Have you wondered why God seems silent and slow to respond? So have I.
My wife disclosed her childhood sexual abuse (CSA) to me more than ten years into our marriage. Everything changed. Life seemed to unravel as she began dealing with the hideous reality of what for years had been stuffed within her conscience.
I began asking God to heal her. I thought God would get a lot of glory if He did heal her. It did not make sense that she should be suffering in her innocence. And I thought I’d get a lot of relief too. I was agonizing over the craziness, the unpredictable behavior, her constant sleeping, listlessness, depression, isolation, nightmares, physical problems, fears, dissociation, and suicidal thoughts.
I prayed for a miracle, thinking it would be a Win/Win/Win. God would win the glory, my dear wife would win freedom from all the pain, and I’d win back a normal life again. (See: What is a normal marriage anyway?)
If your wife was sexually abused as a child, I’m sure you’ve prayed for the miracle of God’s healing as well. Sometimes God does perform a miracle, delivering victims of CSA from all of its cruel effects. In my work with men, I remember Chad and Barb (pseudo names), who sought psychiatric help but only saw Barb’s condition worsen. They pursued the option of a deliverance ministry and testified of complete deliverance for Barb that occurred instantaneously. At the same time, I know of other couples for whom the deliverance theology and methodology led to a worsened condition for the CSA victim resulting in the need for psychiatric care and hospitalization.
The variance of how God works rests in His sovereignty. The historical accounts in Scripture exhibit the various ways God accomplished His work and purpose. Some were instantaneously healed (Mark 1:40-41). For others, Jesus interacted with the sick during the process of healing (Mark 8:22-25).
But why does God not perform the miracle of healing all the time? A miracle seems like such a good option!
Do I really think that I know all the options? Might I be playing God in suggesting that I know the best option?
Since God is infinite, I realize now that He has a longer list of creative options than I could ever imagine. And I realize that He has good reason(s) to go with a different option than a miracle.
Here are a couple sets of contrasts that offer two reasons I can think of as to why a miracle is not a good option:
Miracle vs. Magic
Kurtz & Ketcham state that, “miracles involve openness to mystery, the welcoming of surprise, the acceptance of those realities over which we have no control.” Jesus’s mother, Mary, learned this when Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2). She tried to control Jesus but had to relinquish that control in order for the miracle to occur. Magic, on the other hand, is “the attempt to be in control, to manage everything.” Mary was not asking for a miracle; she was asking for magic. She wanted to be in control.
When I prayed for God to do a miracle for my wife – or to do a miracle for me – I was actually seeking magic. I wanted order restored so that I could once again live in the illusion that I was in control. It’s a good thing God chose another option than performing a miracle.
Process vs. Instantaneous
Dr. Archibald Hart wrote about deliverance and therapy. The insights he shared in his article have transformed my life for the past 20 years. He acknowledged that the damage done to the psyche through atrocities such as CSA need to be healed. He noted that God sometimes intervenes to erase the scars, but that there are many times when the supernatural intervention does not occur. His observation as a clinical psychologist was that we are often better off having “worked through” the problems rather than experiencing an instantaneous work from God. Hart contended that our faith increases and deepens more through God’s process of healing than through the instantaneous healing (Hart, Leadership Journal. 1991, p. 75).
I remember talking with Dan. His wife, Nikki, was a victim of CSA. Dan’s experience supported Hart’s notion about the value of the process. Speaking of Nikki’s abuse and the healing process, Dan said that God “used that in my life. It’s the primary means for personal and spiritual growth in my life and in my marriage.”
My response to Dan was, “Same for me!”
Hart, A. D. (1991, Summer). Regeneration, deliverance, and therapy? Leadership Journal, 12(3), pp. 72-81.
Kurtz, E. & Ketcham, K. (1992). The spirituality of imperfection: Storytelling and the search for meaning. New York, New York: Bantam Books.