I am at the tail end of my fourth pregnancy in six years, and my body has struggled this time. I contracted pneumonia for the first time ever in early September, and the respiratory problems simply did not go away after that.
After another round of pneumonia, bronchitis, and two successive colds, by early November, I was getting discouraged and desperate. I went to see my doctor, and she confirmed the latest misery was sinusitis.
Each of my pregnancies had been characterized by good health and no complications, so I asked my doctor what was happening this time. With an enormous amount of sympathy, she confirmed what I feared: I might not get better until the baby comes (at that point, five weeks away). She felt I needed steroids to completely clear out the respiratory problems, but those are not baby-friendly. I went home discouraged.
I was so tired of being sick and tired. Even one good day of just being pregnant, not sick and pregnant, would be wonderfully welcome. I tried to adjust my mindset: this is the new normal.
My spirits were low, and my faith weak. I sat down the next day to do my bible study on James (Beth Moore: Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment). That day happened to be on James 5:14-15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” To say it was appropriate for my situation would be an understatement.
My husband Tim is a pastor and by the time he came home, I was ready to ask him to follow the prescription given in Scripture. I wasn’t sure how he would respond; in my 30 years of being a Baptist, I haven’t seen this happen.
To my surprise, he agreed eagerly and asked if we might make it a focus in our Wednesday night prayer service the following evening. My weakness and discouragement were such that I agreed, even though I knew I would experience some embarrassment at being the center of attention. Whether God chose to heal me or not, I knew I needed prayer because I felt like I was losing the will to fight the good fight.
On the following night, the faithful core of our church gathered for prayer as usual. Tim opened up the Bible to James and taught on 5:14-15, walking carefully through the verse and emphasizing both God’s power to heal and also His sovereignty to choose.
At the end of the teaching, he called me up along with two men who are leaders in our church. He had me kneel and began to pray as he also massaged a small amount of olive oil onto my forehead. My tears flowed down as he and the other two men prayed for me.
I didn’t experience the lightning bolt of healing that night that others describe. In fact, the next two days were pretty grim as I came down with a touch of the stomach flu (it was passing through our house from our three kids).
But after that, the tide turned. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was well enough to go to church morning and evening. And when I came to the one week mark on the following Wednesday, I had made a 180 degree turn around.
My nasal passages were clear, my energy had returned, and my spirits were high. I felt good for the first time in a long, long time. My health has continued to improve and I feel like I’ve been given my life back.
I don’t claim to understand much about the healing ministry, but my experience taught me three things:
1. Vulnerability is necessary to experience the unity of the body of Christ. It’s humbling to admit to others just how much you really are hurting or struggling, but when you do, the body steps in and carries you to Christ in a way that is mysterious and powerful.
2. The church is strengthened and encouraged when unified in prayer efforts. I have seen this same Wednesday night group become as intense as a labor and delivery room, praying in earnest for the healing of a hurting church member. The Holy Spirit dwells among us in power and God is pleased to hear our prayers.
3. Scripture is our sound authority. We don’t have to understand every aspect to practice obedience to the commands given to us. It doesn’t have to be a lightning bolt revelation to create genuine change in our lives. Real change can happen in increments, over minutes and hours and days, like a plant growing imperceptibly.
Over the course of a week, I went from miserable and struggling to alive and whole again. My faith and my body were restored, just in time for the holiday seasons approaching and the last lap of my pregnancy. So much life and family time is unfolding ahead of me, and God has restored my health so I can serve and praise Him.
Now that’s something to be truly grateful for this Thanksgiving.