My son was 6 months old when he had his first allergic reaction to food I’d prepared for him. A baby with purple hives is a frightening sight, but I stayed calm. I made a call to the pediatrician, gave my son the recommended medicine, and vowed never to feed him dairy products again.
I was still calm when my then 1-year-old son received an official diagnosis with a long list of food allergies and was prescribed an EpiPen. “You’re taking this well,” his pediatrician said to me in the office that day.
“Am I? Food allergies are common. I don’t think I need to panic.”
But panic would become all too familiar in the years that followed. My hands trembled on the steering wheel the day I rushed to meet my husband and son at the hospital, and they trembled for hours after I jabbed my son with an EpiPen for the first time. My voice shook with panic the day I called paramedics from my kitchen, and I cried panicked tears the day a cashier at a local frozen treat shop called paramedics for me.
For countless ordinary days, every meal I served my family was laced with fear. My husband and I carried on whole conversations at the dinner table while our eyes registered every cough or grimace or throat clearing made by the little boy seated between us. Was that cough the beginning of a reaction? Was there something in this new recipe his body didn’t like? Will we ever feel peace at our table again?
For 10 years I prayed for healing for my son. For 10 years I heard the same words echoing in Scripture, song, and sermon: He is already healed. At first, those words filled my heart with a particular hope—no more life-threatening reactions! I would experience freedom from fear but only until the next jab of the EpiPen. Then I would return to praying desperate prayers. And again I would hear: He is already healed.
There are many reasons why we pray for physical healing, for ourselves or for someone we love. We don’t want our beloved to suffer. We miss the activities and experiences good health allows. We feel burdened by uncertainty. When I prayed for my son, I wanted a life free from pervasive panic. My son wanted pizza and ice cream, but, like me, he mostly wanted peace.
For 10 years I prayed for healing for my son.
What did those words already healed mean? It was such a strange and baffling answer, and so at odds with the evidence of our eyes: medical alert bracelets, detailed allergy action plans, EpiPens, and daily pills. These things said our son was anything but healed.
I took my confusion to Scripture. If the hidden truth of my son’s life was that he was “already healed,” then the Bible echoed it. In 1 Peter, healing is a promise Jesus Christ has already fulfilled: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The power of the cross is the power to heal, and in the shadow of the cross I found an invitation to live without fear.
Even though we have already been healed in the deepest possible sense, our prayers for healing are still important and still powerful. When we pray for healing, we are praying the very prayer Jesus taught us : “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). John proclaimed the kingdom of heaven through healing (Matt. 3:2). To pray for healing is to ask for more of God’s kingdom to be revealed in us and through us and all around us, but the answer to this prayer is often mysterious, requiring eyes to see that are more like God’s eyes than our own. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t always show itself in the ways we expect.
To pray for healing is to ask for more of God’s kingdom to be revealed in us and through us.
Can our lives reflect our healing in Christ even while our bodies continue to disappoint us and cause us pain? I asked that question for years, frequently unsure of what faith required of me. If I believed that my son was healed, what would that faith look like in my life? I felt sure it did not look like a reckless or cavalier attitude to medical care. I once forgot to bring my son’s EpiPen on an outing, and his life was saved by a stranger with an EpiPen in her purse. My son’s life was in God’s hands, but I also had a responsibility. I read food labels carefully. We stopped visiting frozen treat shops, even when the menu said “dairy free.”
In the early years of this journey, my heart careened between panicked fear and a rosy optimism that I thought was faith. I would hear those words already healed and convince myself my son would suffer no more setbacks. But true faith, when it did grow within me, seemed to be a deeper thing, as if it were anchored in some truth more true than the day-to-day fluctuations of my son’s health.
The truth for each one of us is that in Christ, we are already healed. Healing is a seed planted deep within us. Faith is remembering the seed buried beneath dark soil. Faith is “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Though my son is still highly allergic to a few foods, the list of allergens that threaten his life has recently begun to decline. Today, he can even eat ice cream in a frozen treat shop. But peace came to our family table long before that first ice cream cone. Perhaps this is why my son’s current good health doesn’t feel like a dramatic “before and after” story. It feels most like the gentle growth of a long-hidden seed. In this life, we may never witness the fullness of what this seed in us will become. But one day we will walk beneath a tree of life whose leaves rustle with answered prayers (Revelation 22:2).