Today I’d like to share with you one of my biggest pet peeves and why I think it’s totally bogus. Everybody ready? Great! Here it is:
Has anyone ever told you something like this?
“God doesn’t heal us completely all at once because He knows if He did that, we wouldn’t need Him anymore and we wouldn’t have any reason to depend on Him. He wants a relationship with us, so He leaves us wounded so we’ll be forced to trust in Him and not ourselves.”
I don’t know about you, but I get told things like this all the time! And it just never sits well with me. I’ve tried to get my mind to accept it, but every time there’s this little voice in the back of my head telling me that there’s something not quite right about this idea.
For me, these kinds of statements make God feel an awful lot like an abuser, and they require me to be the victim in order to be in “right relationship” with God. Think about it:
A woman comes to you with a black eye and a bloody nose. Concerned, you ask what happened. She tells you that her husband hit her because she was trying to be too independent. When you tell her you’ll have to call the police, for her safety, she begs you not to and assures you it was really her fault – if she would have just trusted him to take care of her, he wouldn’t have hurt her. She deserved it, really. Not sure what to do to convince her of the gravity of her situation, you look down at the ground. Suddenly, you notice that the woman has a huge, infected gash across her left leg. Her condition is so severe that it impairs her ability to move freely. She notices your stare, and sheepishly tries to explain: someone had inflicted this wound on her years ago. Never knowing how to treat it, it had become severely infected. When she met her husband, a doctor, he chose to give her an antibiotic that was strong enough to prevent the infection from getting worse, but not strong enough to heal it completely because he feared that if the woman were totally healed, she wouldn’t need him anymore and might leave him.
Now, boys and girls, who can tell me: is this woman in a healthy relationship? Yes or no? And is her husband a good, loving man, secure in his identity and willing to lay down his life for the good of his bride? Yes or no?
Wait….no? You think no? This is not a good image of our relationship with God? Really?! Shocking!
Pardon my sarcasm, but I think we all could use a gut check here: God is not a jerk! And only a jerk could look at the woman he loves as she bleeds to death, and deliberately choose to do nothing.
So now we get to the real question: if God is not a jerk, then why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? And more to the point of our current discussion, why does he allow me to continue suffering when I’ve begged Him repeatedly to heal me and done all that I can think of to avail myself of His healing power?
Here’s how the Lord is bringing this into focus for me: when God chooses not to heal me all at once He is emphatically not leaving me wounded so that I won’t be tempted to run away. He is not doing it to prove a point: “You should have trusted me; then all this would have never happened.” And He is not condemning my desire to be made whole. God is not my abuser, and I am not His victim. That is not at all the relationship He wants to have with me.
Rather, He chooses to heal me a little at a time so that I will know and really experience that I am entirely lovable to Him even in my ugliness. He is saying, “Margaret, I love you already. I can love you like this, don’t worry. You don’t have to tidy up for me. I see you, and I love you. You are enough.” You see, it is precisely by taking His focus off the wounds that are glaringly obvious to me that He heals the deeper wound that I often overlook: the wound of a heart that believes itself to be unlovable, unlovely.
Picture St. Damien of Molokai embracing the lepers of his colony, tenderly taking them in his arms, singing to them, playing games with them – concerned that they be made clean and restored to physical health, yes, but most of all desiring to restore their dignity. That is the image God wants me to have of Him. He is not ignoring my leprosy; He is saying that in His eyes, my leprosy is not the thing that defines me. I am not Margaret the Leper to Him. I am Margaret the Beautiful; Margaret the Lovely; Margaret, My Bride. That is who I am to Him already, today, now.
Note that this does not mean those acutely painful wounds go unhealed forever – at some point between here and Heaven, every tear will be wiped away and I will be completely, entirely restored. That may happen in a year, it may happen in twenty years, it may not happen until Purgatory. I don’t know when or how, but Jesus’ death and resurrection is my guarantee that there is no pain I’m feeling now that will last forever, no ashes that won’t be turned to beauty. What the Lord is showing me, though, is that He loves me already just as much as He will on the day when He finally lifts the veil and I see Him face-to-face. I don’t have to wait for some undefined “someday” to be unconditionally cherished and embraced.
There are probably as many answers to this question as there are people who ask it, so I won’t pretend that mine will clear up all doubts or difficulties you may be having. I will only share what God has shown me, and hope that by doing so I will open the door for the Holy Spirit to do two things in your life:
- Bring you some measure and of clarity and peace through the answer He’s given me.
- Show you that it’s through persisting in daily relationship with him, “abiding in his word”, that we discover the truth that sets us free (John 8). Questions like this are so deeply personal, that probably the only person who will be able to give you an answer that truly satisfies is God Himself. He wants to answer the painful questions you hold inside, but He can only do that if you’re willing to listen and patiently wait on Him.
You are loved dear heart, whether you like it or not! I’m praying you’ll find the courage to let Him love you.