"I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to 'cut back.' From then on, I've tried to be a little more flexible."
(Erma Bombeck)

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Miracles and healing

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about healing and medicine. I regularly pray that God will use my medical caregivers and the drugs they are giving me as a means of my cure. I know that many people--myself included--think of chemotherapy as something against nature, something that is poison, to be sure.

I’ve had people try to talk me out of chemo, to send me off for alternative treatment. And while I do believe that cancer is a malfunction of my immune system and that I need to do whatever I can to rectify whatever set it in motion in the first place, I also know that there are many people walking around today who have been cured from cancer by conventional means.

In fact, I read a book called Cancer: 50 Essential Things To Do by an author who had cancer and was not given a good prognosis. He eventually beat cancer and then set about to find out what cancer survivors have in common.

The big surprise to the author (and me) was that 96% of the thousands of survivors that he interviewed had received conventional medical treatment. Most of them supplemented that treatment with alternative therapies (acupuncture, nutrition, etc.), but they did not refuse so-called “Western” medicine.

The author also urged patients to fully embrace their treatment plan, whatever it may be. You need to believe in it. This is why I don’t have much time or energy at this point for people who want to try to tell me how awful chemo is—because I’ve chosen it as my treatment—and I need to put all my energy into embracing it as a prevention against future cancer.

This whole idea of God using modern medicine as a means of cure intrigues me. Sure, it would have been great to have been miraculousl y healed of my breast cancer from the get-go, but that’s not what God elected to do. And who’s to say that the treatment I’m getting now isn’t another version of a miracle from God?

I’ve often thanked God for the fact that I live in this time, when breast cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence, when I can have surgery that sends me on my way a few hours later, when drugs can cripple cancer cells before they have a chance to multiply.

So it was fortuitous (I love that word!) that I came across the words of C.S. Lewis recently, addressing the topic of miracles. I found his observations quite insightful and would like to share them with you.

C.S. Lewis writes, “There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity, let us say, which men refuse to recognize. God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities-- that’s every year from Noah’s time ‘til ours--God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see.

But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. Every year, God makes a little corn into much corn, the seed is sown and there is an increase. The translation of this annual wonder is the feeding of the five thousand. When He fed the thousands, he multiplied fish as well as bread. Look in every bay and almost every river—this swarming, pulsating fecundity shows He’s still at work.

The miracles of healing fall into the same pattern. This is sometimes obscured for us by the somewhat magical view we tend to take of ordinary medicine. The doctors themselves do not take this view. The magic is not in the medicine, but in the patient’s body. What the doctor does is to stimulate nature’s functions in the body or to remove hindrances. In a sense, though we speak for convenience of healing a cut, every cut heals itself. No dressing will make skin grow over a cut on a corpse.

That same mysterious energy, which we call gravitational when it steers the planets and biochemical when it heals the body, is the efficient cause of all recoveries and if God exists, that energy—directly or indirectly— is His. All who are cured are cured by Him, the Healer within. But once He did it visibily, a man meeting a man.

The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, performed the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale.

One of their chief purposes (miracles, that is) is that men, having seen a thing done by personal power on a small scale, may recognize when they see the same thing done on a large scale--that the power behind it is also personal, is indeed the very same person who lived among us 2,000 years ago. The miracles, in fact, are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

In regards to the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, bread is not made out of nothing. Bread is not made of stones, as the devil once suggested to our Lord in vain. A little bread is made into much bread. The Son will do nothing but what He sees the Father do. There is, so to speak, a family style.

I have tried to answer those who think the miracles arbitrary, theatrical, unworthy of God—meaningless interruptions of universal order. They remain, in my view, wholly miraculous. To do instantly with dead and baked corn what ordinarily happens slowly with live seed is just as great a miracle as to make bread of stones, just as great, but a different kind of miracle. That is the point.

When I open Ovid or the Brothers Grimm, I find the sort of miracles which really would be arbitrary: trees talk, houses turn into trees, magic rings raise tables richly spread with food in lonely places, ships become goddesses and men are changed into snakes or birds or bears. It is fun to read about. The least suspicion that it had really happened would turn the fun into nightmare. You find no miracles of that kind in the gospels.

Such things, if they could be, would prove that some alien power was invading nature. They would not in the least prove that it was the same power which had made nature and rules her everyday. But, the true miracles express not simply a God, but that which is outside nature--not as a foreigner, but as her Sovereign. They announce not merely that a King has visited our town, but it is THE King, OUR King.

So, you see, miracles are not about doing something against nature—the miracles of Christ are all compatible with the nature that he set in motion. For this reason, I continue to pray that God uses my medical treatment—however slowly administered—as a miraculous means of my cure.

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