There’s a common misconception among unbelievers that when a Christian dies from an illness, somehow that’s a devastating indictment on the existence of God.
Media headlines all too frequently ooze with this faulty premise, including this recent one from the Washington Post: “A Virginia preacher believed ‘God can heal anything.’ Then he caught coronavirus.”
There are several issues with this headline. First, and most obvious, is how disrespectful it is to use someone’s death to try and pinprick belief in God.
In this case, 66-year-old Pastor Landon Spradlin’s life of dedicated service to the Lord ended up becoming fodder for those who believe they know better than the God of the universe. That people place such lowly, selfish desires ahead of expressing sympathy or extending grace should serve not as some atheist mic drop, but compelling evidence that the Bible’s description of man’s fallen nature is true.
The headline as it currently stands suggests that this pastor foolishly believed God could heal anything, and ironically, it took his own death to see the folly of his belief system. While I don’t know this pastor and his family personally, I’d be willing to wager they absolutely still believe in God’s power to heal, despite this loss.
In fact, an Easter video released by his own children runs counter to this headline’s talking point. In the video, his three musically gifted kids are singing praises to God in the midst of their loss. A journalist with any reasonable level of curiosity would’ve wondered how someone could find any joy in the midst of such grief. The answer would’ve debunked the main implication of the headline, as this family displays their grasp of the concept that while God absolutely can heal anything, he doesn’t always do so.
In our finite, creaturely state we cannot comprehend why God allows certain things and stops others. But what we can do, when we pray for healing or deliverance and don’t receive it, is to trust that God’s plan is better than ours. Trust that, as when Joseph was sold into slavery by his own jealous brothers, what they intended for evil, God intended for good.
Don’t miss that word. God intended.
God isn’t absent in the bad. God isn’t absent in the pain. Just go back and read the story of Job and see how involved God is in the midst of those troubles. He is the sovereign God of the universe who knows the number of hairs on our heads, and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Purpose. There is purpose in everything. For good. We cannot see the forest through the trees, so who are we, the clay, to question the omniscient potter who made us? While it’s ok to pray fervently and ask for things like healing — we must trust that His ways are far superior to ours.
Pastor Spradlin seems to have passed these truths on to his family. This would’ve been a much better story focus to run with — one that’s more edifying and inspiring.
However, instead of marveling at the faith instilled in a family by a father who loved and served God with his life, instead of pointing people to the hope Jesus provides in the midst of loss, so many are using it as an opportunity to stir the pot and create division.
Media headlines such as these serve to provoke such cold and heartless responses. Pastor Spradlin’s daughter expressed shock at the level of glee people received from her father’s death:
“The thing that blew my mind is that people would laugh at it,” said his daughter Jesse Spradlin, 29. “People would literally just leave comments that say, ‘Ha ha ha ha ha, I’m glad he got what he deserved.’ ”
They used their time and energy to comb through old social posts and find any hint of not taking the virus seriously. They boil his life down to a carefully selected social post for the purpose of framing the story as an irresponsible pastor recklessly believing in a sky-fairy, only to pay the ultimate price.
This despite Spradlin’s own son telling the press his father did take the virus seriously:
“I want to say outright though, dad didn’t think it was a hoax, he knew it was a real virus,” says Landon Isaac.”But he did put up that post (about fear) because he was frustrated that the media was propagating fear as the main mode of communication.”
That fact seems to be buried, another instance of the truth falling victim to a media narrative.
I am sorry for the Spradlin’s loss. I pray for them as they chart a new course, one they hadn’t planned on having to undertake. I also thank God they have been equipped with the blessed assurance of knowing their father is in heaven in the loving arms of his Savior, as they journey through the grief.
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