One of the things that Christians who have long-term or ongoing illnesses have to wrestle with is the issue of unaswered prayer. I can remember reading through the Gospels about how Christ healed everyone who came to Him and wondering, “What’s wrong with me that He doesn’t heal me?” You go over those prayer promises and pray in faith, yet continue to have problems. Well-meaning friends imply that if you were just praying right or had enough faith, you’d be healed in a jiffy. You read verses on God’s healing that sound like they were written just for you. Yet, though you experience some degree of recovery, you’re not completely healed.
But there are other reasons for seemingly unanswered prayer.
We live in a fallen world. When sin entered, so did sorrow, suffering, and death. Those will all be taken away one day in heaven, but we’re not there yet.
It is so important not to get bitter, to realize that God allowed this for a reason. In A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot, she has an appendix in the back of several reasons given in Scripture for suffering. It would take too much space to list them all but here are a couple:
1. Once when Jesus was asked whose sins caused a man’s blindness, He answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). Sometimes the Lord allows suffering to occur in our lives so that both we and others observing us will see Him in and through it.
2. In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” I am not a good gardener, but I do know that with many plants, if you don’t cut them back occasionally, they won’t grow. or at least they won’t grow as well. Sometimes those “pruning” experiences in our lives are a means of growth, growth we wouldn’t otherwise experience.
There is a fuller discussion of this subject with other Scriptural reasons for suffering here.