I recently lost my brother to pancreatic cancer. He was 50 years old and had great faith for a complete healing. Was his faith in vain?
I understand the concept that "sometimes complete healing can only come with death of the body"; but to encourage people to "pray and believe" for a healing when faced with a deadly illness...isn't that encouraging false hope? In six months time I watched my beautiful brother transform from being a healthy faith filled man to being a broken spirit in a shell of a human being as he realized that God was not going to heal him.
Faith is never in vain. Your brother's prayers to God were not in vain, because they were heard and cherished by God. They may not have changed the physical outcome, but they could have changed how he experienced his life and death. Hope comes from the faith that there is more to this life than I can see or imagine, faith that this life and the God who created it are fundamentally good. This kind of hope is never false.
Our definitions of things like faith, hope and healing are often very different than God's definitions. God did heal him completely. There is a difference between resuscitation and resurrection. Lazarus was resuscitated, only to die again, hopefully at a ripe old age. Your brother was resurrected because the release of his soul from the limitations of the body is complete. For a Christian, this means that now nothing separates him from God and nothing in this world can ever hurt him again.
God does not expect us to understand completely. Those who are "broken in spirit" are precisely the ones that will see God face to face and be welcomed. Prayer may not always bring us what we want, but it will take us to where we need to be in order to find God.
The Rev. Stephanie Linscott, M.Div., BCC Staff Chaplain, Dept. of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Houston, Texas 713-563-3965