During the pandemic, the most oft-quoted verse in Christian articles, Bible studies and meetings has been 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 – “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” As America crosses the threshold of 7 million COVID-19 cases and 200,000 Coronavirus-related deaths, Christians across the country are praying for healing. But the Lord’s healing isn’t just physical, and it has conditions. The emphatic “if/then” statement in that verse makes a clear connection between our spiritual and moral “healing” as a precursor to physical (i.e. disease and hunger) “healing”.
Popular culture increasingly calls evil good and good evil, works to strip God out of every facet of society, and considers Christians “haters” for not actively celebrating their social values. The resulting hopelessness apart from Jesus impacts America’s psychological health as suicides, depression and substance abuse rates reach unprecedented levels – particularly among younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) who grew up in a post-Christian world. Even our churches have throttled back on discipleship, compassion and accountability, concerned those inconveniences would threaten their survival during this already tenuous period in American church history. Assuming the U.S.A. qualifies as “my people”, then 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 means that, individually and collectively, we need a remedy for our poor spiritual health before we receive healing for our failing physical and mental health.
Power of Healing
Jesus choose healing and feeding as His primary means of demonstrating compassion. Not coincidentally, those are the same two ailments referenced in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 – famine caused by drought and locusts, and disease in the form of a plague. Jesus could have done any miracles to address any other felt needs. He could have made money appear (as He did in the fish to pay taxes) and given it to impoverished families. He could have miraculously rescued children from the clutches of abusive parents and human traffickers. But our Savior chose to heal diseases and feed families because those miracles demonstrated God’s love and power in a way that nothing else could. They both directly and dramatically impact our greatest concern – our health. Nothing stops people in their tracks like physical pain and illness. The instant we get in an accident or receive a dire diagnosis, all of our seemingly significant problems suddenly fade into the background. Even the Old Testament foretold that Jesus would one day take our infirmities and carry away our diseases, a uniquely encouraging prophecy. We wonder why God wouldn’t allow Satan at first to touch Job’s health until we consider the extraordinary effect that losing it has on human beings.
Likewise, the flip side – regaining our health – is a feeling of relief like none other. Imagine taking your first deep breath in weeks following recovery from COVID-19. Picture getting word from the doctors that you’re in remission or cancer free. It’s one of the best days of our lives – among the sweetest words we’ve ever heard. We celebrate having more life to live and spending more time with loved ones. We worry ourselves sick about a child who is ill. Parents stress about finances, but then would gladly give every dollar for their child to survive a terminal illness.
Healing also involves a core need all humans desperately crave but sorely lack during this period of social distancing – physical touch. We miss hugs, handshakes and a pat on the back, their absence making us realize how important they are to relationships and our sense of wellbeing. We honor heroes who bravely work in the medical field or as first responders in close proximity to COVID-19 patients, putting their own lives and families at risk. Jesus did the unthinkable and actually touched a leper who were (considered) “unclean” and highly contagious. Meet The Need assisted the University of South Florida in bringing medical students to Tampa Port Ministries to bring a healing touch to sailors out at sea for weeks without adequate health care. That ministry knows what Jesus knew, that weary travelers will be more open to hearing the Gospel after receiving treatment for an illness than any other service it can offer.
There’s no greater illustration of the importance God places on physical health than the Lord’s sacrifice of His only Son to eradicate the spiritual illness of corruption in our souls.
Conditions for Healing
Our nation is offering up frequent and fervent prayers for healing from Coronavirus, yet we’re suffering from a far more serious ailment. Many wonder whether God is allowing the pandemic to awaken slumbering believers and non-believers, using the loudest available alarm clock. Is He touching our bodies to heal our land? Maybe reminding us of our mortality will bring repentance and revival?
The history of Israel and Jesus’ ministry shows how generously the Lord wants to lavish mercy and dole out healing on His “people”. But in most of those cases, He didn’t restore a person or nation to physical or psychological health unless they first…
- Confessed – knew and admitted they were sick. But popular culture doesn’t acknowledge the existence of sin and our churches hesitate to confront or address sin.
- Asked – prayed and pleaded for a cure. But are we asking for God to remove COVID-19 without satisfying the prerequisites referenced in 2 Chronicles (“turning from our wicked ways”)?
- Believed – expressed true faith, not that God would heal but that He could heal (if it’s His will). But does our society still ascribe that kind of power to God?
- Repented – promised to change if the Lord restores our health. But have we reached rock bottom like the nation of Israel often did and humbled ourselves before almighty God?
The reality is that America hasn’t met those conditions. Its prevailing worldview is no longer predicated on being guests in God’s house but “homeowners” who make their own rules that others must follow or risk being “cancelled”. Even our churches are anxious to get back to normal as soon as a vaccine is discovered or we reach herd immunity, yet “normal” pre-pandemic was a Church in decline in growth, impact, influence and public perception. Rather than realizing we’re sick and pledging to change as we collectively cry out to God for help, we’re more likely to repeat life post-9/11 where any glimmer of repentance quickly faded when the threat subsided.
Need for Healing
Recent Barna studies found that compared to Boomers, Millennials are…
- 28% less likely to say they follow the Golden Rule
- twice as likely to say they respect only people who hold similar beliefs as them
- less than half as likely to say life is sacred
- far more likely to cling to revenge
Millennials are “less inclined to believe in absolute moral truth, view the Bible as a reliable moral guide, be committed to practicing their faith, pray and worship during a typical week, confess their sins, believe that God created humans in his image, and believe that God loves them unconditionally.”
The 4 year “reprieve” Christians celebrated in 2016, which I wrote about during Meet The Need’s #CastAnEternalVote campaign, has come home to roost. A complacent church, expecting to enjoy peace without persecution under a church-friendly President, wasn’t prepared for 2020 – church without buildings, unity without racial integration (during “the most segregated hour of the week”), or neighborhood outreach without disciples.
Now we face the prospect of greater division and godlessness as social media and Artificial Intelligence inundate Americans with content to reinforce one-sided beliefs as soon as they consume a slanted, embellished article. The automated processes that funnel biased messaging designed to drive moderates to the fringe are firmly in place and unlikely to change because they generate profitability for corporations, causes and activists.
Delivery of Healing
Christ-followers don’t have the power to heal unless the Holy Spirit chooses to work through us. We understand the power and need for healing, but how can Christians be a conduit for delivering physical and spiritual “healing”, particularly during this age of social distancing? We want everyone to experience the joy we’ve found, to hear the 3 words that convey the best news ever – “you are healed”! The path God provided in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 for healing our nation, which is growing increasingly ill by the day, calls for His Church to help America meet the conditions described in that verse…
- Confession – Be bold in admitting where we’ve fallen short in living out prayer, care and share
- Asking – Make disciples who will love their neighbors to Jesus, not simply invite them to a church service
- Belief – Compassionately reach out like Jesus did to “touch” a culture that is already seeing its self-centered, fragile psyche start to crumble
- Repentance – Follow the example of Jesus, Paul, Peter and John the Baptist who all came out of the gates calling for all men and women to turn from fruitless, worldly pursuits
As long as we define Church as an institution and don’t assign personal responsibility for the Great Commission to individual believers, then the lack of incentive and leverage to lead our nation to meet those four conditions may block its healing.
It’s Your Turn…
In this age of COVID-19 when health is such a prevalent issue and social distancing is enforced, how is your church providing physical, psychological and spiritual healing to your community?