The death of a child inflicts a uniquely heavy blow of grief. Yet such deaths become so much more painful when the death is preventable. Add to this a misunderstanding of healing and faith and you end up with a recipe for a most unfortunate tragedy.
A little over a week ago an 11-year old girl by the name of Madeline Neumann (also called "Kara") died from an untreated condition of diabetes. She died as her parents prayed over her expecting all the time that their little girl would recover. Contrary to usual stories of children dying due to medical neglect over faith issues, this couple was not a member of the usual cults that reject treatment, such as the Christian Scientists, or the Jehovah's Witnesses in the case of blood transfusions. The newspaper simply recorded that "The family believes in the Bible, which says that healing comes from God."
Since this was a local death (in a nearby city), we discussed it at last night's youth meeting along with the topic of healing and faith. I was surprised at how some youth members believed that there was a direct tie between faith and healing, in that people who are not healed would be that way due to a lack of faith. The pentecostal movement has long muddied these waters with claims of "faith healing," insisting that those who are not healed simply did not have enough faith.
Healing is a gift of God, an act of grace that falls on unbelievers as well as believers. Even in the days of our Lord's ministry healing was granted to people who believed along with those who did not demonstrate faith prior to the healing. Furthermore, people of faith may suffer greatly from diseases or disabilities, but this does not mean that God has abandoned them, or that they do not believe strong enough to find relief. There is mystery here. We do not always understand the reasons why one suffers and another recovers. We simply cling to the cross wherein we find our hope, and know that even in our weakness the power of God can be manifested. And we also look to the Day when our mortal bodies will be raised from the soil of death and decay, and renewed with life through the resurrected Savior we will find that promised healing which will never end.
I pray that Madeline's mother is able to discover the full truth even in the midst of her pain and loss, and in that Truth which is Christ, find the ultimate healing of forgiveness and new life.