Illness is often the source of our deepest suffering. You might be suffering from a challenging disease right now, or you might be agonizing over a loved one’s illness. Perhaps your spouse, child, or grandchild is enduring a disruptive or life-threatening ailment.
You might ask yourself, “Where is God in the midst of this seemingly endless suffering?” Or you might be inquiring how God could love us and our loved ones but allow them to endure such suffering. You might wonder whether He even cares to notice what we are going through.
These times of deep suffering often cause us to turn to God and ask for His divine help, even when we might not otherwise believe in Him. We may run out of human answers and finally recognize the weakness of the human body and soul. We might even resist coming to this moment. But when we are most helpless, we find the help we always need. At our lowest points, we are ready to be elevated by God Himself. Suffering leads us to search for answers beyond this life, which might be the most positive outcome of our pain.
Yet, it is not easy to climb beyond our pain and suffering to find God. Where can we find divine help, and when can we finally recognize we need Him?
Healing in Judaism
Traditional Judaism offers a series of special prayers for healing to help those suffering from illness and those caring for them to connect with God. Turning to the Holy One of Israel seems to be the only way to find healing when hopeless. Here is one of those traditional prayers for healing:
May the One who blessed our ancestors—Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah —bless and heal the one who is ill: [fill in the name of the one who is sick]. May the Holy Blessed One overflow with compassion upon him/her, to restore him/her, to heal him/her, to strengthen him/her, to enliven him/her. The One will send him/her, speedily, a complete healing—healing of the soul and healing of the body—along with all the ill, among the people of Israel and all humankind, soon, speedily, without delay, and let us all say: Amen! 1
Understanding God as a healer is usually an essential element of various faiths and religions, including Judaism. Immediately following the miracle at the Red Sea, God told the children of Israel, “I, the Lord, am your healer” (Exodus 15:26). Whether the healer be God directly or the healing process includes a rabbi or even a medical professional, healing comes from God.
Still, it is common for God to heal through selected individuals. Faith healers may have left a bad taste in our mouths for supernatural healing, and we certainly need to be careful with professed healers. However, God can and does heal at times through specific individuals.
Disappointment When Left Unhealed
Sometimes, God chooses to withhold healing for His own reasons, whether we appeal to Him directly or look toward a “human instrument” for help. We then face the dilemma of believing God cannot heal or, for some mysterious divine purpose, does not want to heal us or our loved ones, which can quickly deepen our disappointment. The hope for healing has left many who were not healed discouraged and despondent and, in some ways, worse off than before—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Discouragement can also occur when we depend upon modern medicine and well-intentioned medical professionals. Doctors may offer the hope of healing, yet sometimes, the treatment they suggest might not work. You may have prayed or been prayed for but were not healed. Perhaps you have gone to the best doctors to handle your condition yet still suffer from an illness. Hoping in the face of disappointment is a fierce battle of the soul.
Light in the Darkness of Pain
Finding hope and meaning in suffering is possible even if the healing you seek does not come. Maybe the absence of God’s healing for yourself or your loved ones is the very experience meant to bring about the healing of your soul, which leads to a faith more powerful than the pain of your illness.
Job finally figured out the way forward in the face of his incredible losses. He famously wrote:
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. (Job 19:25–27)
Despite all he had been through, Job held fast to the truth of God’s presence in his life and a future resurrection!
Here is one real-life story:
As a Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah, I found comfort in the healing power of my Savior, though I continue to grapple with a chronic illness. He loves us and heals us when we call out to Him in faith. The healing may not always be in the way or to the degree we want, but I can assure you, when you experience His love and power, you will be changed and healed in ways you might not expect! He loves us and is compassionate to all. In the Gospels (the record of Yeshua’s life in the New Testament), we gain insight into Messiah’s compassion on those who were suffering:
“Yeshua was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35–36, emphasis added).
We can have a deep and personal relationship with a Messiah who is filled with compassion and love for us. When we know His character, He brings about a far deeper healing than we expect.
The Hope for Resurrection
While this life may offer many challenges, eventually, God will bring a fullness of healing and the raising of the dead. The Amidah prayer, a regular part of Jewish worship, declares God can raise the dead:
Lord, You are mighty forever. You call the dead to life. . . . Lord of might, Who is like You? King, Who can be compared to You? You decree death and restore life, causing salvation to come forth. You are faithful to revive the dead. Blessed are You, Lord, Who calls the dead to life.2
This beautiful prayer, which Jewish people have recited for centuries, expresses our corporate belief God can raise the dead. Hope for resurrection is fundamental in traditional Judaism.
According to Judaism and the Bible, this ultimate act of healing involves the promised Messiah of Israel. We know the One who raises the dead is the same One who heals us from all our diseases! Yeshua bore the suffering of humanity as the prophet Isaiah predicted (chapter 53:3–8). This prophet also spoke of promise for healing: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). He paid the penalty of death for our sins with His life so death will not be the end for you and me. The hope of healing is tied to His resurrection from the dead.
One day, even if we live this life suffering from illness, and even if the sickness one day takes our life or the life of our loved one, we do not need to despair. The healing we seek in this life may not always be possible, but we who are united with the Messiah have a sure promise of complete healing in the age to come. Yeshua rose from the dead, conquering disease and death. Our future is filled with health and wholeness because of the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
We can have this assurance if we believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel and that He died and rose from the dead to heal all our physical and spiritual illnesses.
A Final Thought
How does faith in Yeshua impact our suffering today? The Bible teaches us Yeshua’s resurrection is the bedrock upon which faith and hope for the future is built. He conquered death and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20; cf. Ezekiel 37:1–14). God promises eventual total healing and restoration through the Messiah (Isaiah 30:26, 33:24, 35:1–2, 10, 65:17–19).
Maybe your personal pain is driving you to seek answers and find healing for the sickness of body or soul. A belief in the God who created you is an all-important part of your healing. Suffering without God and without divine help can easily lead to hopelessness. Maybe you find yourself despondent about the circumstances of your life and are searching for hope in the midst of suffering. Turn to Yeshua, and you will find His shalom (wholeness) in your suffering. This step might very well be the first in your journey to find healing through the power of God.
1 Simkha Y. Weintraub, “Jewish Prayer for the Sick: Mi Sheberach,” My Jewish Learning, accessed August 29, 2023, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/mi-sheberakh-may-the-one-who-blessed/.
2 Barry A. Budoff, A Messianic Jewish Siddur for Shabbat, (Skokie, IL: Devar Emet Messianic Publications, 2011), 35.