A few people had asked what I meant when I said it is always God’s will to heal. If it’s always God’s will to heal, why do people not always get well?
The alternative, however, is not knowing if God wants to heal or not. Maybe God wants my sick live one to live…maybe not?
I don’t worship that kind of unknowable, unpredictable God.
When I look at the world’s pain, suffering, and evil, the question I have to ask is, “Does God always get what God wants?” To me, the answer is obviously no. There is evil and suffering in the world that I can’t possibly believe God wants. That means that God DOESN’T always get what God wants.
We can confidently say that God IS love (1 John 4:8). Not that God is sometimes loving, sometimes wrathful, sometimes a four-dimensional chess player, letting some people die and others live to achieve some ultimate purpose. No God IS Love itself. It is God’s primary characteristic.
We also can confidently know that God wants no one to die (Ezekiel 18:32, 2 Peter 3:9).
If God is love, that love has to mean something.
If my wife says, “I love you,” and I ask, “Do you want me to die?” and she responds with, “Well, it depends…” then I would rightfully question what her definition of love is.
Love has to mean AT LEAST not wanting people to die. In fact, it would mean wanting people to get well. The love described in 1 Corinthians 13 (which is first and foremost a description of God) points to a God who desires all people to be made well. In fact, Jesus says that he came so that people can have life to the fullest. It’s the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Not God (John 10:10).
But we can look around the world and see that God doesn’t always get what God wants. Other forces in the world work counter to God’s will and desires. Cancer, alcoholism, accidents, climate change. They all are working against God’s will. Sometimes God’s will — often working through human agents — will counteract those forces. And — too many times — it will not.
We are under no obligation to look around the world and say, “It’s all part of God’s plan.” No — it’s really not! Will God work to bring good out of it? Of course! But just because something terrible happens doesn’t mean that God wanted it to be that way. That’s fatalism, not monotheism.
Does that mean that God is not all-powerful? Well, if by power we think that God can make creation do whatever God wants it to, then no, I don’t believe God can do that. God’s definition of power seems pretty different from human definitions of power. Jesus saw himself as “glorified” when He was on the cross. Paul speaks of God’s power being revealed through Christ on a cross.
In other words, if we think God is powerful because God is coercive, then no, God is not powerful. (If power has something to do with cooperation, collaboration, and co-creation, then we may be onto something…)
The choice is to either believe that God COULD heal and save everyone but chooses not to (which makes the claim of God being Love into nonsense);
Or that God WANTS to heal and save everyone but because of the nature of God’s loving and non-controlling character cannot.
I will always choose to believe in a God who actually desires my good, then a God who could act for my good but chooses not to.
There are plenty of things that Scripture says God cannot do.
God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) God cannot be tempted and cannot tempt anyone (James 1:13) God cannot grow tired (Isaiah 40:28) God cannot deny God’s self (2 Timothy 2:13)
And God cannot do what is logically impossible or self-contradictory. God can’t stop existing, can’t sin, can’t make a married bachelor, etc.
If we KNOW from Scripture that God is Love itself; that God desires good for all people; and that evil and suffering still happen, then I believe that God—because of God’s very nature—can’t prevent evil singlehandedly.
Many folks blanch at the idea of “God can’t.” But it’s either “God can’t” or “God won’t.” And, knowing what I know of God’s loving character, it doesn’t make any sense to me to say, “God could heal someone, but God won’t.”
I preached on these ideas back in 2020. https://sermons.thetablechurch.org/series/909/out-of-control/
That sermon series itself is based on the work of theologian and philosopher Thomas Oord. http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/publications