Over the summer I came across two really painful contrasts in the church, those who had seen or were expecting miraculous healing and those who were sceptical or sorely disappointed by the lack of healing that they received. The difficulty is that this duality is not something to condemn, but a facet of our experience and perception. As ever with healing revivals, some people feel included and some feel excluded, some are healed and some are not.
The complexity of the issue does not stop there though, because there appears to be a direct correlation between expectation and healing miracles. Jesus pointed out again and again that people's faith had huge implications for whether or not they would be healed. At the same time many people who appear to have great faith still aren't healed! The reality is just that not everyone is healed. I could go on into a lengthy theological diatribe as to why that might be the case, but it wouldn't be that helpful here. Instead I want to just say a few things about disappointment.
There is absolutely no formula for healing, so whatever you have heard this summer that says otherwise, please discount it. Christians throughout the ages have lived in the tension of the now and the not yet of the kingdom of God. One day we shall all be healed, but for now we live in the reality that even with faith, some people stay ill and some people are healed. If you are in the ill category, it does not necessarily mean you have little faith, have displeased God or are subject to some secret sin.
Yet even if you know this to be the case, it still doesn't make it any easier to find yourself repeatedly disappointed in prayer. Indeed, it can often feel easier to blame your lack of faith or some other issue, than to think that your prayer for healing just isn't being answered. This is the place that I really want to speak into today.
I believe that persistence (See Luke 18:1-8) is as great a statement of faith than any other. Persistence says, "No matter how many times I have knocked on this door, I am going to keep on knocking!" The power of disappointment comes when it becomes resident in our core being, it saps us of our persistence. The greatest mistake we can make in the face of disappointment, is to let disappointment dictate our next action or lack of it.
You see the reality is that if we are ever to allow ourselves to hope for anything, we have to allow ourselves the potential pain of disappointment. People who suffer from emotional health issues would often rather run a million miles than have to suffer any more emotional pain. This can lead us to a place where, in our hope to avoid further disappointment, we invite it in as a permanent lodger. This is often validated by the statement, "But I just can't face any more disappointments". Sadly though, disappointment becomes no longer a momentary experience, but a long-term shade of grey.
Faith and hope are restored as we come back to God day in and day out, healing may come, but if it does not, persist. Know that hope in God is healing in itself, even if the issue you are praying about is not resolved. Far better to hope and be disappointed, than to live in disappointment and loose all hope. In Isaiah 49:23 it says, "Those who hope in me will not be disappointed." My prayer for you today is that you would persist in hope and find disappointment had moved out of lodgings.