Can God heal? Yes. Does God heal? Absolutely. Jesus healed many as a part of His earthly ministry. He still works miracles at times, some of which include miraculous physical healing. But Jesus didn’t heal all sick people. Why? Because it wasn’t His primary mission and purpose. He came to save the souls of sinners, not to merely make their present life more comfortable (Mark 2:17). Surely, He cared for their needs, hurts, ailments, and discomforts. But He did not heal every physical ailment present on the earth. In fact, though there is nothing recorded in Scripture to this effect, it is possible that Jesus Himself was sick or injured at one time or another. Sickness is not necessarily a result of sin, but it is part of being in a cursed world and in a mortal body, as Jesus was (Philippians 2:6-8, Hebrews 2:14).
Sometimes we might be prone to think that Jesus would never have us be sick or hurting. The reality is that one day He will wipe away our tears and remove all pain and grief (Revelation 21:4). But that day has not yet come. There is a present purpose for suffering as it shapes us, challenges us, and draws our hope toward eternity (James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). But there is nothing in Scripture that guarantees that in the cross all sickness has been conquered. How do I know this? Well, the Bible is explicitly clear about this. Sometimes we get the idea that the apostles were healing everybody that they came into contact with. We think that they had a sort of indiscriminate healing power and ability. We might even be tempted to think that they could tell God when and where they wanted Him to work and heal through them. The truth is that the apostles could only do what God would enable them to do by faith. When they moved to heal someone, they were moved by the Spirit, confident that they were to believe God for healing. But there were other times when God didn’t heal, and they weren’t in shock or awe about this. It didn’t weaken their faith in anyway. In 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul says, “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” Paul, the apostle who himself was healed from a deadly bite by a poisonous viper (Acts 28:3-6) could not or did not heal Trophimus. He left him sick. Why would he do this if he had the power in Jesus to heal him? Certainly, both of them would have believed for healing and then gone on to serve the Lord. But God chose not to heal, and Paul left Trophimus. What about Epaphroditus, a helper to Paul and servant to the Philippians? He was sick to the point of death, but the Lord spared his life (Philippians 2:25-30). Why did things have to get so far such that he almost died? Couldn’t Paul or a person gifted in healing have spared him this near death experience? No, because man cannot manipulate God, and God heals when God wants to heal. What about Timothy? Paul tells him in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Apparently the water, which wasn’t nearly as clean and pure as ours today, was causing him frequent stomach problems and perhaps other resultant ailments from the bacteria. Couldn’t he just have drunk the water and been healed rather than risk offending a weaker brother by drinking some wine, even though it was for the sake of his health? Not according to Paul. Paul didn’t presume upon God’s healing power, but he called upon Timothy to use sound judgment and do what he could to prevent sickness and disease. There is room in the Bible for doctors and medicine. Luke, after all, the author of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14).
I selfishly wish that we could always be healed because of Christ’s victory over sin and death on the cross, but the reality is that even in Jesus’ time and in Paul’s time and personal life, healing wasn’t always a reality. When God wanted to do something special and significant, He healed. At other times, sickness was a trial or a way of life. In these cases, as in all instances, God’s grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We must not presume upon God’s healing, though we ought to believe in it. God does heal (James 5:13-16) even today, but it is because He wants to. He honors prayers of faith from the righteous hearts of His children, but He doesn’t always work how we want Him to work. He does what He will, and His way is best. God causes all things to work for our good, even sickness, and, yes, even death. As Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). One day sickness won’t be an issue anymore, but until we are with Jesus, let us pray for healing and grace to endure all things.