Eternal Perspective: The Tension Between a Sovereign God and a Miracle-Working God
I saw this photo circulating a few days ago. It’s title is “First Day In Heaven”. The timing of when it appeared in my newsfeed was definitely the Lord’s timing. It came at the heels of the death of a friend. I realized when I looked at this photo that our friend is not moping around in heaven whining and complaining about how terrible it is to be in the presence of our Lord, face to face with our beautiful Savior! He isn’t disappointed or upset to be free from sickness and walking in fullness of health! He isn’t sad about being reunited with his loved ones who went home before him. But while our friend was being welcomed into eternal glory and joining the great cloud of witnesses, those of us on earth were left mourning, and for some of us, we were left with the question, “why?”. Why did he have to pass away at 62? Why cancer? Why wasn’t he healed? Why didn’t he receive a miracle on this side of heaven? Why is his passing on to glory so difficult and devastating? I know without a shadow of a doubt that he is with the Lord, so why am I so grieved, so disappointed? I have wrestled with these “why” questions for the past few days, but this journey into an eternal perspective actually began six months ago. Let me explain…
Approximately six months ago another dear friend passed away. She was also in her sixties and was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. Although I know pneumonia can be dangerous for infants and elderly people, I hardly think of sixties as “old age”. This woman of God and her husband, have had a big influence in our lives over the years. So when we got the news that she was in critical condition and asked to pray for healing we did just that. I personally prayed for her regularly, and sometimes multiple times a day. I fully believed she would recover. My confidence level was high. This couple had seen more signs, wonders and miracles than anyone else I personally know. So naturally I thought and expected she would get a miracle. When her condition took a turn for the worst, I still expected God to show up and show off. I thought of her husband, “This man has seen more miracles in his lifetime than anyone I know. He has prayed for many people around the globe and they’ve been healed. Surely the Lord will heal his beloved wife!” Long story short, she was healed, but not on this side of heaven. When we were informed she had passed away I was angry. I was angry with the devil for coming after her with sickness, and I was angry at God for not answering our prayers. I kept thinking about the prayer group that was praying for her. Everyone on there had faith. These weren’t Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers. These weren’t people who doubted God’s ability and willingness to heal, so it wasn’t for a lack of prayer or a lack of faith, yet she still went on to be with the Lord. As I dialogued with the Lord about this, He instantly took me to the passage of scripture in Matthew 11 where John the Baptist, after he had been taken to prison, sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the one, or if they should look/wait for another. This is after John had already testified that Jesus was the Christ and baptized Him, but it’s funny how we question things when our circumstances don’t look as we expected. Jesus response to the disciples was “Go and tell John everything you see and hear, the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and by the way, blessed are those who do not take offense on account of me” (paraphrasing Matthew 11:1-6). There were two things the Lord spoke to me on that day. First, “I know the number of days that I had for her life.” Secondly, “Do not take offense on account of me.” In other words, just because I didn’t answer your prayer in the way you would have liked and you didn’t see the outcome you had expected, do not take offense at me. To be honest, I thought that was a bit harsh, but it was the truth and I had to wrestle with that.
Fast forward six months later, we were praying for our pastor friend who was battling cancer, believing for a miracle to take place in his body. Well, a miracle did take place. The miracle of eternal salvation and eternal joy, peace and health in heaven, but that is not the outcome I had been praying for. I wanted to see Jehova Rapha (the Lord our Healer) do the impossible; to perform a miracle and eradicate cancer from his body here on earth. I know that I prayed in faith. I believed and believe God is a miracle-working God. I know because I have first hand experience. The story if my son is a testimony of a miracle-working God. I have also personally witnessed other radical miracles. I have seen a man with crippled legs have his legs restored before my eyes, rise up from his wheel chair and give glory to God after years of not being able to walk. I have seen a woman who was afflicted with a rare form of lime decease that caused her extreme pain and couldn’t even hold her children be healed at the name of Jesus and now walks in fullness of health. I have seen my younger sister at 25 years of age receive a diagnosis of acute leukemia and only a few days after we prayed her bone marrow test results showed she was in remission. I have seen a man who was fully paralyzed on the left side of his body due to an epileptic seizure walk and run again! We even bought the wheel chair from him and he returned to his doctor who told him, “I must have misdiagnosed you.” This is the same doctor who told him he would NEVER walk again. Ha! These are the types of miracles that I have been witness to, so why did our friends have to die? Why were they not healed?
I felt discouraged and defeated. “Why did I even bother to pray?” I felt let down, hurt and angry. As I was being raw and real with God, He took me to the following passage of scripture. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That was Paul speaking to the Philippians. The Amplified version puts it this way, “For to me, to live is Christ [He is my source of joy, my reason to live] and to die is gain [for I will be with Him in eternity].” I thought, “Wow. That’s eternal perspective.” Then I was reminded of what He had spoken to me 6 months prior. He alone knows the number of days that have been ordained for us (Psalm 139:16), and blessed are those who do not take offense at Him (Matthew 11:6) when the outcome we see in the natural isn’t what we would have wanted. In that moment I encountered the Sovereign God who holds our very life in His hands, in whose book are written all of our days, but I also encountered the Miracle-Working God. I just didn’t realize it at first. I needed to have a perspective adjustment. I needed to see that the greatest miracle of all is to be with Him, free of pain and sickness, full of joy and peace for all of eternity in His glorious presence! Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 10 as they were rejoicing that demons were subject to His name, “Nevertheless do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
I do not know why some people are healed and some are not. I don’t know why some stay with us and some pass away. I don’t have all the answers, and there are answers we will not receive on this side of heaven. But one thing does not change and one thing I know. God is good. All the time He is good. When I don’t understand He is still good. I cannot and will not lower God to my level of understanding.
Yet, for a moment I wondered if I was living a fantasy. If maybe I’m delusional and living a lie. But then I thought of the alternative. A life without hope. I’m not talking about earthly hope like flipping a coin, or crossing your fingers and “hoping” for the best. No, I’m talking of divine hope. Biblical hope is divine expectation. Hope does not disappoint. Hope does not fail. Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus. Our hope is in Him! And for those who are in Christ, we have the assurance and expectation, that when our time comes to an end on this earth, we will go to our permanent home with Him for all of eternity! We are in this world, but we are not of it. We are merely sojourners, only passing by. And really, when our hearts are broken, where else are we going to go? Where else was I going to go? As I was pondering this, Jesus led me to John chapter 6 when many of His disciples abandoned Him because His teaching were hard to swallow and difficult to grasp. Starting with verse 67 it says this, “So Jesus said to the twelve [disciples], “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. We have believed and confidently trusted, and [even more] we have come to know [by personal observation and experience] that You are the Holy One of God [the Christ, the Son of the living God].” Peter’s answer was the response resounding in my heart, “Lord, where else am I going to go? To whom shall I go? Only You have the words of eternal life. You are my only hope.” Friends, Jesus is our only hope. He is the way, the truth and the life.
My final question then was this, “What about the prophetic promises spoken over him?” And the Lord reminded me of Moses as he stood on the mountain and looked across to the promise land. Moses did not get to cross over to live in the land and eat of its fruit, but he prepared those who would. Moses had invested and poured into a young generation of leaders (Caleb and Joshua). Then Joshua went on to lead the children of Israel into the promised land and see the word of the Lord fulfilled! The words that were spoken over our friend are not null and void. God is a not a man that He should lie. He is faithful and what He speaks goes forth and accomplishes it’s purpose. “But how can that be so now that he is gone?” I asked. Jesus said in John 12:24, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [just one grain, never more]. But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest.” Every ounce of energy that our friend invested into the lives of others is going to bear a great harvest! The words spoken over his life will be fulfilled in greater measure through those he poured into!
Now, as to the death of these two friends, the Lord corrected me. Our friends are not dead as I suppose. They are alive!
One of my favorite quotes from Billy Graham is this, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
If you have lost a loved one and have wrestled with the same questions I have, I pray this post encourages you. First of all, may you know that it’s okay to ask these questions. You may not get all the answers, or may not get the answers your ears would like to hear, but I encourage you to process with the Lord. Don’t shut Him out. Run to Him! More than ever, cling to Him and allow Him to comfort you. May you experience His wrap-around presence is a very real way, and may His perfect peace guard your mind and heart in Christ Jesus! He loves you more than you know and could ever fathom! Secondly, if you don’t know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, now is the time! He is not an idea. He is not a philosophy. He is not a legend. He is real. He is personal, and He is after your heart! You’re not guaranteed another breath. Surrender your life to Him today, and experience the greatest miracle of all, SALVATION!
John 3:16 Amplified Bible (AMP)
16 “For God so loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 10:10 Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
PS If you have loved ones that are sick, don’t stop praying! Don’t stop believing! The devil certainly isn’t going to stop prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). So we must not give up the good fight. We must stand on the word of God and as Jesus commanded, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons!” (Matthew 10:8) We have been commissioned as ambassadors of heaven to destroy the works of the devil!