Present doesn’t always mean better.

Earlier this week, we talked about three stories Mark tells us about Jesus and his interactions with sick people. (You can read part one and part two of this series)

So how do we talk with God about physical health? What can we expect with miracles?

After reflecting on these stories, I’d like to suggest that we don’t use these texts from Mark in isolation as teachings about healing.

There are other places to turn. We can go to the words of James about prayer and healing. We can use the example of Paul, where he rejoiced in the restoration of Epaphras to health.

I think these texts from Mark are teachings about Jesus, not about healing.

And they may be more about Jesus and women, Jesus and ceremonial cleanliness, Jesus and the rejection of his work than about promises that if we believe we’ll be healed.

In the first story, the touch from a woman who was ceremonially unclean made Jesus unclean. And the touching of a dead body made Jesus unclean. And the conversation with the woman, like the many conversations with woman, was a blessing of her existence and capacity to converse. The miracles in these stories may be less about the physical healing and more about the capacity of Jesus to understand the needs of hearts.

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To be clear, when I am sitting on a stool usually used by people doing compressions, talking with a wife whose husband’s breathing is supported by a ventilator, who is not recovering, I do not use that as a time to say, “Your beliefs are messed up.”

That’s not the conversation that I’m guessing God is having with her, either.

In those moments, I want to listen. I want to listen for the reasons she doesn’t want to give up, wants to hold on. I hear about a parent who lost another child, saying “Don’t give up on this one.” I hear about a son-in-law who came out of a coma. I hear about the other half of a breaking heart.

I sit and I listen.

There is room for miraculous. But the decision rests in God’s work not our worthiness. And I trust that when I walk out of the room, God remains. Present for grief as well as for life. I never predict health outcomes. But I’m grateful for the glimpses Mark gives us about Jesus. He may not be predictable. But he’s present.

And present doesn’t always mean physically better. But it always means with.

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I have a monthly newsletter. Called “Finding Words“, it has some of my writing about finding words in hard times and will have links to words I’m reading and listening to. It’s different than this site, but it’s still me. And there’s a new issue this weekend. (Read more and subscribe)