So I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about a non-life-threatening, chronic medical condition I have and its impact on my spiritual journey. But I’ve been avoiding it for months, because I don’t want to publicly share the details of my medical history.
So I came up with a solution: let’s just pretend I’ve got a nail in my head, right under the surface – a nail doctors can’t remove without damaging my brain. Quite frankly, it’s been more annoying than anything – but, believe me, it has been really annoying.
Many believers have joined me in asking God to remove this nail from my head. The update: even though the symptoms have lessened, the nail itself is still there, and my doctor says there’s a 99.9% chance it always will be.
This brings me to the question I’ve been grappling with for months now: if God still heals (and I know He does), then why hasn’t He healed me?
In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been dealing with this rusty nail in my skull, my feelings have been hard to pin down. At times I’ve found it amusing that I somehow got a nail jammed into my head; at other times, I’ve felt angry – especially when the resulting symptoms interfered with normal life. Sometimes I’ve felt indifferent – but mostly, I’ve been hopeful that God will answer my prayers for healing.
As I continued to ask God for relief, many people encouraged me by reminding me that “the prayer of faith will heal the sick” (James 5:14-15), that “by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5), and if we agree on anything in prayer, “it will be done” (Matt. 18:19). But no matter how many times I prayed, the nail firmly remained in place, ultimately leading me to deep frustration.
My prayers eventually got raw and desperate. I began saying things like, “God, come on. I’ve seen You do miracles before. Can’t You just give me a break and get this nail out of my skull? The doctors can’t fix it, but I know You can, so please just do me this favor.”
After wrestling with my condition in prayer for a few months, God finally broke through – but it wasn’t through physical healing. Instead, He dropped some scriptural wisdom in my mind that changed my perspective, and it sounded something like this: “Joshua, sometimes I show My glory in this broken world through physical healing (John 9:1-7); sometimes I don’t (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
“Please don’t get discouraged – I allowed the same thing to happen to Jesus, My own Son. I let Him experience physical pain (Isaiah 53:4-5) – I even let Him die. But it was temporary, and I was doing something beautiful that even He wrestled with (Mark 14:32-38). Sure, I ‘was able to save Him from death . . . yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:7-8).’
“‘Therefore, don’t lose heart. Even though your outward man is perishing, yet your inward man is being renewed day by day. For your light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. So do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Let there be no doubt: I do not believe this illness is good, but I do believe God is using for my good. And in faith, I’m at peace with having a nail stuck in my head; because I’m starting to realize the biggest miracle of all: that God can take awful things like sickness and suffering and make something beautiful of them.