One of my first hospital visits as a minister was to Rosa, a woman reportedly dying of complications related to Emphysema. Rosa was a sweet lady who worked hard all her life as a waitress in a local restaurant. “Smoking was a bad habit but it helped to calm my nerves,” she admitted. Then she grabbed my hand and pleaded: “Will you pray for God to heal me?”
I hesitated not knowing how to respond. Should I pray for healing when someone is expected to die? Suppose I ask God for healing and nothing happens? Maybe I should just pray for God to provide comfort and ease her pain but wouldn’t that be a cop out? After all, I claim to believe in miracles so who am I to say God won’t provide one now? What would a more experienced pastor do? If there were instructions on what to say in a situation like this, I hadn’t read them yet.
With a look of concern, Rosa quietly asked, “Are you okay, Larry?”
“Yes, yes I’m fine,” I replied. Gently taking her hand and the hand of Willie, her husband, I said, “Let us pray.” With all the fervency I could muster, I prayed for God to give Rosa a miracle of healing and provide her the opportunity to spend more time with her husband and family. After the prayer, they thanked me for the visit and asked me to come again soon. Despite the prayer, I left the hospital room convinced, Rosa would not make it through the day… I was wrong.
Rosa came home from the hospital several days later very much alive and bubbling with enthusiasm and energy. That Sunday, she and her husband appeared at our worship service for the first time in years. Rosa told everyone how she was on the verge of death but God and a prayer by her preacher, miraculously healed her.
Wow! It was pretty exciting stuff. Maybe I do have a healing touch. In fact, I was feeling pretty cocky for a struggling young preacher. “Billy Graham better look out!” I thought I was something.
Several months later, Rosa went into the hospital again. She recovered but was noticeably weaker. Once again, I began to pray in earnest, confidently expecting God to provide yet another miracle but it would not happen this time. Within a few days, Rosa slipped into a coma and died.
“What happened to my healing ministry?” I cried out to God. “Why was this time so different? Why did Rosa have to die? What a waste! What did I do wrong?”
I obviously needed a few tough lessons on humility but I also needed to understand something even more important. God does not promise to heal just because you ask. Healing is meant to be an extraordinary miracle not simply reduced to an everyday occurrence. What God does promise is something I never really understood until much later. God is always ready to offer… comfort.
The Apostle Paul said it best: “All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) This statement is meant to actually define who God is… “God is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.”
Shortly after the funeral, Rosa’s husband, Willie came by to thank me. I was visibly surprised and embarrassed but before I could apologize for failing Rosa so miserably, he went on to say: “Larry, Rosa and I were never as happy as we were these last few months. We both rediscovered our faith in God and we fell in love with each other all over again. We were blessed with a miracle!”
Lost, in my foolish and selfish pride, I missed God’s real miracle of healing through comfort. A family was given the precious gift of extra time and they wisely took advantage of every moment.
I vowed never again forget that the real “healing touch” belonged to God. He may not always provide healing… which is why they are called miracles. God can and will always provide comfort.