Tag Archive: healing

This is a response to a guy’s blog from earlier in the year. It’s pretty much what I think about justice, and is heavily derived from the writings of NT Wright, Tim Keller, Frederick Buechner and the thoughts of my dear friend, Ed Springer. I still find it hard to live this. But in His gracious mercy to me, may His Spirit continue to teach me to love as He has loved.

It’s the hope of the new creation that propels us headlong into the darkest of places. Because this hope was secured by a love from which we will never be severed, the joy that springs from it is resilient. It can withstand the buffets of pain and frustration, at least in part because its source is not our own love for these people. When I burn out or feel weighed down by the brokenness of it all, it’s often because I have been looking to my own resources.

A dear friend once unpacked the beautitudes as resting on the foundation of ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. From that posture of spiritual bankruptcy, we come to the foot of the Cross and cry for help. Not just for salvation; everything. Including the fight for justice.

When we cry to Him in anguish over the corruption of the world, I think He responds by energising us with two things:

First, the assurance that the in-breaking of His Kingdom has already begun, and there is a Day fast approaching when all things will be restored. Justice and healing are His purposes; and His purposes will prevail.

Second, the love with which to fuel the fight. Not our own limited resource we approximately call ‘love’. His love for people. And with that love flowing through us, to them, from Him, we are free to love – without fear, and without self-regard.

As Buechner says, ‘He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world.’


Praying like Hezekiah

I don’t remember what it feels like to be well. I don’t say that in a tone of self-pity at all –  it’s just really odd. There have only been about 4 or 5 times over the past 6 years that my body has remembered in a very physical sense that the way it is isn’t normal. My muscle memory has faded. That’s to say that my body’s got used to doing life like this. That it’s forgotten what it feel like to move without seizing up. That it’s forgotten what it feels like to be well.

The most recent time it remembered was last Tuesday.

I meet with about eight girls each Tuesday night at the house of an old friend. We drink tea, eat chocolate, laugh about life and talk about God as He’s revealed Himself through the Bible. We share our lives and we share what the God who made us is teaching us about Himself and ourselves. This week we were looking at a part of the Bible written by a guy called Isaiah (legit name, hey). At the uni Christian group I go to, we dug into this book, and it BLEW MY MIND. It truly is an unexplored mountain range in scripture, and having Rowan unpack the historical significance of the events helped me enormously in understanding what God reveals about Himself in this part of redemptive history. You can listen to the podcasts here.

ANYWAY. This week we were looking at Isaiah 37. At this point in the narrative, Sennacherib (Sen – ack- ar – rib), the King of Assyria (the merciless, expansionist superpower of the region) has just threatened God’s people, effectively saying that unless they align themselves with Assyria, they will be the target of the wrath of the Assyrian armies. The field commander who delivers this message mocks Hezekiah, the king of God’s people, for saying that ‘The Lord will deliver us’. “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (Is 36.18)

Those to whom this message had been delivered came to Hezekiah and recounted what had been said to them. And it’s Hezekiah’s response that astonishes me.

He tears his clothes, and goes to the temple of the Lord.

One of the girls commented on the apparent absurdity of this; how could the King run away like this, when his people were afraid and needed strong leadership? The conclusions we came to were these:

That desperate circumstances reveal the true disposition of your heart. And that seeking God in prayer is far from a passive option of last-resort. It is the most proactive course of action a leader can take.

The Lord tells Hezekiah through Isaiah that he is not to be afraid of ‘those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me’. (At this juncture, I persisted in sabotaging helpful discussion by bringing up how much the field commander reminded me of Sauron’s mouth in Lord of the Rings, who tries to intimidate and throw Aragon’s army into fear and disarray.) But Sennacherib sends another intimidating message to Hezekiah, alikening their fate to that of nations that had been brutally torn to pieces by the Assyrian war machine, unless they allied themselves with Assyria.

Again, Hezekiah’s response is actually beautiful. When he reads the letter from Sennacherib, he makes a beeline for the temple, where he spreads out the letter before the Lord. This is what he prays:

‘O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.

It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, O Lord, our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’

Hezekiah starts by reorienting his perspective of who God is; He is thoroughly God-centric. He acknowledges how REAL and scary the threat is, but He doesn’t prescribe to God any solutions.He just lifts the situation to God and asks for help, for deliverance. His cry to God is filled with confidence because he has a right vision of who God is.

But then, read how God RESPONDS! It is actually insane.

BECAUSE you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, THIS IS THE WORD THE LORD HAS SPOKEN AGAINST HIM (37.21-22)

There is direct causality here. Because Hezekiah spread this situation out before God, He responded by pledging to decimate Sennacherib. And then an angel of the Lord kills 185 000 Assyrian men who were camped out and ready to destroy God’s people.

Prayer is effective. Because instead of charging on with our own plans, resources, and capacities, it turns to a God who is infinitely more able. Imagine if Hezekiah had just concocted his own scheme to engage the Assyrians. God may well have given them strength to fight, and they may have won a battle that they were severely outnumbered to win – but instead, all they do is SLEEP and God fights for them, meaning that there is no way of construing this to attribute the victory to the might of anyone but God Himself.

There was a quiet pause after we read this part of the passage.

“185 000. Hectic.”


“Are you guys OK with that?”

“With what?”

“With God killing 185 000 men in a night.”

This launched a discussion that meandered into whether it would be different if they had fought, man on man, and that number had died. Whether it made a difference that the Assyrians were probably bloodthirsty brutes. Whether it made it OK that it was either the Assyrians or the people of God. Whether God could have changed the heart of Sennacherib to rescue them instead. And on and on we went. I interjected with another unhelpful analogy from Lord of the Rings: when the Dead Men of Dunharrow sweep through thousands of orcs and bring death with their passage. Ultimately, though, we decided that although it didn’t set well with us, that it was clear that if we were sitting in a city, terrified of the brute strengths of an army of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians about to crush us and tear us apart, that we would be celebrating that God had rescued us, not getting into philosophical labyrinths about the morality of war.

What does this have to do with ANYTHING, let alone my illness?

We spent a time praying after we’d discussed this passage. And during it I felt the presence of God in a way that I very rarely feel. My dear friend Anthea, who has been chronically ill with mysterious crippling headaches for about 4 years now, prayed words that lifted our hearts to a right vision of who God is – that He is the God who spoke and universes came into being. This is the God to whom we spread out our lives. And this reminded me that when I have a right vision of who God is, when I recognise that He is the one who is capable to change even the most impossible circumstances, and that in light of that, prayer is actually a proactive course of action, not a passive one – well, I ought to spread out my circumstances before Him in weakness. Not pretending that the situation isn’t hard, that I don’t hate being sick – but not prescribing to Him how He should answer my prayers. Being open to His purposes. Like in Gethsemane, I lift my situation to Him and honestly express my preferences, but surrender my will to His purposes, in confidence that they are good. Like the believers’ prayer in Acts 4, I acknowledge that God is powerful beyond what I can understand, and that He has decided beforehand what should happen.

Too often I limit God’s capacity to bring a breakhthrough in my physical condition. Those friends who have known me for a while will know that I just can’t get past this barrier in my mind. The barrier is that whilst I know that God is able to heal, I find it hard to get from that KNOWLEDGE to BELIEF that He is able to heal, that He wants to heal, that He will heal, that it is in His will to heal. The train of thought deviates to places where I consider that the good He has promised He is always working for, is my being refined into the image of Jesus – and, well, to be honest, nothing else in my life has shaped my character as much as this. But then the other part of me wonders if this means that I am ignoring a root of unbelief in my heart, a lack of faith.

And here’s where I come to.

I want to live a life that abides in deep faith, in heavy dependence, in His faithfulness. In quietness and trust, I want to spread out my illness before Him, daily, and knock on the door until my knuckles bleed. I want to wait on the Lord in a way that brings my heart to a place of utter abandonment and unreserved faith. I don’t want to not pray for healing because it’s safer that way; because that way I won’t feel let down, rejected, or deficient or undeserving of His healing if He doesn’t answer my prayer in the way I want. No.

I want to spread out my situation before Him. Not proscribing how He should deal with it. But praying big prayers and pleading with Him for deliverance.

As I drove home that night, I felt a twinge in my muscle memory of what it was to move normally. And I felt, physically, that the way I was was not normal. And realising that I couldn’t manufacture it for myself, I asked Him for the faith to pray Hezekiah prayers of deep-seated faith.

I’ve left this for about a week now, in the hope that it would crystallise more coherently in my mind and heart. But tonight, after being broken down about the things we treasure more than Jesus, my family at my home church sang with deafening earnest about the freedom purchased for us in brutal fullness by the death of Jesus.

And in a moment of fleeting clarity, this same thought resonated in a chamber of myself which I often can’t feel. So I thought that maybe it was time to just write it out, regardless of how much sense it makes. So please be patient with me!

When I’m at the gym, I often listen to people explain parts of the Bible rather than listen to music. And a couple of weeks ago, I listened to Tim Keller speak about how the glory of God. It impacted me so much I listened to it again as I walked through the city to meet a friend. Here’s the gist:

If to you God is something that fits into your pre-existing ideological framework, then that isn’t God. It’s a concept that you’ve created. As Eckhart Tolle says, that’s man making God in his own image! The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ means ‘WEIGHT’. When God enters your life, He shakes your paradigmatic framework up and displaces the way you used to think about just about everything!

In speaking about this, Keller uses the illustration of a displacement, and quakes. He essentially says that when something heavier than water is dropped into the water, the water quakes – it gives way, it is displaced. The object has more ‘glory’ than the water. Similarly, when God drops into your life, because He is ultimate reality, He has more weight, more GLORY than I or my ideological framework do. I experience a God-quake, a self-quake, and a WORLD-quake.

‘God as a concept is lighter than you. You shape it. It fits in around your categories and ideas. A God concept can’t change your beliefs. It fits in with your existing beliefs. We don’t believe in him in such a way that he changes our beliefs. In NYC people are always saying “I can’t believe in this or that in the Bible because it’s regressive.” Our beliefs come from our cultural moment and our great-grand kids will be embarrassed by them just like we’re embarrassed by many of the beliefs of our grandparents. In other words, we don’t have a real God, we just have a concept. Doesn’t change our agendas, our plans, our goals. People get religious because they want help in meeting their goals. They fit God into their existing belief because God as a concept is lighter than you, but God as a reality is heavier than you. When the real God comes into our life, things give way to his glory. Instead of God being fit into your agenda he becomes your agenda. He radically changes your priorities. Our agenda apart from God is to have a very safe, tidy little life. God says “sacrifice your individual needs for me and my glory!”’

The self-quake we experience comes from this encounter with the living God. Because as soon as we acknowledge that we are a sinner and cry to God for help, He explodes into our life, deconstructing and reconstructing our self image dramatically. No longer is our self worth tied up in the trivialities it was before; we are freed from the horrible lens of self-preoccupation and into the spaciousness that is the humility that comes from an experience of radical beauty. You are freed to be caught up in something so much bigger than you are.

And the world-quake means that instead of you trying to use God, you recognise that HE is the one making the heavens and the earth new – and you can lay yourself before Him and ask Him to use you in His purposes. The world quake means you are available to God, and you are expectant about what He will do through you because you are confident that His purposes aren’t dependent on YOU! What freedom!

Read the notes someone took on this sermon for more on this topic, but the reason I unpacked that was so that I could explain something else.

This idea of a quake came to mind when the traumatic events in Japan unfolded. The torrents that ripped through those towns were ferocious. I have never seen anything of its kind in my life.

As I was watching a Youtube clip with my Dad, who had been in the village that was being ripped apart before our eyes, I think the Spirit brought to mind the reality that when the Spirit entered my heart, His glory, His weight, quaked my very self – and a torrent of mercy coursed through me, cleansing me.
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6.11)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3.4-7)

But I had always imagined this as a gentle affair; a bit of asplash in a kiddie pool, a cheeky dip in a lake. But I realised at this point that all the clutter, all the structures of rebellion I have set up in my heart, all the cesspools of darkness – they demand more than that! God is passionate for those He loves, and His love is jealous – He is grieved over our infidelity to Him, because He knows the damage we do to ourselves when we treasure things more than Him; He made us for Himself!

The stream of mercy that He washes us with is like a ferocious torrent, that shows no mercy on anything in our hearts that keeps us from Him. It rips it out, and sweeps it away. I’m hesitant to say this, but I think that is a violent affair; a painful affair. But not unloving! No, it is beautiful mercy. Unlike the raging torrents of the Japanese tsunami, the torrent from God is a stream of mercy.

For this is what the LORD says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you.”

(Isaiah 66.11-13)

This passage was in a vastly different context (directed at the Israelites in a very specific – and complicated! – set of historical circumstances), but I think it illustrates the image of a flood of mercy. And this is what I felt physically, whilst singing the ‘My Chains are Gone’ version of Amazing Grace tonight. That I am caught in the torrent of God’s scandalous mercy, and that I have been cleansed, made new, and my identity is secure in Christ. And the Spirit let that freedom wash over me.

I pray that the radical mercy would course through your life, that you would experience God as reality, not as concept. And that your very self would quake with His presence, and the torrents of the flood of His mercy would deconstruct everything.

Because only when you have been washed can the way be made clear for the healing, restoration and reconstruction of His beautiful Spirit begin. That is regeneration!! That is new life!!