Why is God so "hit-or-miss" in the way He responds to our petitions for His miraculous intervention? When my son was born with a heart defect and needed open-heart surgery, our prayers were answered miraculously. But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, his condition deteriorated steadily in spite of the constant intercession of family, friends and our church community. He died after battling the disease for less than a year. I don't understand this. What does it all mean?
The men and women of the Bible could easily have asked the same question. Many of them did – again and again and again. Here's just a small sampling of similar "inconsistencies" in the history of God's dealings with His people.
When the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel reigned in Israel, Elijah was spared but many other prophets of the Lord were put to death (1 Kings 19:14). Daniel was delivered from the lion's den (Daniel 6:22), but the apostle Paul remained in chains for many years (Acts 21-28) and was eventually beheaded by the Romans. Peter was miraculously set free from prison in answer to the church's prayers (Acts 12:5-19), but James the brother of John was executed by the sword (Acts 12:2). When Herod's henchmen came hunting the newborn king of the Jews, the infant Jesus escaped to Egypt while other innocent children were slain without mercy (Matthew 2:16-18). And that's just the beginning: down through the ages there have been some saints who by faith "quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens," while others "had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment" and were "stoned, sawn in two, tempted and slain with the sword" (Hebrews 11:34, 36, 37).
Where is the fairness, the justice, the impartiality in all of this? The plain answer is that there isn't any. As Job found out the hard way, there can be no question of fair and equal treatment when sinners stand in the presence of a holy God. There can be nothing but the miracle and mystery of grace from beginning to end: "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You … I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:2, 3). The real question is not "Why does the Lord heal some and not others?" It's "Why is anyone ever healed at all?" God alone knows the answer.
This is a "hard saying." There's only one way to live with it, and it can be summed up in a single word: trust. We have to believe in the goodness of our sovereign Lord and remember that, even when things seem to be swirling out of control, He is there in the midst of the storm, working out His unique purposes for each and every one of us. For some this will mean physical healing, deliverance and victory. For others it will involve an opportunity to "share in the sufferings of Christ" (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; 1 Peter 4:13). Why the distinction? We don't know, but someday the master plan will be revealed, and then we'll have all eternity to talk it over. In the meantime, it's not our place to reason why, but simply to accept the role assigned to us by the Architect of the universe: "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
We're well aware that this response, though intended to be as comforting and reassuring as possible, may come across as somewhat severe. If you feel a need to talk it over at greater length with a member of our team, please don't hesitate to contact us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors available who would love to speak with you over the phone.
Christian Research Institute
Trusting: Let God Do the Driving