Anthony and his family have been a part of our church for years. Now in his late 20’s, Anthony is one of those individuals that continually reminds us that having special needs often results in a surprising amount of love and joy that is unexpectedly experienced on behalf of those he interacts with. Anthony adds a dynamic to our community that only he can bring. If you know him, you know what I’m talking about, and are likely chuckling to yourself right now.
But God has recently reminded us of something else through Anthony this past week. That is, that God is real, and that He is still capable of performing miracles.
A year and a half ago, Anthony started experiencing bleeding and fatigue. His blood counts were dropping, which could indicate a number of things, including Leukemia. But as the doctors ran tests, they could find no sign of cancer or any other such disease. Anthony seemed to be healthy, except for his symptoms. As the doctors continued to search, Anthony frequently had blood transfusions to bolster his blood loss.
The doctors eventually discovered that Anthony’s intestines were riddled with lesions and ulcerations. As they investigated, they found that these ulcerations were spread all throughout. There would be a clean section for about two feet, then another set of lesions, and so on. Finally, it was determined that surgery would be inevitable. Anthony made several visits to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, where it was determined that all of his unhealthy intestines would have to be surgically removed.
There were many who prayed for Anthony in various ways. Anthony diligently contacted people and asked them to pray. We called him forward the Sunday before the family left for Minnesota and prayed for him. Some prayed for a miracle, some for comfort, some for the doctors, etc.
We are not typically a charismatic church. We are a non-denominational gathering composed of people from multiple backgrounds. So it was quite a surprise when Anthony’s family reported that upon the doctors’ final prep examination for surgery, they found that all but one small lesion had been completely healed. The doctors were baffled and had no explanation. When they informed Anthony, as he still lay on the gurney, he sat straight up and immediately declared “Praise be to God!” This past Sunday was the first Sunday where the family had returned home. You can hear their testimony by Clicking Here.
This event raises multiple questions. As a people of faith, it would be ludicrous to attribute this sudden occurrence to mere coincidence. Someone somewhere could find some explanation to write it off as spontaneous bodily healing, but even the doctors had no explanation. If God is indeed sovereign and is present in all things, then we can only attribute this occurrence to Him.
But why heal most of the ulcerations and not all? Anthony still has the condition, though he has been spared a drastic, life-altering surgery. Why Anthony? Why now? We all know of wonderful people who pray diligently for healing but don’t receive it.
As humans, we wrestle with the workings of God, often to no avail. However, there are a few important lessons to take from such occurrences as this.
First, our immediate temptation is to think in terms of cause and effect: Perhaps Anthony was healed because of the way we prayed. Perhaps it was on account of some person’s prayer vs. another. Maybe Anthony’s faith is different. Maybe God was showing him some special favor, etc. etc. We are tempted to observe every aspect of what happened, so that we can replicate those conditions and come up with a working “formula” for enacting God’s miraculous acts, as though God could be placed in a test tube.
This is a wrongful way of thinking. While the intent may be good, it is all too easy to begin to think in terms of what we can do to cause God to perform a miracle. We have to understand that we cannot make these things happen. We depend solely upon God, because only He can work in these ways. If we in any way begin to attribute the glory that is due to God to anyone or anything else, even if that something else is the “right way” to pray, then gradually we begin to place our dependence upon a method, person, or formula rather than God Himself.
So what is the proper response? Rejoice with Anthony and his family in this time. Realize that God is powerful, that He is good, and that He and He alone is worthy of our total surrender, trust, and dependence.
As I talked with Anthony’s mother, she told me that the one thing that was different about this trip to the clinic was that they had made a decision to fully trust in God, whatever the outcome. They were fully prepared to adapt to life after surgery. They had accepted their circumstance, and surrendered it fully to the Lord, saying “God, whatever your will is for this situation, we will trust you. We will follow, and we will remain faithful.”
We may not always understand God’s ways, but we must understand that no matter what, we must follow, trust, and love Him above all else. The glory that is due to our Lord cannot be given to anyone or anything other than Himself. Have you surrendered your life to Him in this way?
I’m interested in discussion. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to comment via this blog or our Facebook posting.