Matthew 9:22, Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Texts like this, whilst amazing, are challenging for us readers. For we read this and believe it, but are left wondering, “Why doesn’t Jesus do this today?” That is, there are times when Christians have faith that Jesus will heal their illness, but He doesn’t. Indeed, some experience miraculous healing, but these cases are as rare as a raindrop in the Sahara. So, we wonder, why doesn’t Jesus perform miracles among His believers today who exercise faith like this woman? I have no satisfactory answer.
In the four gospels, we have 37 records of Jesus’ miracles. This is not a very large number. Jesus is widely known for His miracles, but this isn’t exactly an impressive number. Of course, as John notes in his gospel account, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25). That’s how John ends his gospel. So, it is highly likely Jesus performed more miracles than are recorded.
Regardless of how many miracles Jesus may have performed, there are times when he refused to perform miracles. There are two categories in which we see Jesus refuse to perform a miracle.
First, He refuses to perform miracles that meet His own needs. We see this particularly in His temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). The Devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread since He is hungry. Instead, Jesus refuses and quotes Scripture that man lives not on bread (i.e. food) alone but on the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). We see this also when people mock Jesus on the cross for being able to save people but unable to save Himself (Matthew 27:39-44). Besides the necessary atonement provided for us in Jesus’ death, the miracle of Jesus saving Himself would’ve undermined the miracle of the resurrection. Not once do we see Jesus perform a miracle to save His hide.
Second, Jesus refused to perform miracles when hard hearted people demanded “signs.” Think of the common atheist today who says, “God, if you exist, strike me down!” And He doesn’t. One example where we see this in Scripture is in Mark 8:11-13 when some Pharisees demand a sign from Jesus. Jesus, detecting their hard heartedness, questions their demand, refuses to give a sign, and then leaves. Two other factours apply here: one, these Pharisees were lacking faith in Jesus; and two, they were demanding physical proof (even in spite of times they did see Jesus perform miracles, such as on the Sabbath), but that is not how faith is created. So, Jesus refused and left them in their hard heartedness.
So, going back to our original question: “Why doesn’t Jesus perform many miracles among us today?” This falls under the second category, which depends on the nature of the prayer. Jesus refuses to perform miracles among the hard hearted who a) lack faith, and b) are challenging His authority. That’s simple enough. But what about those who genuinely believe Christ will heal them, but He doesn’t? My answer is one you will dislike: We don’t know. Either it is God’s will, or it isn’t. This makes us angry, and we find ourselves falling under the second category demanding and challenging God that He explain Himself and do as we ask, but He does not answer to such hard heartedness.
Take my ailment as an example. I suffered an injury in the Army and have been diagnosed with mild lumbar spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that happened as a result of the degeneration of both my facet joints and intervertebral discs. Basically, I have lower back weakness and can do only very minimal heavy lifting and can no longer spend time on my feet for extensive periods of time. This illness has drastically altered my lifestyle. I have prayed many prayers of faith that God would heal me, but He hasn’t.
In my evangelical days, I once walked into a Jesus Culture concert—using my cane to walk—and had mystic Christians come up to me and say without a doubt, “God is going to heal you.” I believed them. But God didn’t heal me. I suffer with pain every day.
So, why won’t God heal me? I have faith that He will, but He refuses to heal me miraculously. So, why won’t He heal me? I don’t know. I desire so much to go on long, backpacking photography trips again, but I can’t. I don’t know why God refuses to miraculously heal me, but I have learnt a valuable lesson: the lesson of humility, in more ways than one.
I cannot tell you how humiliating it is to tell men my age (and even those older than me) that I can’t do a certain physical activity anymore because of my back. Some are even disillusioned by my youth and assume I’m making excuses to be lazy. It’s even humiliating before women, for I am no longer fit and “sexy,” so I suffer with body image issues.
These struggles have enabled me to sympathise with others who have physical disabilities and suffer with body image issues. More than that, for the second use of humility, I have learnt to be healthfully reliant on others. As an independent, self-sufficient man, this has not been easy to do. I’m used to doing everything on my own, and I’ve had to learn to swallow my pride and lean on others to help me do what I’m no longer able to do. This has also enabled me to apply that same concept to non-physical areas of my life.
God won’t miraculously heal me, but He has taught me sympathy and humbleness in the midst of my pain. All that would be gone the moment He healed me the moment I first experienced the pain. So, if one has faith God will miraculously heal them but He doesn’t, perhaps God has greater things in store. Still, God can use more physical means to heal us, such as doctors and medicine, which can be equally as miraculous. Would I prefer that God heal me right now? Of course. But faith has enabled me to accept God’s will and to use this pain to grow in character that I may better set forth an example of faithfulness in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Besides all this, my faith has already made me well. God has promised to give me a new body in the bodily resurrection. Whilst our bodies may be in pain or illness right now for some of us, we have the assured hope of receiving new bodies where there is no pain or illness at Christ’s return.