Dr. Kent Brantly, the missionary doctor who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia, has been released from an Atlanta hospital. In an August 21 press conference, Brantly said, “God saved my life, a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers…thank you to the Liberia community, Emory hospital and so many of you, my family, friends and church family.”
Immediately the Twittersphere exploded with hateful comments, upbraiding Dr. Brantly for giving God the credit for his healing instead of doctors, nurses and the experimental serum he took. One tweeter scoffed, “Ebola Patient Dr. Kent Brantly is the Douchebag of the Day, thanking God rather than the doctors who saved his life.” Another sarcastically tweeted, “Great news that God saved American doctor Kent Brantly. I guess the 1300+ Africans just didn’t pray hard enough.”
Have you ever been challenged in such a way? Have you ever affirmed that your faith or prayers played a crucial role in your healing or protection, and then have someone pour a bucket of cold water on your testimony? I have. I’m guessing, if you’re a believer, you have, too.
And, yes, there are plenty of examples of people who have prayed for a loved one to recover from a dread illness and that person died. I remember a charismatic church member who was stricken by cancer and boldly declared that the disease had no hold on him. “God is going to heal me,” he declared. “By His stripes I’m already healed!” His praying family agreed with him. He died shortly after.
We also know that Christians are not exempt from accidents. On June 28, 1987, four Christian leaders coming home from a retreat were killed in a plane crash in Wyoming. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who knew these men, agonizingly asks in his book, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, “Why? What purpose was served by their tragic loss?”
Atheists triumphantly point to these tragedies as proof that God does not exist. Other skeptics argue that the God of Christianity must not be good if He allows such suffering, or perhaps this Deity is not sufficiently powerful to prevent disasters.
I don’t have all the answers on why sin, evil and suffering exist. I cannot fully explain why some prayers seem to reverse an impossible situation and others seem to bounce back from a brassy heaven. But I do know this: I observe a dazzlingly complex universe; see the transcendent beauty of creation; read the profound writings of saints, psalmists and apostles (all who suffered); thrill to the life and ministry of Jesus; hear the astounding testimonies of believers; learn about healings and miracles that cannot be explained by science or medicine (and never will); reflect on my own transformed life; and listen to the small, still voice in my heart that comes from another realm–and I cannot not believe.