I received a great letter from someone who had been praying for healing for others but has been puzzled by the fact that sometimes pain can appear to leave, but then return hours, days or even weeks later. This is a common phenomenon, and an important one to understand if we’re going to see God breakthrough in the supernatural in increasing ways.
So here’s my take on why pain sometimes returns, from 30 years’ experience of praying for the sick.
In my observation pain and illness often return for four key reasons – Now these first two might shock you, coming from someone who believes passionately in healing and has seen many miracles:
Firstly, (and this is more common in big church services full of worship & passion), when someone is being prayed for, due to the atmosphere, or being called up on to a big stage in front of everyone, the person being prayed for sometimes experiences a spike of Adrenaline, which acts as a kind of anaesthetic. As the adrenaline spikes, they feel a lessening of pain, and so assume they’ve been healed. Of course, when the Adrenaline wears off, the pain returns. So it wasn’t really an answer to prayer, but rather a side effect of excitement or a stimulating environment. It doesn’t mean healing isn’t real, but as a local pastor I have had to pick up the pieces left by over enthusiastic evangelists at times, and this is occasionally why.
2. Psychosomatic Healing
This might shock you at first too, so read carefully: The second thing is that some people experience a psychosomatic healing. Something adjusts in their mind, by the touch of God’s power, and pain leaves them. This is common after long standing pain from a historic traumatic accident, that leaves a person in what some might call chronic “phantom pain” – pain with no real obvious current reason. Often the medical profession can’t even diagnose why a person is still in pain. It’s as though the accident has scarred their psyche, resulting in long standing physical pain. When pain leaves someone because of a psychosomatic healing I still count this as a genuine divine miracle, as God has touched the mind, to release the body from pain. And of course, if the person stays healed and they are pain free it is a significant life improvement! Sadly though, if the traumatised mindset that played a part in inducing pain returns in some way, then the pain itself often returns. Sometimes we need to grow and change in the very “spirit of our mind” and begin to think differently to retain our healing. Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12:2.
3. Lifestyle Issues
Thirdly, some people get healed by God completely and genuinely, but the underlying cause of their condition is not dealt with. A simple example of this is people who carry too much weight but are seeking God for healing of back pain or knee pain. After receiving a genuine healing from God, over time the pain returns, as the excess weight bears down on their physical frame. Similarly, I remember once seeking God for healing from back pain, and he spoke to me through my gym instructor – “Dude, You need to work on your core strength!” – In other words, I needed to exercise, not ask for a miracle! Ha! So I worked on my core strength through an exercise plan, my back pain left and has not returned. God may graciously heal us from pain, but our diets, lack of exercise, unforgiveness, bitterness in our minds or poor lifestyle choices may still catch up with us.
4. The Enemy Returns
Fourthly, And I believe most commonly and importantly, Jesus said we have an enemy who wants to “kill, steal and destroy” us (John 10:10). There is a spiritual enemy who literally wants to rob us of our healing, taking from us what God has given us.
Some people get genuinely healed through prayer, or as God moves in a church service, but afterwards the enemy attacks again and gets a foothold back in their lives. Healing is not a magical phenomenon, but a spiritual battle. There is an enemy to fight.
In Luke 11:24-26 Jesus is speaking of spiritual warfare when he says that once the enemy (in this case, we would say sickness) has been sent away, the spirit of infirmity might say, and I quote Jesus here: ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
While I think some sickness is related to poor lifestyle choices and things like pollution or genes, there is no doubt that some sickness is spiritual in its source. Either way, we need to fight for our healing through God’s word & prayer!
I have known friends experience miraculous and instant healing from years of agony, who then found the pain trying to return weeks later. Thankfully they were mature enough in God to fight back, insisting in persistent prayer saying “No devil! You will NOT take my healing in Jesus Name!” each day and the evil spirit trying to bring sickness back into their lives had to retreat fully and permanently.
Sometimes in healing, we “sweep the house clean” as Luke 11 puts it, but we don’t leave a sentry at the door! Healing is a battle that must be won, not simply a “special moment” in a church service. Equipping people to fight and keep their healing, is as important as the powerful encounter that brings the healing in the first place.
Healings and miracles are probably one of the most loving ways God touches our lives. I love to see lives restored, given dignity, destiny and wholeness again. Healing is not a phenomenon, but God’s love in action, that is why Jesus healed again and again.
I once embarked on a healing tour and was surprised that the numbers of people being healed seemed to grow each evening. Of course, I knew it wasn’t that God was getting better at healing – but rather that I was! Somehow I was becoming more sensitive, faith filled, confident and skilled at cooperating with God to see His healing power at work. Healing is something we can learn to do better.
So don’t give up, keep loving, keep practising, keep praying, till you get good at seeing God’s love and power released into your world.