Frauds and Faith Healers: Why Does God Need My Faith Anyway?

January 16, 2013

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for some time, you know that there is one thing my wife and I want to add to our resumes.

Team Matt and Cheri want to be parents.

At least, we want to be parents as much as anyone can want a little person to turn their lives upside-down.  We want it enough that we’ve 216723been pursuing parenthood for over eighteen months.  But it hasn’t been as easy as following the recipe we learned in junior high.

Through our ordeal, we’ve shared war stories with lots of other wannabe parents.  I’ve read countless blogs, and even a couple of books, and have heard plenty of well-meaning wishes from friends.

But one thing has troubled me.  I’ve found it in blogs everywhere, even in some books.  It’s been a subtle, even inadvertant theme of some well-wishing acquaintances.

The idea is that if I just have faith that God can do something, then He will make it happen.  If I simply believe that God can make us parents, then it will be so.  Some people believe God will make them rich.  Others believe God will make them parents, with just the right amount of faith.

That leaves me wondering.  If God can overcome the forces of hell, can’t He overcome my lack of faith?

I Draw the Line at “Natural” Childbirth

Some people are big in faith healing.

I envy those people.  I am actually envious of what it must be like to believe something that outlandish, so enthusiastically.  Faith healing is a big stumbling block for me.


So it should be no surprise that faith pregnancy is just as big a stumbling block.  When I started to read a book (in a long list of books and blogs) called Supernatural Childbirth in which the author reads all these promises God makes about childbearing (from the Old Testament) and then prays for, and gets, everything she wants (including a pain-free birth, on the day and time she desired, not to mention after the doctors told her she could never carry a baby to term), in my head, I cried foul.  I wanted to believe it was possible that a miraculous birth could occur based on faith and prayer.

But I could not find it in me to believe it.  I actually wondered if the author was just a fraud.

I mean, they didn’t tell us anything about faith causing a pregnancy in sex ed.  The charts and diagrams were very specific.

And, for crying out loud, why is God making all these over-fertile teenagers get pregnant?  It can’t be because they have faith that God will do it.

Why Does God Need Our Faith?

I have a lot of faith in God’s providence.

I think that God has a plan for humanity, and it will happen, no matter what we do.  God is in control.  We’re along for the ride.

But the idea of faith pregnancy smacks of manipulating God.  If I believe God will do something, then somehow He is obligated to do it?  God certainly has to ignore the wrong-headed, idolatrous faith of a lot of people in order to get his job done, right?  That bit of theology is so basic, it was covered in Bruce Almighty (when Jim Carrey makes the mistake of answering everyone’s prayers “yes,” and a ton of people subsequently win the lottery.)

Worse than manipulating God, is the idea that God needs me to believe that something will happen before He can act.  If God is depending on the faith of humans to make babies, or accomplish anything else He wants to get done, God’s going to be waiting around a long time.

Isn’t God Supposed to Be the Grown-Up?

What if I don’t even have the faith to believe that faith can make God move?  Maybe faith can move mountains, but can faith move God?

Sure, I read in the Bible that Jesus said to people, “Your faith has made you well.”

But it just doesn’t connect with me.  If we’re relying on my faith to get anything done, I’m screwed.  Isn’t God supposed to be the grown-up here?  Isn’t He supposed to do what needs to get done, despite what we think?

And finally the biggest question: Isn’t this just another form of works righteousness?  That tricky little habit keeps slipping in, doesn’t it?  Isn’t trying to have enough faith just another way of trying to be good enough so God will give me what I want?

What do you think?  Does the secret to getting well or getting pregnant really lie in my own belief?  Or have we made faith into a placebo effect in everything we want to do?

24 responses to Frauds and Faith Healers: Why Does God Need My Faith Anyway?

  1. Just because someone prays does not mean they have faith. Personally, I think God answers the prayers of the faithful because the faithful take the time to consider what he wants of them.

    • Okay, but where does that leave us, but back to square one? If I am faithful enough, God will give me what I want. If God says “no” to my prayers, then it’s because of “user error.” My faith wasn’t enough, I didn’t do enough to convince God to let me have my way. I’d like to hear how you reconcile that.

      • Like the example of Bruce Almighty making everyone win the lottery, God won’t answer those because I seriously doubt all of the people who want that are in line with the will of God. That’s what I mean by praying and not having faith or being faithful or being in the will of God or whatever words you want to put on it. I think there are a whole lot of people that throw out those platitudes but in the end they are like the people wanting/praying to win the lottery.

        For those that are whatever term you want to use from above, we have an entire life here on earth with wants that change sometimes and don’t change other times. As believers, they should change to line up with God. If we are letting him change us and those desires don’t change, then I would have to say the desires are from God. How will he follow through with those desires? I have no idea, but I don’t think it is the amount of faith a believer/follower/etc. has that determines the follow through. It is the having faith or not having it.

        Personally, I felt God telling me in no uncertain terms that I had to be okay with never having children because I had to enjoy what He had given me first. I struggled with that and eventually got to that point. Some time after that God blessed us with a son. For me in my walk with God that was his plan. I didn’t see that plan 6 or so years ago when the whole thing started. I just knew the first step that He told me to take.

        I don’t know if that answers your question and I doubt it does because there is not one answer that will ever suffice. It is a whole host of answers from each persons walk with Christ. My only point was to say that all the people praying to win the lottery for instance are probably not the most faithful people we could find to follow theologically to answer these questions. And even if we find a faithful person to discuss these questions with, they still probably can’t give us answer because it has to come from God for our personal walk with him.

        Does that make my earlier comment clearer?

  2. I absolutely believe that God can (and does) work miracles (medical and otherwise). But we’re not just given a blank check and told “God’ll give you whatever you want.” We’re told in the Psalms to “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” But when our delight is in the Lord, the “desires of our heart” will be the things that He desires (God’s tricky that way). I believe that the “ask anything in my name” verses in the NT also have a similar caveat – “in My name” (so you’re asking God for something through the authority that He has given to you….which is given to those who are acting in accordance with His will).

    He _can_ supernaturally impregnate people who are um….impregnable? There are plenty of examples of that in Scripture (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary, probably more)…..but only when that pregnancy aligns with His will.

    Children are absolutely a blessing from the Lord, but I don’t believe that they are the _only_ way for Him to bless people. And I don’t believe that it’s a zero-sum game where if you’re not blessed in a certain way, then you are by default “cursed.” You’re just “differently-blessed.”

    Maybe there is a medical reason that can be cleared up (have you looked into, but maybe God is just teaching you what He’s (working on) teaching me, which is to be content with what I have been given already. I know that, being human, I still hope for the miracle to happen once I learn the lesson, but medicine tells me that is virtually impossible. Now, if a burning bush happened to tell me that God would give us another child, I’d TOTALLY believe it, despite medical science…..but until I get a heavenly visitation of some sort, I’m working on being content where I am.

    At the same time though, I’d LOVE for some divine medical intervention for a friend named Amy who is in the 2nd week of her ICU stay following an unresponsive fever from strep which led to toxic shock syndrome (although they’re not really sure why). She’s the mom of 5 (ages 18-mo through 19 years). And for Haley (the daughter of some high school friends of mine) who was having some neurological issues a month or so ago that they thought they found the root cause of and would clear up on its own. She went to a hospital for some tests yesterday and ended up in the ICU, unresponsive with all tests coming back clear, so they don’t know what’s causing it.

    • I like that “differently blessed” moniker. :) It sounds like a new politically correct churchy term for being handicapped (“differently abled.”) It made me chuckle, but your point is well taken too.

      • Just so you know, Matt, I didn’t say that at all to discourage you in your adventures in seeking to become parents!

        (and yes, “differently-blessed” made me chuckle as well for those same reasons!)

  3. I am so down with what you’re saying, dude. I don’t like it when God doesn’t give me what I want. I’m sorry you’ve been waiting so long to have a child. My wife and I went through that, suffered through four miscarriages, until our oldest finally came; it sucked pretty bad. I want to tell you what I am learning (as a result of that experience and my life now), timing matters. I believe your desire for a child is from God (I have 3 boys, believe me, NO ONE in their right mind wants that on their own), and I believe that when God gives us a dream he accomplishes it. But I know that, in my life, God often gives me the dream well in advance of its fruition. I don’t know why that is, but it is true for me and other people I know, maybe that’s what’s going on with you as well. I will certainly be praying about this, but please also let me know if there is something practical I can do to help you during this time. Peace and blessings.

  4. Oh, yeah the other one I heard a lot in youth group was the whole “if you pray for X God will give it to you if what you asked for is according to His will”. Which doesn’t make sense–if my prayer didn’t get answered it’s because I didn’t ask for what God *wanted* me to ask for? Then why bother asking for anything? Do I now have to ask God to tell me what to ask for so that I can ask for the right thing?

    Oh, and despite the apparent faith of the pray-ers, I’ve yet to see God fix third-degree burns, amputations, or anoxic brain injury. I’ve yet to receive a good explaination for that as well.

    If anything, having all these questions has taught me one thing–if you come across anyone who thinks they can answer them in 50 words or less, run the other way.

    • You’re right, Abby. The weak platitudes we toss around when people are confused or struggling with their lives probably does more to push people away from God than draw them in. My wife and I have three boys, a 7 year old and year old twins. But my wife delivered triplets; the oldest one died after 16 days (which I often say were 16 of the happiest days of my life). People tried to help, but the things they said made no sense: “Only the good die young”, “God must have wanted another angel”, or the worst one of all “Well, be grateful that you have the other two”. I was like, “WTF?!” According to them, everyone who lives more than 16 days sucks, God has to take my kid to get another angel, and I better be glad that he only took one? Ridiculous.

      • Curtis, I’m so sorry for your loss. It sucks. It doesn’t make sense. I’m sorry people said such stupid things! I think people think they have to make sense of it and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense and that makes them uncomfortable. So they offer completely selfish platitudes. I’m saying “Sorry, please forgive us,” on their behalf.

        • Thanks for that, Kelli. We used to be really angry about it, but God has worked that out of us. Now my wife and I understand that people don’t always know what to say and feel weird if they don’t have an answer so they just throw something out. That is one of the weird things about us as humans, how we become more forceful and adamant in situations where we don’t really know what to do. Further, my son’s death has led to us making some choices that we never would have made before and has launched us on such an exciting journey in church planting that I can’t fault anyone for what happened. God redeems the hurts in our lives, and I am so grateful for that.

  5. Such great questions. Maybe this is a cop out, but I think our faith in what God can and will do is more for our benefit than for His. Meaning that God is certainly big enough to move whether I believe He can or not, but my faith in the process determines my own state of mind.

    I always think of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego when they’re thrown into the fire. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve IS ABLE to deliver us from it, and HE WILL deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (emphasis mine) I believe, I believe, I believe…but even if God doesn’t _______, I’ll still live like I believe he will.

    • Kelly, I don’t think what you shared is a cop out at all and it is in the same area as what I wrote. Maybe our expectation of what God will do needs to be less about wanting him to give us what we want, and more about being certain that God will do something? That thought sits well with me today; certainly not every day, but I’m cool with it today.

  6. We have been learning lately that its the faith of Christ, not our faith. We’re to rest in that. His finished work. I don’t understand timing and why it seems to take so long sometimes, but I can’t do anything but trust the Father. We’ve been waiting a very long time for a breakthrough in a certain area of our lives and one thing we’ve learned in the process is that it has nothing to do with our righteousness or what we do or don’t do. (When I say a long time…over 20 years.)

    We have three amazing adult children. Kids are awesome!!! You and Cheri will be in my prayers! I have seen God do miracles in this area many times, so I pray that you’ll be next. And that you’ll be wrapped in God’s love and peace and favor.

  7. Great post Matt. I totally agree with all that you have stated. I sometimes wonder if the problem is how we talk about faith. Could it be that it is not the amount of our faith, but the object of it?? Believe in Jesus, not faith in faith. Believe in Him and praying is asking because he can do it. And no matter how he answers we know he is good because the cross says so.

  8. God is not Santa Claus. He does not give us everything that we ask for just because we are on his “good kid list.”
    However, I do believe that God answers all our prayers…sometimes with “yes,” sometimes with “not now”, sometimes with “not that, but this instead,” and sometimes with an outright “no.”
    Prayer is our reaching out to God, seeking God, seeking to understand God, and seeking God’s way in our lives. We need to change the way we talk about and teach about prayer…

  9. Thanks Matt for your post. My wife and I were trying for three years to get pregnant and we know the pain of friends who got pregnant in their first month of trying, or accidentally. So we were so thankful when our first round of IVF worked and we had a little boy. And we were even more thankful two years later – we had used up our saved frozen embryos and had given up hope of a second child when we ourselves got pregnant accidentally.

    Did we pray? Of course we did. Were we thankful? Yes. Would God still be God if we were childless? Of course.

    I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that God isn’t there to give us what we want – sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. He wants us, and the act of having faith in him is the thing that matters – in Him, not in what he might give us. In the acts of being thankful, or in our suffering it’s our connection to him that matters. It’s no surprise that in most of his letters, Paul begins with a prayer or an encouragement to ‘stand firm’.

    Curtis (above) is spot on when he says “God redeems the hurts in our lives, and I am so grateful for that.”

  10. I believe God answers prayers, and I believe there are circumstances where God answers miraculously, but not always. We had a sermon recently about prayer based on Ps 138:3 “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” And looked at some of the different answers (from the preacher’s point of view) that we might get:
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Delayed answer
    4. A slow, unfolding answer
    5. Clarify your motives and ask again
    6. Things did not turn out as you foresaw, but I am with you
    7. Enigma answer – the mystery remains and you do not understand why things went the way they did
    8. Traffic light answer – Go, proceed slowly, wait/stop
    9. You are asking the wrong question
    10. Find your rest in Me and leave that to Me
    11. My grace is sufficient
    12. Thank you God, I didn’t see that coming
    13. You choose – all pros and cons in, weighed up and now take your pick
    14. Have a crack (have a go)

    These aren’t meant as a definitive list, they were the preacher’s ideas, but I found that in many cases they fit a lot of different situations.

    But in all this, I believe that God wants us to press in to Him and share all our lives with Him, the joys and the pain (just look at David), and I know that you and your wife will be doing that. May He continue to give you grace and joy.

  11. Why? I don’t know.We all have our journey in this world to home. Soooo complicated and complex! I suppose it is enough that the Lord has brought your struggle to my heart and mind. He also brought to my mind how many abused children are without parents in this world.I am so thankful that I have the right path to stumble along. Sometimes I strike off into the undergrowth, going my own way. Eventually I struggle back onto the path, battered and bruised and mussed up to the point where I left. I believe that the Lord never left me as he waits for me to follow. Inch by inch with unsteady baby steps I press on. I think of you and your wife Matt and the thought that comes to mind is perserverence.

  12. Hearing about that book (that I haven’t read) makes me want to cry for all the family’s particularly the women, who won’t give birth after reading that book, who will think they’ve failed as believers and don’t have enough faith. Lay that shame on top of the shame that already accompanies barrenness and that woman/couple has a sad and heavy load on their backs. While the author’s story may be true, more faith is not THE answer to barrenness. You raised great questions and I struggle with them regularly too. I like what Kelly said.

  13. Matt, I don’t think we can ever understand EXACTLY why God is doing what He is doing or thinking. And as you pointed out in an earlier post, it is not faith that saves us, it is God’s grace that gives us faith in Him and the work He has done for us through Jesus.

    The people who say that if we have faith, we will be healed are preaching a variation of the prosperity gospel. I have heard it referred to as the “name it and claim it” gospel.

    I am praying for you and I want to encourage you that several couples I know have had a difficult time getting pregnant, waiting years and years and going through one or more of the different fertility treatments before getting pregnant. One of them is my brother and sister, who are expecting a baby girl in March after one failed IVF treatment. Don’t give up hope!

    “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”–Romans 5:3-5

  14. I have no trouble in this area, but many others. I’ve come to the conclusion that God does not love us in the way we think of as “love,” because to me, if my best friend/loved one could give me reasonable requests like “save this child from cancer” or the like, and he didn’t do it? He’d be a twisted and sadistic person. I have to believe that God simply has much more information than we do. (And I mean “we” as in, all of humanity.)

    But it does drive me nuts when people say things like, “trust and pray” or, “God never gives anyone more than they can handle” or “God is just testing you right now” and stuff like that. These are ways of avoiding getting into the trenches with someone and being a friend. You know? I think some of these people who just gloss over that pain are not doing their duty as Christians.

    We don’t have to understand WHY to pray for someone or offer them help.

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