This year, Lent, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday have all felt especially poignant to me. This year, I am healthy, have a head full of hair, and am even sporting an early tan. The tan has nothing to do with the importance of these spiritual holidays, but it is a definite bonus. :)
Our lenten reader for church this year took us through a reading of the Psalms. If you've known me for any length of time, you probably know that the Psalms are some of my favourite pages in the Bible. I can, and have, read there for years at a time (not that I recommend this approach to scripture, mind you). I just really connect with the honesty, the grit, the emotion of those pages. David gets real with God and I love it.
Reading through Psalms and the reflections written by faithful followers of Christ all over Canada has had a profound impact on my days. It is amazing how often the reading was completely fitting for the day I had ahead. If I needed a word of encouragement? Done. If I needed a challenge? It happened. If I needed comfort? I could find it in those words. I am so thankful for the thoughtful preparation of the reflections and their partnered Psalm.
Enter, Good Friday. What a day. It is full of grief, darkness, and sorrow. Our beloved Lord is tortured and killed. And we are left waiting. Waiting for the promise, waiting to see if our hope will be fulfilled, waiting for the pain to subside. This, my friends, is so much of what moving through a major illness is like. I do not dare compare my suffering to that of Jesus, but the days and months after diagnosis are like a horrible waiting. Will I live? Will I die? Will my body be disfigured and unusable? Will I get to see my kids grow up? Will it always hurt? These thoughts mirror the emotions we find ourselves in on Good Friday. They are dark, painful, and seemingly without end.
1 Peter 2:24 says something I have long struggled with. "By his stripes we are healed." Many people today use this verse to give a directive that we can be healed of our present sufferings, if we have the faith to receive it. Oh the trouble that strikes in my heart when I consider some of the most faithful among us have passed of horrid diseases, all-the-while believing with every fiber in them that healing came from our Lord. And yet, this Easter, I find myself seeing these words in a new light.
You see, I have been healed. A miraculous, wonderful, God-breathed healing. Some of you might be wondering at this, and I would be glad to share the story with you some day. For now (to keep this post shorter than a novel), let's suffice to say that I have received physical healing from God. So, do I believe what 1 Peter 2:24 says, or don't I?
I heard a smart woman (ahem, Beth Moore) once say, "You can be delivered from something, delivered through it, or delivered on the other side of it." (my rough paraphrase) Let's look at those three options for a moment.
- Delivered From: God has the power to totally save you from something, before it even happens. This option, friends, feels like extreme grace. You don't even have to experience the hard thing; God rescues you before the peril.
- Delivered Through: You are in a circumstance, whether it is sickness, a broken marriage, or financial woes, and God brings you through it. This is my story. I was sick with breast cancer, and God delivered me through the fire. Hallelujah! His power was made perfect in my weakness.
- Delivered Past: You are in a circumstance and God brings you home. Whatever it looks like, you don't see the end result (the healing of the situation) until you are made whole in Heaven. Your suffering here on Earth is ended by death, but the sting has been removed by the Cross. Glory.
Now, getting back to 1 Peter 2:24. "By his stripes we are healed." Do I think that this means I may receive physical healing in my present circumstance? Certainly I do. And have. Praise be to God. BUT, does that mean that I will receive healing? Perhaps not in this lifetime. You see, the text is actually referring to the affliction of sin. By his stripes, we are healed; forgiven. "It doesn't preclude physical healing, but it doesn't demand it either (reference can be found here)." Glory to God when we get to see it on this side of heaven!
Oh the Cross, that despicable and wondrous cross. You see, Christ dies for us, and we are plunged into utter darkness. Then, the glorious Resurrection occurs. We awake to a new day and Jesus has done what he said! He is not longer bound by death. He is alive! Glory! Joy! What good news!
As I have moved through this day, this Resurrection Sunday, the reality of life has fallen heavy on me. I have received healing in this lifetime. I got to wake up after the darkness. I'm alive! The weight of this is not lost on me. Now, to go out like the disciples, telling my story for all to hear...