After I birthed my son, I got sick. Sinus sick.
I rationalized that my hormones were a little off-kilter, my immune system worn down. My son was a fitful sleeper, colicky. I couldn’t get him to take naps during the day, and I woke up fatigued from nights of tending to him every few hours.
My 2-year-old, on the other hand, popped out of bed every morning refreshed from 10 hours of peaceful sleep, wanting to play.
I existed in a never-ending cycle of sleep-deprived exhaustion where days and nights blurred together. But even as I eventually coaxed my son into a sleep schedule, I couldn’t get rid of my cold. Three months slipped by, and the inflammation and stuffiness didn’t budge. Medicine didn’t have any effect.
I re-joined choir, and every practice was a painful reminder that my voice was enveloped in a pillowy cloud of sinus. I forgot what it was like to breathe out of my nose or sing without sounding like a faint whistle stifled beneath an elephant’s bottom.
I called in a mold specialist to look at the possibility that there might be black mold in our house. I had remembered my sister telling me about how sick she got after they had moved into a house that had a hidden mold problem.
It turned out the mold “inspector” was fairly new to the business. Not only did he not give me a decisive answer about whether or not I had a mold problem, he left a 3″ diameter hole in the base of my cabinet trim.
I was starting to feel desperate. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I getting better?
A worship team audition loomed ahead of me. I just had to get well for it. I made a doctor’s appointment. One steroid shot later, I was nowhere closer to finding a solution. A sheepish me showed up at the group audition and warbled through a song, unable to show what I could really do. No amount of apple cider vinegar gargling or cough drop popping moved the build-up in my sinuses. And, probably, because they felt sorry for me more than anything else, I still earned a spot on the worship team rotation.
Determined to get to the bottom of my mysterious ailment, I went down to the altar for prayer one Sunday at church. As a woman began to pray for me, some names floated up — and what started as a faint wisp of an idea turned into a really persistent thought as the day wore on.
The names were names of people in church leadership that I had decided I didn’t really like.
It started with an event that I had attended where the couple appeared very distracted and distant when I tried to strike up conversations with them. From there, I allowed the enemy to worm his way into a series of small offenses and convince me that this couple had it out for me. One day, when the wife showed up to an event where I was also in attendance, I noticed that she looked nervous and out of place. Rather than approach her, I let pride rise in me. I felt a little smug about the fact that she looked so uncomfortable. I found my circle of acquaintances and left her to fend for herself.
After I received prayer, Jesus brought to mind those moments that I hadn’t reached out to that couple. Those moments that I let petty wrongs creep in and sow bitterness in my heart. For the first time, I began to feel bad for the way I acted. I realized that I had been at fault just as much if not more so than they had.
I cried for the rest of the afternoon as I felt God changing my heart. I knew I needed to apologize.
The moment that I uttered the words to Jesus, “I’m so sorry for the way I’ve acted” and determined to make that difficult contact with the couple, a beautiful thing happened: my nose began to get runny. Really runny. I needed a tissue. And all of that sinus blockage that had been stuffing up my head for months came draining out. And kept right on draining the rest of the night.
I could breathe again. I was healed.
I followed up with an apology email to the couple that week. It was awkward and hard for me to admit my wrong. They were gracious, but I felt really ashamed. What I was perceiving as purposeful rejection was really just misunderstanding: they had never intended to overlook or slight me.
In looking back, a few things stand out to me about my healing:
1. Jesus often does things before we understand.
My healing happened before I had gone through Hope ministry training, heard the term “spiritually rooted disease” or been introduced to the connection in some cases between illness and sin. However, I did sense inside of me that something was wrong that couldn’t be fixed by doctors because the illness had persisted through a doctor’s visit, a mold inspection and prayer at the altar.
In John 5, we encounter a lame man who also didn’t understand. He didn’t know how Jesus was going to heal him (he made a suggestion about the healing pools to Jesus). Even when Jesus gave him the command to stir himself and walk, he had no idea that Jesus was the Savior with the power to heal. But what must be noted is that the lame man obeyed when Christ said to “get up” (v. 8). He didn’t demand to know all the whys and hows before rising. He just did what Jesus asked and got the use of his limbs back. The cripple’s willingness to have a child-like faith and do as Christ said enabled him to receive healing.
2. Many times Jesus will give us more understanding after our obedience.
It was not until after Jesus healed the man that He found him again at the temple and said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). In saying what he did, Jesus not only cautioned the man against falling into the same trap again, He essentially gave the man an explanation for the paralysis of his limbs. As I expressed in a previous post, not all disease is caused by sin (we can get illness as a result of the fallen world we live in or we can be born with a disfigurement or disability). However, as commentator Charles J. Ellicott states: The lame man was freed from the effects, but to be truly remedial he had to be freed from the cause too.
Ellicot makes the important point that Jesus didn’t just want to free the man from the effects of his sin, he wanted to enrich the man’s knowledge so he would not end up confined to his mat again. The reality is that even after we’re healed, we have to guard ourselves carefully so that which entangled us in the first place does not slip us up again.
Jesus’ words about not sinning sounded harsh, but He was saying what He was so that the man could maintain his healing. As Luke 11:24-26 reminds us:
When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of the man is worse than the first.
3. Healing of spiritually rooted disease comes when you target the cause.
Pastor and author Henry W. Wright relates in A More Excellent Way: Be in Health that when he started out in ministry, he prayed for people but was dismayed to find that only about 5 percent of the people he prayed for got well. As he started to investigate the Bible and ask the Lord for insight, he began to find that in the case of spiritually rooted disease (disease caused by a problem in our relationship with God, self or others) he saw people getting healed when he addressed the cause (the root or block of the problem). People got healed when he discerned the cause and gave them an action to participate in their healing.
This is not to say that Jesus can’t heal people through prayer. In fact, He instructs us in His Word to get prayer from our elders at the church (James 5:14) and pray one for the other (James 5:16). These are avenues we should definitely pursue. However, from my own experience, sometimes we don’t get well from those avenues alone.
Jesus many times will give us a step we have to take (like repentance of a sin or forgiveness of an individual). Prayer may give us knowledge of what step to take, but it is in taking that step that we will receive the healing we need. Jesus gave me the cause of my sinus issue before I really understood that my repentance of unforgiveness and bitterness towards the leadership he had put in place would open the door to healing. More comprehension came flooding in after the fact.
God is not a formula God — and I must stress that not all illness is caused by sin. However, sin that is unconfessed or not dealt with can indeed open the door to illness. A verse Wright frequently refers to in A More Excellent Way is Proverbs 26:2 (KJV):
As a bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
As this passage suggests, spiritually rooted disease does not come in our lives without there being a cause for it. Therefore, as Wright emphasizes – targeting the cause unlocks the cure.
In A More Excellent Way: Be in Health, Wright stresses that sometimes people don’t get healed even when he discerns the root of the illness — in that case, he also has them address possible blocks to healing such as unforgiveness, lack of transparency, or problems with leadership (he lists many others).
I have used Wright as a reference in many of my posts because the information in his book confirms and correlates with that which I have experienced personally both in my own healing experiences and those that I have witnessed in others. I encourage you to investigate the book yourself and read more on spiritually rooted illness.