Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, draw Your servant to Your Will; then Your servant will hurry like a hart to bow before Your majesty; to him Your friendship will be sweeter than the dripping of the honeycomb and any taste.
Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe, my soul pines for your love. Please, O God, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance; then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal gladness will be hers.
–Yedid Nefesh, as quoted from the Siddur
Recently, a friend of mine leant me his copy of a book called Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith, written by Stanley Howard Frodsham. It’s a short biography of an early Pentecostal evangelist and faith healer who operated in the early to mid-twentieth century.
In reading this book, you’d think that Wigglesworth was a walking, talking, healing vendor. It seems that whoever he encountered in any circumstance, even among crowds of thousands and tens of thousands, he could heal just about anyone of anything with a mere touch. Some of the stories are beyond fantastic, such as a man who had no feet being touched by Wigglesworth and then told to go to a shoe store and buy a pair of shoes. It wasn’t until this man put his stumps into a pair of shoes that his feet miraculously grew back in a few seconds.
I have to admit, while reading the book (I consumed most of it in a single setting), I wasn’t feeling too good and I was reflecting on my own various (though minor) physical discomforts, and wishing that one such person did exist who, through a mighty apprehension of faith, could heal any human deformity, discomfort, and disease.
But it wasn’t the “healing miracles” that impressed me. Assuming that his biographer was accurate and truthful. What I admired about Wigglesworth was his faith and dedication to God. According to the book, he wasn’t in it for the money and never amassed great wealth in the manner you see many televangelists do today. In fact, he tended to (but not always) shun the rich who wanted his healing and gravitate to the poor and the desperate. Of course, Wigglesworth grew up in poverty and hardship and it’s likely he identified with those he helped.
Supposedly, the only book he read was the Bible, which while laudable also seems extreme (as an avid reader, I rather believe that books are good, depending on the material). He also said that while feelings were unreliable, a simple believing faith in God and daily devotional reading of the Bible was necessary. Not exactly the picture you get of Pentecostals from some of their critics.
My friend leant me this book, which was a gift to him from one of his daughters, before he’d even read it himself, because of my recent blog post on healing faith. I think he’s trying to tell me that I’ve limited the “gifts of the spirit,” and if I’m to believe everything written about Wigglesworth, I must be doing so in the extreme.
But as I continued reading, while I didn’t always subscribe to the various miraculous claims attributed to Wigglesworth, his love of God and unswerving faith and devotion to the Lord of Heaven did touch me. In the world of the blogosphere, it’s easy to get into your head and forget your soul, as if faith and a life dedicated to God were a mere intellectual exercise, an academic pursuit.
While men like John MacArthur may seek to purge any sort of emotional attachment one might have to God from the realm of the Christian faithful, I don’t think we can truly experience faith as an intellectual pursuit alone. I was reading my morning prayers, which today included Yedid Nefesh, and was particularly taken by the passion of this song. It speaks of a man who longs for God as a deer might pant for water, nearly dying of thirst, begging for even a drop of what returns life, not just to the body but to the soul.
How can someone turn to God, broken in spirit, humbled before Majesty, covered in iniquity, and not feel anything? How can we turn to God at all if we don’t believe He is the lover of our souls?
That’s what impressed me about Wigglesworth.
Although, I wouldn’t give Frodsham’s book as high praise as I find on Amazon, I can see what the other readers are attracted to. While it would be of great benefit today if such healing miracles were available to us through one faithful man of God, it’s not, in my opinion, Wigglesworth’s most defining characteristic, nor the focus of what we should desire.
In fact, I just read a story of a Jewish man who drew ever closer to God in faithfulness, even when he was not cured.
I said in my previous blog post that it is the healing of the sick and injured spirit we should seek above all else. The healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles were used to bring the sick of heart to faith by healing their bodies. Wigglesworth seemed to do something similar, but it is faith, belief, devotion, love and duty to God that is important…for Wigglesworth just didn’t have a believing faith, he acted for the benefit of countless others, that is the crux of who we are as disciples of the Master.
While I was reading, my wife was doing some paperwork and listening to an Israeli Jewish singer named Liel Kolet. Kolet was singing Leonard Cohen’s signature chart “Hallelujah”, which I found myself (softly) singing to myself as I was driving to do an errand later last evening. When I got back home after talking to God, I visited YouTube and listened to Kolet’s interpretation of the song, but found Cohen’s to have more heart. The words weren’t exactly what I was thinking about or feeling, but somewhere between the lyrics and the music, I found my faith rejuvenated.
I can thank Wigglesworth, Frodsham, Leonard Cohen, and especially my friend Tom for that.
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!