Philip Yancey

I’ve been writing about pain and suffering for four decades. In view of the COVID-19 crisis, I’ll be posting a few relevant excerpts from my books:

Jesus held up the example of a Good Samaritan (note, neither Jewish nor in any sense a “Christian”) who bandaged the wounds of a robbery victim, poured on him oil and wine, and took him to an inn. The Samaritan did not simply pray for the victim, but ministered to him medically in the best way known to that day. In doing so he loved his neighbor as himself, fulfilling one of the two most essential commandments.

I see in the Good Samaritan a direct parallel to the doctors, health workers, and scientists who dedicate their lives to fighting disease. Only in the last century have we discovered treatments effective against the great scourges of history: polio, bubonic plague, diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, and many others. In some diseases, Christian missionaries led the way in discovering the best treatments, for they alone were willing to risk infection by living among and ministering to patients.

The best healing takes place when a person lives so that a properly aligned soul and spirit can direct the bodily healing prompted by good medicine. In the words of Dr. Paul Brand:

“My profession of surgery depends entirely on the body’s own healing system. When I set a fracture, I merely align two ends of bone properly; the body must lay down the calcium needed for them to rejoin, or my work would prove futile. The Christian heals because he or she has the kind of body that was designed by God to be equipped to overcome injury and infection. The non-Christian body is likewise equipped, but may be more misused so that its healing functions may not be as well focused. Yet, like the sun which God makes to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous, so the osteoblast heals righteous bones as well as unrighteous bones.

The real direction of prayer for the sick and the suffering should be, first to praise God for the wonderful mechanisms of healing and recovery that God has designed and placed in the person’s body, and then to pray that God’s special grace will take hold of his or her whole person and give the ability to use these resources to their fullest advantage; and also that the church will rally round and lay their healing hands on the one who needs support, faith, hope, and love.”

~ Adapted from “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?”