Generally when financial giving is mentioned in the context of healing, it is mentioned in the most deplorable way, namely, that televangelical way of encouraging people watching at home to send in their money today as the necessary and sufficient sign of their faith that God is going to heal them.
But in spite of such widespread abuses, there is a fascinating connection between healing and finances. You can see it in the story of Shery Lim, a 56 year old who is a two-time cancer survivor (including a survivor of fourth stage breast cancer). About the second bout she says,
“At that time, I couldn’t lift my handbag, I could not carry a one-month-old baby, and I couldn’t even lift a glass of water to my lips,” Lim says.
Even bathing was an excruciating experience. “When I showered, droplets of water will hit my breastbone and it was very painful. I couldn’t bathe standing up because I would be very tired.“For one and a half years, I sat on a small stool with a ladle and a pail of warm water beside me every time I bathe, and poured the water slowly to control the flow,” she says.
“I took very long to bathe, but I had no choice. Now, I still cry whenever I am in the bathroom because I remember the experience. However, now it is not so much tears of sorrow, but rather, tears of thankfulness.”
On top of that, chemotherapy and radiotherapy had left her with nine ulcers in the mouth and she was on six painkillers a day. Even then, the pain due to the tumour caused her to scream and yell at night, and she was forced to ask her husband to sleep in a separate room to avoid disturbing him.
A devout Christian, Lim felt it would be wrong to give up on hope and give in to despair. But even more remarkably, notice her philosophy on healing:
“From the moment I was diagnosed with fourth-stage cancer, I told God that I didn’t want to die, and I want to believe that he will heal me. But if I’m going to get healing, it should not be for me only.“I feel that when I am healed, I don’t want to live a life for myself. I want to live a life for others by reaching out to others,” she says.
There is an understandable tendency when we are ill to curve inward, but the Spirit of God within us will not permit it. His life within us is geared toward pouring out his life in the midst of suffering. It is when he does his best work, both personally and through us.
With that aspiration in mind, Lim went on to write a faith-based book titled There is Hope even when she was undergoing treatment. The book, launched in June 2007, chronicles Lim’s personal journey through cancer and provides information about cancer along with tips for caregivers of cancer patients.
“There are some testimonials of other patients as well. It is a book of encouragement and comfort,” Lim says.
One month later, Lim set up the Elpizo (the Greek word for hope) cancer support group. “We share our experiences, and we will invite professional doctors to give talks about topics like ‘cancer and diet’ or ‘how to fight depression’,” she says.
“We also have pastors coming in to give us a word of encouragement for healing,” she added.
In between her treatments and support group sessions, Lim visited cancer patients in the hospital to cheer them up.
How did Shery use her money while ill? To create a healing environment for others. She learned this, she says, from Proverbs 11:25:
“When I focused on others and helped them, the pain started to disappear and the tumour started to become smaller. This year in February, although the tumour was as small as a hazelnut, it was still not free from cancer. But in August, this hazelnut-sized tumour was pronounced as residual fibriotic tissue. It is no longer cancerous!” she beams.
“Little did I know that when I was encouraging others and delivering hope to them, healing actually occurred within me.
“That’s why God says that ‘those who comfort others, he himself will be comforted. Those who refresh others, he himself will be refreshed.’ That is the energy that has kept me going!” she says.
Now, someone may read a story like this and think, “Ah, so when I bless others, God is on the hook to bless me.” But re-read Shery’s words, above: “Little did I know…” In other words, she did not use her money to heal others so that she would be healed. Instead, she discovered that moving beyond self-preoccupation is always wise because we need not be obsessed with ourselves and our needs for God to be maximally good to us. It is simply his nature. And when we mirror his nature, we become maximally good to others even in the midst of our own suffering.
Last word to Shery as we contemplate how to overcome the self-obsessed nature of our finances in order to expose others to the healing and comforting of Christ:
“I used to do a lot of shopping but now I don’t shop. I used to buy expensive clothes because I needed them for work, but now I buy simple T-shirts and still look good. It is a matter of adjusting and humbling yourself,” she says.
“You have to ask yourself, what is the point of gaining the whole world but lose your soul or lose your life?” she says.