Update: November 19, 2015

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by Christy Jansma

Dear Church,

Today Connie began a new treatment called “immunotherapy”. We were pleased when the oncologist made application to Alberta Health Services on her behalf, and were thrilled to receive approval. Throughout this journey we have chosen to follow the advice of the medical professionals whom God has placed on our path. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight the cancer. The drug is called Opdivo and is administered intravenously at the Cancer Centre. In clinical trials it has increased life expectancy by some months and we are grateful for that prospect. Thank you for faithfully praying for us.

Over these months we’ve engaged meaningful conversations with many of you, and occasionally they end with a comment about God’s healing – “I’m praying for a miracle” or “I believe God still heals today” or “God’s going to show up with healing”. These comments express a deep faith in our God who has shown himself sovereign over sickness in the past. We have been encouraged by your faith. While it looks like God is answering our prayers differently than we had hoped for, we also know that the Holy Spirit will help us keep our eyes on “what cannot be seen” (2 Cor 4:18). Though that sort of vision often grows dim when we suffer, it’s good to be reminded of it. Thank you for those reminders.
As I said in our update a month ago our situation has caused me to contemplate the place of divine healing. I absolutely believe that God can heal in the 21st century, when it is his will. Early on we prayed earnestly and pleaded with God to heal Connie. We recognize that God could have prevented cancer from attacking her body in the first place, as he has for 60 years. We also realize that every breath we inhale and every beat of our heart is a gift from God.

Why is there sickness and death in the world? It feels so wrong. It’s so contrary to our inclinations and not the way it’s supposed to be. The Scripture is clear that we live in a fallen world, dominated by sin and sickness, and ultimately death. I’m convinced that we don’t understand the severity and pervasiveness of our rebellion against God, and it’s outcomes. The Bible teaches that our sin has ruined God’s original creation and shows up in the brokenness of the world. Our relationships are broken, our bodies are weakened and each of us has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27). These realities are contrary to our instincts and our innate dreams. Eternity resides in our hearts, crying out against our human fragility.

What about the miracles in the Bible? Can’t we expect Jesus to heal today as he did in the gospels? Indeed, he did perform spectacular miracles of healing, even resurrections from death. In reading the gospel accounts it’s apparent that he did not heal everyone, and those he did heal were not permanently healed, that is, they still died. I believe Jesus’ miracles point us to the kingdom he inaugurated, but is not yet fully realized. The pinnacle of the gospels is Jesus’ resurrection after three days in the grave. His resurrection from death is a harbinger of what we look ahead to experience (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus’ miracles in the gospels were performed to authenticate that he truly was God in human clothing, the incarnated God.

While we await God’s ultimate healing at the resurrection, we are discovering that there is a peace beyond human explanation. To experience his peace through times of disappointment and loss is an amazing gift from the Holy Spirit. To believe confidently that he does all things right is beyond our natural ability. The Scripture teaches that all who walk with Christ can experience his amazing grace in the midst of the darkest storm (2 Corinthians 12). God’s grace is absolutely sufficient and Connie and I experience a measure of that in these days. This is an answer to your prayers and we thank you.

Praying for God’s sustaining grace and peace,
Ian (on behalf of Connie)

P.S. After the Bible, two books have helped to shape my thinking on these questions: The Goodness of God, by Randy Alcorn (2010); Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (2013). Both are available in the church library.

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