both God and you on the spot and creates an expectation that something must happen immediately, or either God or you have a problem; 2) and such services tend to focus on the power of God to meet that one need when God might be interested in everything else about your life and has a purpose for it. Such services tempt us to forget that we must give space for God’s timing and God’s wisdom. The ironic thing is that the more we think God is a vending machine to be used or a formula to exercise we will get much less than the great amount of supply and transformation we get when we see and plug into His heart instead. Grace is attracted by humility and the acknowledgment of our weaknesses and shortsightedness. Fit into His agenda, don’t force Him to fit yours. As a famous grace preacher once admonish to treat God as a “He” and not an “It”. He is a person, not a vending machine. He has his own heart and purpose for you. He is not a formula for your self-defined success.
“He” works, “it” never works.
Many sincere believers go through spirit-filled healing or breakthrough services and leave with prayers unanswered. The constant “rejection” might lead to self-condemnation or even unconscious condemnation from others since they have to assume you are doing wrong such that you are continuing to be such a mess. My post today is to tell you that it’s not because the Word is wrong, or that YOU are wrong. If others are receiving breakthroughs and you are not, it could be because you have a different path God has set for you. You will learn deeper things, see new dimensions of the human experience, and you may help others in ways that most cannot.
For those who struggled only for a little while and God gave them a breakthrough. I celebrate the power of God’s word and heart for them.
BUT I also have to tell you, in my experience of a worsening incurable disease for almost 2 decades and the unlikely restoration by God late in life (after my church gave up on me), that God only allows things to happen because He knows it will NOT derail you from your destiny.
This means that He knows you can take it, and, you will have the privilege of going through darkness few have seen and are afraid to even think about … and subsequently, a redemption that few will ever experience. Going through the darkness all alone is terrifying and meaningless and hence many people automatically avoid this at all costs. Going through the darkness with a loving God to guide you with a purpose for it is a privilege. You want to be a man? You have to overcome struggles. You want to be a king? You don’t just “overcome” the darkness like it is an adversary. You have to confront the great darkness in your life and see how God uses all things, including the darkness for your good. When you overcome obstacles, that’s where courage is built. When you see God use the same obstacles for your good, that’s where humility before God and a respect for God’s grace is built over and above the courage you built. This is why the Bible calls us “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:31-39) because we didn’t get survive the great darkness and became a shadow of our former selves, the great darkness made us better instead. People who belong to the world system are slaves to their collective sinful natures and have no guarantee that darkness will make them better. Children of God have this guarantee that “all things work together for our good” (Rom 8:28) because you are free from the curse of sin.
In other words, for the child of God:
If you suffer, God will help you overcome.
But if God allows you to suffer greatly, you might be at on a path to Kingly transformation, and at the beginning of a journey to redemption.
The darkness allows you to see God’s grace in it’s fullest measure due to the contrast it brings, just as the night sky allows us to see the beauty of stars even though the stars never asked for or needed the darkness to shine. When we see and experience God’s grace it greater measure, we are transformed.
God gives in accordance with what we can handle. The rejection we experience compared to those whose prayers get easily answered allows us to experience a maturity unable to most. But this is a different path from the norm, it’s more dangerous as it will test the limits of your spirit, mind, and body. But it also bears rewards money cannot buy.
What I am saying is that some times if God is allowing darkness to fall on you, it’s because He loves you and not that He doesn’t.
(It’s a mind screw, I know. But please read the rest … all of it. This is what my entire life is about, to tell this story of a God that defies expectations, confounds conventional wisdom and does the most with us when we think we have nothing left to over.)
In the course of wrestling through this path, as a fellow survivor of a decade long incurable disease that caused me to lose everything, I want to write about what the REAL keys to miracles are. Understanding the power of God and claiming verses over our lives do be victorious is what I consider to be surface-level operations in God’s grace – these exercises work for conventional people with conventional problems. But if you are a Joseph, a Job, a David, Moses or a Jesus; who ended up totally rejected by society and physically incapacitated, it’s not enough for you, And, if you are struggling with what seems like impossible odds, you belong in the JJDMJ category. The posts below and the subsequent, I want to give you what I hope is a fresh angle, from a person that did have an incurable disease, who did have the church drift away from him, and found God in the most powerful way in the darkness and all alone.
In the series of posts, I will talk about going deeper than church conventional wisdom including understanding God’s heart behind the verses, and our posture before God knowing that heart, and what actions God recognizes as miracle releasing faith. (Claiming or reciting verses out loud is just surface level faith, it only is sufficient for those with small problems).
You see, all the “conventional” ways to get miracles didn’t work for me.
Hours of collective worship and prayer sessions. Check.
Quoting the “power” verses on myself. Check.
Preaching the Gospel on the street. Check.
Having world-renowned evangelists lay hands on me. Check.
Bathed in the dirty ocean on a “Prophet’s” word of knowledge. Check.
Making it a priority to serve others. Check.
Studying the Word again and again. Check.
Even the non-miraculous conventional ways didn’t work.
Changed my diet again and again. Check.
Allergy testing. Check.
UV treatments. Check.
Did everything multiple dermatologists told me to do. Check.
From the year 2000 to 2009, I did all of these.
No one could explain how “simple eczema” could rage so badly until at my worst I was paralyzed with pain have 70% of my body covered with burn-like sores, and my brain numb from painkillers and drowsy medicines. Can you see how many would either have to assume I was cursed by God, or try to forget about me since my existence would challenge their own assumptions about God and their own good standing with Him?
How many thought I had too many secret sins? (They told me).
How many thought I was too lazy to manage my life? (Ditto).
How many thought I was mentally too weak to overcome the problem? (Many)
The leader of my college Christian fellowship once remarked to me, “I loved your soul, but talking to you really scared me. Because I know all you’ve done and how Christ-like you were in college and yet you were stricken so badly in so many ways it’s unbelievable. Your existence makes me wonder about the God I serve. It is very hard for me to deal with that. How much more other people?”
I tear sometimes when I think back on those times.
But, it was in the years of being confined to my bedroom, in the darkness when most everyone forgot about me where I discovered deeper things about Christ and how to exercise faith in a grace economy. Things that I never realized in my then 20+ years of being a Christian. I couldn’t have realized it because I could only see it when seen from hopelessness and darkness. It is in the dark night sky when we fully see the brightness of the stars. In the day, though the stars are right there, yet we don’t notice them. Reading the Bible is like that. A cursory reading is different from reading it from a place of desperation and danger.
As I discovered more revelations on the Gospel and acted on it, supernaturally the seasons would start to change. Health would improve, confounding doctors. My career started to take a strange shape. It’s almost like God was a master chef that used the leftovers of my skills and frame of mind and make a gourmet meal out of my career. The gourmet meal didn’t look conventionally pretty, but it tasted legit. Somehow, I ended up a senior business analyst in a large radiology group in Nashville and now I am concentrating on trading the financial markets.
The next few posts are long but I really hope you make it all the way through, even if it takes a couple sittings.
The Real Key to Miracles Part 1: I recently watched a charismatic “Keys to Miracles” sermons. After looking from hindsight of my over 20 years of debilitation, seemingly unanswered prayers and rejection from such churches, I want to share 4 thoughts on the potential problems to the seeker and also the church around him if the message is incomplete.
The Real Key to Miracles Part 2: When healing sessions, prayers, trying to elevate your faith, claiming bible verses over your life and anything doesn’t work. Don’t make it about you, make it about God. Grace is attracted to humility and God’s power is made perfect to your weakness.
The Real Key to Miracles Part 3: Only One Thing is Needed, and It shall not be taken away from you.