I went to church two weeks ago – to a lovely Presbyterian crowd over in Agassiz. I have some friends who go there and I often tag along. It’s a good group of people with wonderful contemporary worship and sermons that actually mean something (and aren’t a history lesson on some obscure passage in Ezekiel).
I was there two weeks ago when a fill-in pastor preached. Seems like a nice enough guy but I had a hard time swallowing the first scripture reading, from Matthew 17:14-20, which made swallowing his whole sermon difficult.
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Now, some of you know that I, like the boy, I have seizures. Big, ugly seizures. And most of you know that I don’t like a whole lot of fuss made over them. They’re embarrassing enough without people falling over themselves feeling sorry for me.
I understand that the dad in this scripture was not blessed to live in an age of anti-convulsant medications, Ketogenic diets, and other therapies and surgeries that could have helped his son. For this dad, the only hope for his son lay with a man of miracles who could heal the boy. I get that. Heaven knows my dad has been in his position... when the doctors even in our age of science don’t know how to help. And like the dad in the scripture, he ended up on his knees praying in faith that I’d be healed and made whole. But ya know, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how hard dad prayed, it isn’t all about conviction. ‘Cause if it were, then I’d be healed purely by my dad’s faith. And I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it, but I’m still having seizures eight years later.
So, when ministers and pastors everywhere stand up and preach about mustard seeds moving mountains and fathers having faith the Lord can heal their sick children, I get a little pissy. I know they’re trying to underscore an important lesson but I want to stand up and shout at them “It’s not just about faith, buddy!”
I think faith plays a part but the other side of that coin is God, in His power, has to know that the time is right for healing to take place before he’ll ever let it happen. I don’t want to sound negative but I’ve moved past the point of wanting God to heal me. Yes, it’d be nice to drive again, to go out and be social without having my anxiety overwhelm me that someone has a camera or someone is going to flick the lights in a room to get our attention. Ya, that’d be great. But I’m not going to pin my hopes on it happening. God knows I’d like to be rid of my medication, God knows I’d like to live without these seizures, God knows I’d like my family to not have to worry themselves sick about me when I go grocery shopping. But it isn’t all about faith – it’s also about God’s perfect timing.
And while I’m slaughtering sacred cows, enough of this ‘possessed by the devil’ hogwash! I don’t have any more demons in me than the average Joe. And to any pastor who might be reading this... please be careful with this passage. It’s damaging enough to the poor people with Epilepsy in the room who have to sit through you discussing their condition like they’re some Biblical tragedy! There’s also untold damage done to each person in the congregation who inevitably take away from this scripture that people who have seizures are afflicted with demons, and that we need to feel sorry that Jesus hasn’t healed them yet.
So folks, please realize that healing happens in two parts – first faith, followed by God’s perfect timing. And please educate yourselves about the conditions in the Bible that Jesus heals, not just seizures. Think about the paralyzed, the blind, the bleeding disorders, etc. I figure that God gave us science as a way of healing ourselves but at the end of the day God still wants us to talk to him... I just don’t think he wants us praying for stuff as if we’re still living 2000 years ago when there were few other explanations for things like seizures.
The real message people need to hear is that seizures are a normal part of life for 1% of the population of the world. We’re not crazy and we don’t have to deal with any more personal demons than anybody else out there. Epilepsy is just a disorder, scar tissue in the brain, nothing more.