I have a question about 1 Corinthians 12. A little over two years ago I fainted in my kitchen and woke up with a broken neck. I am now a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. I've had at least two people tell me about miraculous healing and that I can walk again if only I am ready to "receive it." I think that means as long as I am free of sin and have enough faith I can be healed. This bothers me deeply. These are the same people that believe in speaking in tongues and the interpretation of that talk. The Bible clearly states that some people will prophesy. And it states that people can be healed of their infirmities by others with the gift of healing. Yet I know people like Joni Erickson Tada who have had an incredible spiritual impact on many people as a quadriplegic. In other words, she has never been miraculously healed. Also in James 5 it talks about the elders praying over people and healing them. What do you make of healing and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in general? Thank you for your consideration of my question.

Dear sister,

How your life must have changed in these past couple of years. I know it could happen to anyone. Clearly there are people who care about you, and some believe you can receive healing. Sounds like they believe everyone can receive healing! But Jesus healed all sorts of people -- their spiritual purity or faith weren't the only factors in play. Yet most people in Israel Jesus did not heal.

The notion that you can be guaranteed of automatic healing -- nice as this sounds -- is not biblical. Such thinking also fits with Prosperity Theology, which is espoused these days in nearly every charismatic church. (God wants us ALL to be rich, get the guy/girl, be healthy, etc). To me this seems the dead opposite of the message of the Cross!

I’m not saying our lives don’t improve when we follow Christ, but still there’s the Cross (Luke 9:23!). Sure, He still does miracles. But no, his answer isn’t usually yes – and it’s unfair to tell the victim she just needs more faith! Elders (church leaders, presumably those whose prayer lives are effective) may pray, but whether or not there are elders you always want to rely on the Lord.

I am reminded of Paul, who three times asked the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12). But the answer was no – even for the apostle! In fact his argument in 2 Cor, against those who are attacking his authority as an apostle, is that suffering is the true mark of leadership.

My thoughts for you are expressed in many places at my website. I would especially urge you to read my book on this topic, THE SPIRIT. Also, you might want to watch the video message on YouTube or Vimeo on the Problem of Suffering. If you don’t mind watching it in installments, go here.

I hope my reply helps. I am saddened by the thought that your suffering might only be increased by well-meaning friends. By addressing your situation bravely, honestly, and biblically, you have the potential to help thousands who are suffering, whether in challenges like your own or in other situations.

Your brother,