I felt the warmth of their presence last Sunday morning [Feb. 1998] as they gathered round me and placed their hands on my body. I love and trust these elders of my local church, with whom I served for 13 years before rotating out this last term. “Edward, we anoint you with oil and claim God’s promise of healing,” the presider said, dipping his finger in oil and making a sign of the cross on my forehead. Each man then prayed aloud — an attorney, a physician, a telecommunications engineer and others. Not presumptuously, but in faith. Simply asking, leaving the answer to God.
This little pain has underscored the fact of my mortality. A bit early, I think, at age 53, although I have younger friends with problems far more serious. My own difficulty began several months ago as a pain in the upper right leg, which occurred after only a few minutes either standing or walking. As weeks passed, the pain became more frequent and more intense. I became a hearty consumer of Ibuprofin, and tried to stay off my feet. Finally I went to a neurologist, who sent me for Magnetic Resonance Imaging — something I would compare to lying in a very small coffin, closed, with lights and a small fan. The machine magnetized all the atoms in my body, photographed them, then computerized different types of tissue to form a sharp picture of muscles, bones, fat, nerves and spinal disks.
The good news is that I am in nearly-excellent neurological condition and have no degenerative condition of the spine. The MRI shows that I do have a herniated disk at what the doctors call L5-S1, which is inflaming and irritating a primary nerve running into my leg. Surgery can fix the problem, the neurologist assures me, and I have a top-notch neurosurgeon on call if that becomes necessary. But sometimes the nerve irritation stops without surgery, the neurologist says, also stopping the pain.
All healing comes from God, through whatever means. It is part of Jesus’ atonement, and its perfect fulfillment awaits the Resurrection. I am asking God now, in his kindness, to provide healing without surgery. I don’t know how he will answer, or on what time-table. That is his business. Mine is to ask. And I am thankful, whatever God does, that my church elders are willing to set aside the sophistication which explains away this wonderful provision of James 5:14-16 and to participate with me in this simple act of faith. The rest is up to the Creator. He is alive, and he can do all things. Praise his holy name!
In this instance, God eventually healed through surgery, which occurred in June 1998, following conservative medication, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy and an epidural steroid injection into the affected spinal area.