When Healing Doesn’t Happen

Ray Mayhew

I believe we are going to see many more healings and miracles in our midst in the 1990’s than we have ever seen before.

However, because I have personally battled with a serious back problem for many years and have not yet been permanently healed (although I have known the Lord’s touch many times), I want to say something about what to do when you don’t get healed. My reluctance in writing has been that I would much prefer to get healed and then write a testimony about that! But because it is a pastoral issue we must not avoid. I will try and share what limited light I have from the Lord.

I should add that this is not an article on why we are not healed—others have often addressed this—but on what to do and how to pray during a long-term illness or disability. Also, I am assuming that you have already seriously sought the Lord for breakthrough, and that you don’t believe that it is the will of God for you to passively accept it. Let’s start with four “don’ts.”



Four Don’ts

#1 :: Don’t Blame

First, don’t blame yourself or others. It is natural to want to hold someone or something responsible when we are sick. Job’s friends laid the blame for his illness squarely on his own shoulders. His sin and inadequate spirituality were the problem, they said. Of course, if we know that we are in fact responsible, then we need to repent. But that was not the case with Job, and it is not the case with many believers today.

If we are not personally to blame, we might be tempted to hold the medical profession responsible: why can’t they do something about my situation? Why wasn’t it diagnosed properly in the first place? Doctors can become a convenient scape-goat for our continuing physical problems.

Alternatively, we can blame the leadership: aren’t they responsible before God to release healing into our lives? Why don’t they pray the prayer of faith and get me healed?

Such negative attitudes will, of course, simply block the flow of God’s power into our lives. Others, tragically, blame God: why did he allow it to happen in the first place? Why doesn’t he do something about it now? Why is he seemingly silent about my situation?

Apportioning blame is the easy way out. The only problem is that it always produces bitterness—and bitterness, in addition to grieving the Holy Spirit, always exacerbates our physical problems, and so the downward spiral continues.

If you need to blame someone, blame the Devil. After all, he is the author of disease and death. If you must get angry—get angry with him!

#2 :: Don’t Get Negative

Second, don’t become negative about yourself. It is easy to get depressed when an illness or disability is long-term and you have a lot of pain. A nagging sense of failure can often be a symptom of depression. We no longer feel that we can perform adequately as a parent, or a spouse, or even as a Christian. We begin to feel useless, particularly if we can no longer go out to work and hold down a job. Many people are ashamed about being ill, and are reluctant to even talk about their problem. Such depressive tendencies are an enemy of wholeness and recovery, and need to be rejected. At this point we need to be tough on ourselves. Self pity is destructive to faith and insulting to God. Reject it.

#3 :: Don’t Fear

Third, don’t give way to fear. If an illness is serious and long-term, fear can become our biggest enemy as we contemplate the future. What about my wife and children, my finances and mortgage, my job and career prospects? One fear can generate another until we are in danger of being paralyzed, unless we take some decisive step in the other direction.

What to do? At this point, I have always made a conscious effort to exercise faith as many specific areas as I can. This is vitally important, because when we have tried to exercise faith for healing and “failed” (more on this later), we tend to collapse into unbelief on every other issue—finance, family, job, etc. But if I cannot (seemingly) exercise faith for healing at the moment, why should this stop me from exercising faith in every other area of my life? Talk to the Lord about it, and tell him that you are specifically trusting him in each area that is a potential source of fear. If it is finance, find a promise in the Word, that God will provide for your needs. If it is family, dig up one that is equally appropriate.

If I do this, I soon discover that my faith level is rising, and that it is not difficult to believe for these specific areas, even though the root cause, my illness, is still there. Why should the fact that I am not yet healed negate all the other promises of God about my life? Let’s not allow “failure” to appropriate the promises for healing prevent us from appropriating all the other specific promises in the Word. This is the best antidote for fear that I know of, and we see God’s promises fulfilled in areas of need, our anxiety disappears, and our faith is strengthened.

#4 :: Don’t Retreat
Fourth, don’t become passive. Despite our disability, we must continue to be as active as we possibility can. We must resist the temptation to retreat because of pain or an embarrassing disability. If we do, we will focus in on ourselves and feel worse. Doctors point out that there is a difference between pain and suffering. A footballer can break his thumb during a match and yet continue playing effectively until the end of the game. He has a lot of pain, but he refuses to focus on it. In the excitement of the match, he might even forget it. His “pain” does not cause him any “suffering.” However, when somebody retreats from life because of an illness, their “suffering” becomes worse than their “pain.”

A person in prison is not in pain, but may be suffering a great deal. If we retreat from life, we will naturally focus on our problems. As we reflect on our limitations and the seemingly wasted months and years, our mental “suffering” will increase to a point where it is more “painful” than the illness itself.

Joni Eareckson Tada and others provide us with examples of a refusal to retreat from life, even in the face of the severest limitations. Roosevelt even managed to be President of the USA in a wheelchair! Any serious illness will cause severe limitations, but we must refuse to retreat from life and stay as active and involved as we can.



Nine Do’s

Having given some “don’ts,” I will now try and outline nine areas where we must take some positive steps to co-operate with the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to simply cope with the negative fallout of sickness, we want to advance towards wholeness and healing.

#1 :: Absorb the Word
Meditate on the healing Scriptures. If you don’t know where to find them, ask for list of references. Read books and listen to tapes that will build your faith and keep your expectation high. Play worship tapes in the house and seek to create an environment in the home that is joyful and therapeutic.

After he was sent home from the hospital to die, Willie Burton spent over two years allowing the healing Scriptures to wash through his mind and spirit. Slowly, the cancer was healed. God’s words are “life to all those who find them, and health to a man’s whole body” (Prov 4:22).

#2 :: Clear the Blockages
Clear the undergrowth. We must be sure that we are free from any emotional wounding or demonic oppression that may be hindering the healing process—or may even have been the cause of the illness in the first place. We want to avoid the danger of becoming introspective, but we do want to allow the Holy Spirit to pinpoint any blockages. Don’t be afraid to ask for pastoral help in this area. We have often found that once the underlying emotional or demonic root is dealt with, then healing rapidly follows. I am not saying that all sickness has an emotional or demonic root, or that all healing is necessarily blocked for similar reasons. However, in our experience we have often discovered a link between the two.

Conversely, even if you do need healing from emotional wounding or demonic oppression, it will not necessarily result in a physical healing. The one does not automatically release the other. What I do know is that you will be a healthier person inwardly, with no potential blockage to the flow of God’s power into your body. You will be “healed,” even though you may not be cured.

#3 :: Respond to God’s Presence
Respond when the power of the Lord is present to heal (Luke 5:17). If you have been prayed for several times, it is not necessarily helpful to go forward for prayer at every meeting. However, we all know that there are times when God’s power and anointing descends upon a meeting. When it does—respond. Some physical problems are not resolved simply because we do not always see an adequate release of God’s power in our midst. When we do, take advantage of it. You will be blessed even if your physical problem is not resolved.

It is, of course, important to soak ourselves in the Lord’s presence, even when there is no special anointing on the meeting. Open up your body to the Holy Spirit during the worship, and allow his light and goodness to penetrate your physical frame. If it is not possible for you to get to a meeting, ways can be found of bringing the meeting to you. A visit by the leadership to your home, or a worship time in a hospital room, have often effectively served as substitutes.

#4 :: Pray for Power—for Others
Pray for those who minister healing. Those who regularly minister healing are only too aware of all those who are not healed in their meetings. They long for more power and a greater release of the supernatural. Those of us who are sick or disabled are in a unique position to support such men and women by our prayers. We often have more time to pray, simply because we are sick. We also have the motivation—because we want to get better! If all the chronically ill would begin to seriously pray by name for those who minister healing, they could become the catalyst for a new release of power in healing and miracles.

#5 :: Have a Good Laugh
Develop a sense of humor. The Bible taught that a merry heart is a good medicine (Prov 17:22), long before the doctors in the States started to experiment with laughter therapy. We all feel better after a good laugh—or cry. A friend of mine has been paralyzed and in a wheelchair since he was shot as a young man in World War II. He refuses to take his disability too seriously and often jokes about it. He has learned to laugh—and not surprisingly has outlived all his generation who received similar injuries during the war.

Since we will live in a perfect body for eternity, we really should not take our limitations in this mortal one too seriously! We want healing, because God is for wholeness—now. But the joy of the Lord must continue to be our strength as we fight on.

#6 :: Be Creative
Use your imitations creatively. The temptation when we are ill is to focus on what we can’t do, rather than focus on what we can do. Of course, if our sickness is acute and you are in severe pain, you can’t do much, but when the problem is long-term, we must ask the Lord to help us to use our “imprisonment” creatively. We can perhaps develop a hobby and bless people by making them small gifts. We can encourage others by using the telephone or writing letters.

G. K. Chesterton said he owed everything to his father. His dad could not work during most of his adult life, because of a heart problem. He therefore invested his time in his two sons, Gilbert and Cecil. Gilbert went on to bless thousands through his writing career.

Jim Montgomery also claims that all he has personally accomplished is a direct result of his father’s prayers. “After all, what does a godly young man in his early thirties do, day after day for five years in a hospital bed?” (When Jim was two years old, his dad was hospitalized with TB five years).

We don’t believe God sends sickness. We do believe that he can redeem it and enable us to use our limitations creatively.

#7 :: Light a Lamp
Let your light shine. In the area of suffering, the Bible has two things to say to a watching world. First, that the power of Jesus can deliver us from it. As God stretches out his hand to heal, his love and goodness are demonstrated. Second, that the power of Jesus can sustain us in it. Cheerfulness and courage in the midst of disease and disability are an equally powerful witness. It becomes obvious that we are plugged into a supernatural reservoir of love and power.

We are often worried about the effectiveness of our witness when we are sick. Won’t unbelievers use it as an opportunity to deny the Lord we love and serve? Usually the opposite is true. The reality of God’s love and joy in our lives, in the midst of our suffering, becomes a powerful testimony to the truth and authenticity of the gospel.

#8 :: Keep Fighting
Keep fighting! Resist the temptation to give up. Don’t give way to passivity and discouragement. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t necessarily know why some people are not healed, but Jesus, who is the revelation of the Father’s heart, clearly demonstrated what our attitude to sickness and disability should be—he attacked it. And we must do the same.

Watchman Nee points out that the Scriptures exalt us to resist both sin and death. Biblically, sickness is part and parcel of the “death” that was introduced by the Fall. In Jesus, death is now swallowed up in victory. Yes, our bodies are still mortal, they will wear out and die, but until our work for God is accomplished, we can trust that they will even now be “given life” by the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).

I recently read that the body’s immune system numbers some ten trillion cells! That means that you contain an army of ten million millions of “fighter” cells, lined up waiting to attack any disease that dares to come along. If God has placed a mega-army in me simply to fight disease, then I must take courage and fight along with them!

#9 :: But Take It Easy!
Finally, rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Don’t get frenetic in your quest for healing. The battle is the Lord’s, and if we live in faith we can live in rest. A verse that has often ministered to me has been Paul’s description of himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:1). Ultimately, he was not the victim of injustice and the cruel violation of his human rights—he was the Lord’s prisoner. In a similar way, we are not the prisoner of “Caesar,” or circumstances, or even sickness—but of the Lord. Our times are in his hands, no one else’s. God is a good father who knows our needs, sees our tears, and hears the cry of our spirits—and in this we rest.

Scott’s memorial in Antarctica contains the words, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” We must ask the Holy Spirit to put the same iron in our own spirits. I believe we are soon to see a fresh outpouring of the supernatural in healings and miracles. Let’s continue to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield—until we see it released.