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When God doesn’t heal…

Eleven years ago our family celebrated Thanksgiving in McDowell County, West Virginia, one of the poorest places in the country. We visited families in five different homes, took them food, heard their stories, and prayed for them. The visit that impacted us the most was with with Elmer, an …
By Seth Barnes
Eleven years ago our family celebrated Thanksgiving in McDowell County, West Virginia, one of the poorest places in the country. We visited families in five different homes, took them food, heard their stories, and prayed for them.

The visit that impacted us the most was with with Elmer, an old, blind
man and his wife Raythee. Raythee had lost her leg to diabetes and had a stroke after that. They live together in a little coal miner’s shack. It’s
rickety front door opened into a living room dominated by a coal stove.
The whole place needed a good cleaning. Immediately to the right as
you walked in was Raythee’s room. She lay in bed, staring up at the
ceiling. It fell on Elmer to care for Raythee and somehow provide for their
needs.
 
As we visited, we were struck by what a prayer warrior Elmer was. He prayed intensely over Leah several times. Each time he would
ask Leah to speak, which she would obediently do. It is always moving
to me when someone prays for my daughter, but his tenderness and faith
was particularly touching.
 
Elmer made a point of praying for each
child. As we started to leave, Emily asked if she could pray for him.
He said, “yes, I’d like that.” She then proceeded to pray the most
beautiful and heart-felt prayer, pleading with God to restore his
eyesight.

When she had finished, Elmer paused before opening his
eyes, blinked them a few times, and realized he was still blind.
 
I
suppose if I were in his shoes, I’d have been disappointed, but Elmer
had words of encouragement to speak to Emily. “Now, don’t you let this
hurt your faith. Even though God didn’t heal me just now, that doesn’t
mean that he won’t heal others. I’ve prayed and seen Him heal many.
God’s going to use you to pray for others just as He’s used me.”

As
we walked out onto his front porch, I felt as though I’d been party to a
supernatural experience. It hadn’t played out exactly as I’d hoped.
Leah still struggled to speak and Elmer couldn’t see. But on that cold,
November night, we could all see and hear the glory of God fill that
little coal miner’s shack. We didn’t leave disappointed.

Back
home, our passion for God and for His people seemed more intense. Our unity
as a family was greater. Our children journaled what they’d
experienced. Emily continued to pray for Elmer and Raythee.
 
I don’t understand why God doesn’t heal people who pray with faith. Then again, I don’t really understand why he heals those he does. Over the years, I’ve learned that I probably never will. Whatever happens, it won’t shake my faith – he doesn’t owe me an explanation. I’ve learned to rejoice when healing does occur and to be comfortable with mystery when it doesn’t.
 
So many people, like Raythee, feel broken and need healing. We serve a God who heals, but who does so in ways that don’t meet our hopes and expectations. In light of that, I continue to be inspired by Elmer’s faith in a God who, though he may feel distant, still draws near. That’s the God I worship.

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