By: Cynthia Butler
I feel like a toddler when it comes to matters of faith. I stand to my feet; then I go careening forward in some awkward fashion ‘til I end up on my hands and knees again a couple of steps from where I was. But I think I am making some progress, despite my spiritual clumsiness.
I sit at home typing on my computer the culmination of biblical research, but when does the academic exercise become real life? My daughter gets an infection that sends her to the ER, or I hear of one more friend that has cancer, or I experience chronic problems in my own body and I wonder how to apply what I have learned—what I believe.
I had been diagnosed with acid reflux in 2004, years before I ever had the courage or motivation to seriously ask for healing. Of course, I wanted to be healed, but I didn’t know whether God needed to bother healing me of something that was mostly taken care of with medication. I guess I felt broken, though, like there was a band-aid on an ever-present sore. Something finally came together in my mind, and I was ready to pray for the healing that I had wanted all along.
With medication masking symptoms how would I know when I had been healed? It seemed unwise to forego medication until I had some confirmation of healing. Acid reflux was what had caused my heartbreaking vocal problems, and I had no desire to repeat such an incident. I prayed that God would give me a sign so that I would know when the time was right to take my last pill. I couldn’t imagine what that sign would be, but when it came I recognized it.
A few months before delivering my baby in 2010 I noticed the pill container from the drug store read, “Do not take if breast feeding.” I was wholeheartedly planning on breastfeeding, and I knew that this was the invitation I had been waiting for. So I had hoped, and maybe expected, when I stopped taking the medicine that symptoms would cease. They didn’t. They seemed worse than ever. Of course I was in my 3rd trimester- prime time for heartburn; it could be I was healed already and this was just a product of pregnancy. I admit that it distressed me, though. It took some faith to stop popping pills, but my faith was incomplete; I was worried. Still, if God was healing me, then why was my esophagus on fire every day? I asked for prayer from a few friends who were people of faith, and after my daughter’s birth I seemed to get better gradually. I told people that I believed I was healed. But doubts would intrude from time to time, or maybe they never really left me. And symptoms would resurface, albeit more rarely. I would stand in front of the medicine cabinet wondering if it was a violation of my faith to take an antacid pill. Sometimes I’d open the bottle, sometimes I wouldn’t.
I wondered, “What do I do with this? Do I pray for healing again even though I thought I was already supposed to have received it? Do I rebuke the symptoms?” I did that from time to time and never really noticed dramatic results. Then in a discipleship class at church one evening we were talking about unanswered prayer. I said to the class, “What makes me nervous is that I think maybe I’ve already received my answer and I just haven’t had the faith to hear it.” Saying it out loud was a turning point. I felt clarity. The time for healing had come already. I just needed to believe it.
During the week that followed the discipleship class I decided to believe that I was healed. It’s not like I hadn’t tried to believe before, but this time I wasn’t waiting to feel my body confirm my healing. I wasn’t being cautious to avoid common triggers. I wasn’t checking every once in a while to see if I felt any signs of the condition. I just believed; and there did seem to be a difference. I didn’t notice that gush of liquid from my stomach that had become so familiar. I felt confident and safe. The simplicity of it had always evaded me.
So I told my sister about it as we were riding in the car together that weekend. Ironically, while I was talking with her I began to sense some hint of acid reflux again. I recalled my friend Jennifer’s experience with rebel symptoms. A few days after God had healed her of an eye-watering problem, she was telling her brother the good news when all of a sudden her eye started watering again. She felt like an idiot, but she knew in her heart that the healing had been legitimate. The moment she finished talking to her brother the eye stopped watering again. Jennifer had a similar experience when she was planning to write an e-mail to her friend who was an atheist. She wanted to express how God had healed her of fever blisters in hopes that it would point her friend to the Lord. It had been years since one had appeared, although they had been frequent and painful before her healing. But just as she was about to type the letter, a fever blister began forming. As in the case with her eye, the fever blister disappeared quickly. These coincidences seemed purposeful, as if the enemy was trying to keep Jennifer from giving God glory for what he had done.
I don’t know if Satan is really behind every misfortune he’s so often credited with, but I do see evidence that he fights to regain territory in the area of healing. And I suspected that he may very well have caused the heartburn I felt the day I talked to my sister. But unlike Jennifer, I continued to experience symptoms as before. For this I blamed my own lack of faith rather than the Devil. As I prayed about it, though, I felt that God was saying, “Don’t accuse yourself. Just move forward.”
It was probably around this time that I found myself lost in fear one night while my baby, Maranatha was sick. I couldn’t bring myself to leave her side. All I could do was listen to every breath while she slept. Finally I broke away for some much needed prayer time, and God directed me to Psalm 91. I’m sure I had read it many times before, but this time it felt like I was reading it for the first time: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . You will not fear the terror of night. . . A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. . . If you make the Most High your dwelling. . . then no harm will befall you.”
It was God’s guarantee of protection. I knew I was meant to trust that. Maranatha recovered in a few days and was her usual active healthy self. Life was back to normal, but I had something new- a promise that was mine, a shield that I could hold. So I started to commit Psalm 91 to memory.
Months later, I still had only partially memorized it when I found that I needed it again. I was hit by symptoms indicative of a chronic condition plaguing two of my family members. I knew right away that it was an attack from the enemy because I was fasting at the time. So I rejected the symptoms, saying that this illness did not belong to me and that I did not accept it. God gave me the faith that I needed to resist the devil, and I declared the words of Psalm 91 as best as I could remember them. The symptoms continued and even worsened that night, but after that they began to disappear again. I had fought with my sword, the Word of God, and He had given me a victory. It’s what I had been longing for.
A prophecy had been spoken over me perhaps a year or two before that day. My friend Rick had been praying for me at his church when a lady in his prayer group received these words from the Lord regarding my vocal healing: “Be patient. It’s going to be worth it.” I cherished those words, and I trusted them. But I wondered, “How would it be worth it?” Would my condition worsen before I received healing so that it would be a great dramatic miracle for God’s glory? I couldn’t think of how else nearly a decade of struggling could be worth it. And then I got a glimpse of what God might have meant when I heard the sermon that changed my life in 2013.
A visiting pastor Alphonze Owina told of the amazing things God had done in His life. He explained that people are chasing after miracles, but they don’t realize they could have a miracle in their own house if they would meditate on the Word of God. After being saved as a teenager, Pastor Alphonze had been so hungry for the Word of God that he had spent hours pouring over it, and the Word had catapulted him to what he called the “realm of miracles”, so that miracles were not a rare occurrence, but a way of life.
To live in the “realm of miracles”: now, that would be worth everything that I had gone through and more! I had already felt that God was encouraging me to memorize scripture, but now I really had the motivation to do so. I hung up poster-sized passages on the wall and read them slowly, thinking about every word. As I meditated on the meaning of what Jesus was saying, memorization came easily. I would speak Bible verses I had memorized to my daughter Maranatha as we took walks. I would think about the scriptures through the day, so that they could infuse faith into my thinking. It really was a life-style change.
Soon after that, another visiting pastor Nasir Siddiki spoke on the subject of miracles. He had an extensive collection of sermons on CDs and my husband Kevin encouraged me to buy one of the series, knowing how passionate I had become about healing. I browsed through them and felt drawn to the one titled “How to Keep Your Healing”. So I bought the 6 CD set, and I began using much of my free time to listen to it. I would pause frequently to look up the scriptures Siddiki mentioned and to outline for myself what he was teaching. I treated it like a college class, studying each concept, and making sure what was being taught was scriptural. There were a few statements that I disagreed with, but most of what was taught seemed to be sound and insightful Biblical teaching. In this series I found what I had lacked as I had been seeking healing all this time: a very structured methodical approach.
In the midst of my studies I would offer to pray for people to be healed. The scriptures that I had been taking in would begin pouring out of me when I prayed. One time I prayed for a student’s mom who had been suffering from vertigo. She contacted me a few days later and mentioned that the day after I had prayed for her was the first time in a long time she had not had vertigo. I was so thankful for this glimpse of hope, this sign of progress. And I e-mailed her some scriptures to help guard her against any future attacks.
I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that I had just finished fasting right before this experience. In fact, many answers to my prayers have arrived just after I have fasted. And in interviewing others about their testimonies I noticed a similar pattern. So I had been encouraged to fast often and even to hold prayer vigils from time to time, especially in desperate situations.
It was the people at End Times Revival Ministries that really taught me to labor in prayer. Kevin was leading music there, and for the first time we were members of a church where the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were expected and sought.
It was out of our comfort zone- a far cry from the orderly and predictable Baptist churches we had been a part of since infancy. But it’s what I had been hungry for. I needed to learn how to live a victorious life. I needed supernatural answers to my questions. And I needed to be among those who would do anything to seek those answers.
Every Friday night a group from the church would gather to pray for hours. And each year the church would fast as a group for 21 days. On Sundays they would worship with abandon. And many sermons held a perspective that I had not yet encountered in all my years of church-going. I learned how to fight and how to exercise the authority God gave us against the enemy. I remember one night, for example, when we were beginning a church conference something strange began happening with my vision. It was similar to how Kevin had described symptoms that led to a migraine. Before the conference I spent time rebuking the symptoms using scriptures. And they faded without any problem.
As my journey continues, we find ourselves back in a Baptist church again among those who are less accustomed to the miraculous but who are seeking the Lord nonetheless. We’ve seen God working here, as a number of people in our community have come to faith in Jesus for the first time. I am still striving toward healing ministry, so at home, I learn scriptures, listen to sermons, watch programs and read writings that teach on that subject. It seems like slow-going sometimes, but I’m trusting this process.
The thing is, I’ve seen the Lord deliver me several times now, and I’ve seen Him deliver several others through me (at least in small ways) but these occurrences are still inconsistent. I have some questions that remain, and I know I have a long way to go. I want so much more than I already have. But I can see the path I need to follow now. And it may not be easy, but God knows I desire this deeply. And He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)