Faith / spinal-cord injury

Joni Eareksson Tada and her visit to Katherine Kuhlman

My mother recently sent me this extract from a book by Joni Eareksson Tada, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty. she discusses her visit to healing evangelist Katherine Kuhlman. I do not post this to disparage the reputation of a famous and long dead Pentecostal. Nevertheless, Tada’s experience is noteworthy. Why not let us know what you think?

‘I remember the night so well, Miss Kuhlman breezed onto the stage under the spotlight in her whit gown, and my heart raced as I prayed Lord, the Bible says You heal all our diseases. I’m ready for You to get me out of this wheelchair. Please would You? But the spotlight always seems to be directed towards some other part of the ballroom where apparent healings were happening. Never did they aim the light at the wheelchair section where all the “hard cases” were; quadriplegics like me; stroke survivors, children with muscular dystrophy, and men and women sitting stiff and rigid from multiple sclerosis.

God answered. And again, His answer was no.

After the crusade I was number fifteen in a line of thirty wheelchair users waiting to exit at the stadium elevator, all of us trying to make a fast escape ahead of the people on crutches. I remember glancing around at all the disappointed and quietly confused people and thinking Something’s wrong with this picture. Is this the only way to deal with suffering? Trying desperately to remove it? Get rid of? Heal it?

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Peita
    April 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm


    Im going to start with a little disclaimer to say that I completely have no idea about God and healing and miracles…it has always baffled me and I think always will. He has no set formula, rules, conditions, setting, no bias of age, race, faith, medical condition…its unexplainable!

    Never the less– no harm in exploration as long as we always come back to what we know to be the core truths– God is good, He is sovereign, His will is for us and He is always on the throne.

    I dont know how I feel about “healing meetings”– except that I am a little uneasy about them. To be honest there is some hesitation when it comes to– will a person be healed or wont they be healed? If I was to take a friend to a healing meeting and they dont get healed– selfishly I think of myself and feel like I have to explain why they didnt receive their healing and to be honest sometimes in the past I have felt [let down] by God. I said that He would heal, and He didnt. Well who am I to make those calls?? Who am I to say what God should and shouldnt do??? His ways are far above my ways– He sees everything begining from end, He knows all, sees all– how can I ask Him to answer the way I think He should answer and doubt His methods? Im continually bought back to a place of letting go, and trusting God- doing the best that I can with what I know and what is in my ability, and allowing God to be God and do the rest.

    Healing meetings to me I think have the potential to have an unhealthy effect. Arranging meetings for healing seems unnatural to me, and we as Christians should be believing for healing everyday with everyone we come in contact with instead of arranging events and programmes for these miracles to take place. Dont get me wrong– Im not saying its all bad–God still meets hungry hearts and people searching for him– I just think it needs to be done differently. When it comes to prayer requests and praying for people in church who are sick I see this slightly differently because the whole service isnt revolved around it and prayer is done with the unity of the church community who is your family- people you see week to week and do life with, not a bunch of strangers.

    Anyways…I think Ive just confused myself even more. So I come back to what I know!!

    April 18, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I am part of two healing prayer groups. We see God heal physically but mostly we see God heal in the realm of past hurts and traumas. Yes, it’s Gods sovereign choice (but we always pray as let by the Holy Spirit and go where he leads). I believe that healing was completed at the cross, do I understand how to appropriate that, no but I am learning. I must approach each person I pray for believing that its my Heavenly Fathers will to heal or else I become fatalist and no use to them. I have prayed for many people and God always does something.

  • Sandra Godde
    April 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Shane, I would like to respond to Joni’s question re: is this is the only way to deal with suffering? by re-imagining the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane…. his soul is deeply grieved to the point of death and he is dropping sweats of blood under the pressure. He communes with abba daddy “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt”. He returns to his disciples to succour some strength and comfort and they are sleeping!!!! Deeply disturbed he returns to his quiet spot and prays again “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done”. He returns to the disciples AGAIN and they are sleeping, he prays the same prayer again. Silence from heaven….. it must have been a heart breaking moment for the Son of God to be met with this response. (My Conjecture here: Father says something like this – no I’m sorry my son, there is no other way to save them – the Father’s heart is pulsating with so much love and grief – angels rush to surround and comfort Jesus). Surrendering to his destiny, Jesus returns to the disciples (strengthened by the angelic hosts) and declares “Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matt 26:38-46).

    Did the Father save Jesus from suffering? No…. He went through it and out the other side. Did that make it easy for him? I don’t think it lessened the pain and torture one bit, but his perspective motivated him to endure it until the end. This was courage in action. Is there a glorious end to this story? Umm… YES! After his death, Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, takes a host of captives from the human race (the BC crowd) with him, and remains in his exalted man/God state in heaven as a high priest for all humankind to call upon for salvation. Now of course none of the rest of us have such an exalted calling as Jesus, but we are all “called” for some purpose by our Father. Sometimes our calling requires us to suffer in ways we don’t want to. The mystery of God’s purposes in this are not always apparent, but perhaps they will retrospectively come to light in the future. Furthermore, suffering isn’t just physical, there are many different kinds of suffering and every disciple has to bear some sort of cross. Does this mean that God doesn’t heal, nor have the will to? Of course not …. plainly he does … why do some people get healed and not others? Well …. those answers lie in the counsel of God. I won’t go into a whole study about healing here but we could do …..

    It seems though in our utilitarian and materialistic society that very few people realize that tragedy is not only unavoidable but an indispensable part of this life. But if we know how to respond to tragedy, we can grow and have our hearts enlargened. As Oscar Wilde would say, some things can only be known “de profundis” – out of the depths. My point is, that although I believe in and pray for God’s miraculous healing for others a lot, I also have “a theology of suffering” so that when I am confronted with inevitable things I cannot change, I don’t lose faith or become completely undone by them. I believe even our tragedies / darkest times can be points of revelation / connection with the divine person / wake up calls to even deeper realities and the beginning of new dimensions of faith….. so I can truly say “nothing can separate me from the love of God” … so just a few thoughts on that one.

    Apologies Shane for hogging your blog space recently …… I clearly have too much time on my hands of late ☺ I’m normally too busy to look at facebook much ….

  • Cindy
    April 19, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I’m not particularly ‘up’ on things theological but I think having been involved in the pentecostal movement and living in a western society leads many of us to believe that God can be called upon to be a disney character of sorts. We call Him down and release His power (?) so that He can pop us on the head with an invisible magic wand and fix up the stuff we need fixing.
    I have seen God do miraculous things during my life and do not doubt that He can and will continue to do miraculous things, I have also sat with incredibly faithful Christians who have died of disease because no amount of prayer or healing meetings caused them to ‘be healed’
    But what is ‘healed’ anyway, being whole being saved, having eternal life, never having to die and go to hell, salvation seems to be the basis of wholeness in the words I read.
    I am continually drawn to the common ‘pentie’ prayer in Philippians 4….Be anxious for nothing, but in everthing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (and believe me I have plenty of requests)(but then it says) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus……. Strangely enough this bit is under emphasised somewhat….it doesnt actually say that God will fix things, give me stuff or even heal me, it leads me to believe that God wants me to stop being anxious (full stop) and then it leads in to think on these things, good praiseworthy Godly things, praising God .. maybe He wants us to be focusing on Him and what He has given us spiritually, rather than what we dont have in our decaying earthly world.
    I do believe in miracles and healing, but I dont see a reflection in the N.T. of what we are asking for, Jesus didnt heal everybody He came in contact with, so what right do we have to demand that He turn up at some meeting we organise and fix up a line of people, just because we call someone a healing evangelist etc.

  • Colin Steele
    April 19, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Two things I have learnt: healing is a process, miracles are instantaneous. How many went to the meeting expecting a miracle, but received the beginning of healing. Did they know? My wife and I prayed for a young lady with MS, God said before we prayed he would heal her but over time, as he wanted her to spend more time with him. Why? I guess because he knew if he healed her instantly she would rush off into her busy life. Was it Gods intent for her to get MS: no! Is she completely healed yet: no. But her MS is in remission and she can now swim and has since trained to be a hospital chaplain. Will she be healed, I believe yes, because thats what God said.

  • Sandra Godde
    April 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Dear Colin, I so get what you are saying. I do maintain that God’s complete healing for our planet is an eschatological reality, AND His good will towards us. God heals and He is our Healer. We however (as human beings), are living in a time/space continuum on earth and have limited perspectives (to put it mildly). Indeed I like your statement “healing is a process, miracles are instantaneous” – and I might add that miracles are like a “sped-up version” of God’s healing power through His creation.

    However, railing against God (or healing evangelists for that matter) is a fruitless endeavour because as Cindy said, God is not some magician in the sky compelled to do as we bid, when we bid it. That is sacreligious. We are always encouraged to inquire of the Lord as to what His will is – not presume that our own understanding correlates with His. His Holy Spirit works out God’s purposes (which seem mysterious and miraculous to us) but make perfect sense to God. He knows what He is doing because He sees the big picture. As your example illustrated, a miraculous “quick fix” may not have been in the best interests of that young lady’s life at all – rather God was far more interested in her developing a life long dependency upon the Lord’s strength and His closeness to her …..

    There are other reasons why “healing” might be an inappropriate action for God to do when we ask for it or scream at him ☺. Sometimes sin is blocking our healing. Does God want to heal us? Yes. Is it always appropriate for Him to heal an unrepentant sinner? No. Please hear me here, I am NOT saying that all lack of healings are due to personal sin in peoples lives – clearly the scripture does not teach that (see Jesus’ reason for the man born blind in John 9:1-3) but also note that Jesus cured a paralytic by saying “Take courage, my son, your sins are forgiven” (see Matt 9:2-7). Also, His miracle power was “curbed” by unbelief and offence taken in his home town of Nazareth (Mark 6: 1-5). We cannot separate God’s righteousness and holiness with His undeniable good will for us to be WHOLE, HOLY, WHOLLY HIS…. His long term plan for our healing and sanctification could involve our patience, endurance, faith, and trust in Him – yooh! This in no way compromises or undermines His good will towards us! (unless of course your perception of God is some jeanie in the sky who’s good will just revolves around you alone 😉 Ok, enough said for now …..

  • Elizabeth Raymond
    April 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    This is a really great post. What does it mean when you are not ‘miraculously’ healed? Not enough faith? Unrepented Sin? Is it just that we don’t understand?

  • Sandra Godde
    April 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    It could be one or more of many reasons why. Only the Spirit of God knows why. But the scripture does shed some light on these things …

  • Colin Steele
    April 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I think miracle or not is God’s choice….great comments……great blog….however, interesting to note; Jesus has given his disciples authority to heal the sick….so now we learn…we do not ask we command (under the Holy Spirits leading)…for example: in the name of Jesus I command all infection to leave, and then in the name of Jesus I command the body to be made whole. Interesting thought: if Jesus has given us authority why should we expect him to do it…dear Father please…excuse me I gave you the authority along time ago.

  • Electro Kitty (@ElectroKitty1)
    October 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    My husband is a paraplegic. After his accident he was determined to be healed. He went to a Reinhard Bonnke crusade in Cape Town in 82 or 83. As he was waiting in line for Reinhard to come and pray for him he heard a voice. The voice said seek first spiritual healing. My husband knew it was the Lord speaking to him and he was born again that night. He prayed that Reinhard would skip over him and he did. Having a spinal cord injury is very difficult, he has had almost endless physical problems. He has been close to death on several occasions. This last year has really done him in. He is scared and he is losing his faith. Unfortunately a lot of what he gets from the Christian community is your faith isn’t strong enough that is why you are sick. That is why you are in a wheelchair. God isn’t a vending machine who does anything we tell Him to do. There are reasons that people are not healed that we don’t understand. I know my husband will walk again in heaven. He is frustrated and semi-miserable here, but there will be a time that he won’t be. Spiritual wholeness is more important then physical wholeness.

    • Shane Clifton
      October 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      dear Electro Kitty, thank you for the sharing of your story and it’s challenges. I can certainly sympathise with both you and your husband, although I am only in my first year of spinal-cord injury – and cannot imagine what it would be like after 30 years. It is certainly the case that the faith message adds to the burden of someone already suffering with such an injury. We don’t need to be told that our continued injury is our own fault – our own lack of faith. That adds frustration on top of injury – and is a long way from the gracious love of Jesus. I do offer up a prayer, that both you and your husband will find some sparks of joy in the immense challenges of your life at the moment.

  • Garret Golhof
    January 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I have been healed many times. The first time was when i was 15 and watching 100 Huntley Street. I was not saved yet but prayed along with someone and was healed from Epilepsy right away. After i was saved and years later i had to quit construction because of cronic knee pain. I could only use 1 leg when i drove my automatic ford pickup because the pain was so bad. So i prayed for my knee to be healed as i was now a Believer in Christ and it took 2 years but i am now a surveyer in northern Canada working on snowshoes ATVS etc. Than came the ulsurus colitus after a colonoscopy because i had blood in my stool that took 2 months of praying and laying my hands on the painfull area of my stomach rebucking the devil tottaly healed now. Than a tree fell on me that took half a year (back pain). Now i have a calcium spur (rock) in my shoulder that im working on otherwise i am totaly healthy. Blessings Garret


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