God will not heal us in such a way that we no longer need Him.
When my wife and I welcomed into the world our fourth child, the hospital gave me numbered plastic bracelet identifying me as her father. It was a symbol of joy. A second bracelet was snapped on my wrist a week later when we had to have her admitted back into the hospital because she turned orange—like a little Cheeto. Her tiny liver was still learning to keep up with its workload.
For something as common and treatable as jaundice, I must tell you that during that time I felt very lonely before God. That second bracelet was a symbol of the blues—“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
During that season, I discovered something about myself. I learned that I have expectations for how I believe the Lord should deal with me. So do you, I’m sure. I expect Him to shelter me and those I love from hardship. I bet you do too. What do we do when those expectations are not met?
There's a story in 2 Samuel 9 that I have loved since the first time I read it—the strange story of David and Mephibosheth. It is all about the expectations we bring to God's healing work. It joins the present hope of healing to a future of depending on the King. Here is the short chapter in full:
David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from the family of Saul I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 There was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“I am your servant,” he replied.
3 So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?”
Ziba said to the king, “There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.”
4 The king asked him, “Where is he?”
Ziba answered the king, “You’ll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” 5 So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.
6 Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, fell facedown, and paid homage. David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“I am your servant, ” he replied.
7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.”
8 Mephibosheth paid homage and said, “What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Saul’s attendant Ziba and said to him, “I have given to your master’s grandson all that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You, your sons, and your servants are to work the ground for him, and you are to bring in the crops so your master’s grandson will have food to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
11 Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do all my lord the king commands.”
So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table just like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. All those living in Ziba’s house were Mephibosheth’s servants. 13 However, Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem because he always ate at the king’s table. His feet had been injured.
Imagine how Mephibosheth must have felt—the grandson of the deposed king, crippled when his nurse tried to flee with him—as he lived in hiding from the new, rival king he presumed wanted him dead. Imagine how he felt about the hand he’d been dealt. Imagine how terrified he must have been when David sent for him. Imagine his prayers as the soldiers carried him back to face the king.
Nobody knows the trouble.
What Mephibosheth received from David was mercy and grace. But it was a special kind of mercy and grace. He was given a permanent seat at the king’s table like one of the king’s sons. But because he was unable to walk, never once did he come to that table without help. He spent his life being carried in the arms of another.
This is where my heart wanted to rebel when we had to return to the hospital with our little girl. Often we want God’s care, but on our terms. We cry out, “If you really want to restore me, let me walk on my own.” But the King says, “If you really want to be restored and have a seat at my table, let me carry you.” God does not want to give us autonomy from Him. He doesn’t heal us in such a way that we don’t need Him anymore. The desire for autonomy from God is what got us into trouble in the first place (Genesis 3:1-7).
Restoration does not come through God making us strong enough to live without Him. His mercy causes us to lean hard on His grace with all we have and are. But it also liberates us to know that to Him we are not dead dogs, as Mephibosheth said, but we are His sons and daughters. And because we are, His healing will include even deeper levels of dependence, not autonomy.
We cannot bring ourselves before His throne. We must be carried. But beloved, we are. By Him. Always.