When I was a little boy growing up with my older brother, John, we played a lot of neighborhood sports. When John was twelve and I was nine, one of the sports we enjoyed the most was football. This was because, though I was small for my age, my brother was tall for his age, which meant I could always throw a pass over the defense for my brother to score touchdowns.
One day we were playing football with the neighborhood kids and John was returning a kickoff and as soon as he made his cut, he slipped on some wet leaves and quickly fell to the ground. The play was over but one of the boys, who was oblivious to John’s fall, came running towards him to apply a late hit! A second later we all realized something had gone terribly wrong, John’s arm was broken at the joint. The two bones in his elbow were completely separated (one on top of the other) and had to be reset.
After hours of pain, the doctor reset the two bones back into a normal elbow. But unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the nerves in his right hand did not regain full function. Over the next year, he would undergo regular therapy and electric shock treatments to promote recovery for the damaged nerves. My brother could no longer write with his right hand, nor could he even turn the knob on our TV (…the ancient practice of changing the channel before the invention of the remote control).
Months passed with little to no change in his condition, to the point that his doctor began to refer to him as being, physically handicapped. John had been an All-Star Little League baseball player and now could not even play the sport. All of that said, on one certain day, during a shock therapy treatment, the nerves in his fingers began to twitch and respond!
Four years later John had become a Christian and we were together at a winter church youth retreat. Unbeknownst to me, our Youth Pastor had asked John to share his testimony with the youth group. He told the story of him losing the use of his right hand, specifically now in retrospect, he was clear that God had healed him. At this point, his hand had regained full strength and functionality (I remember him waving his right arm around to show the kids). I remember being struck by seeing this event differently than I had before. God had healed him!
Hearing this story retold in terms of what God did for him, made the gravity of what had transpired weighty. My brother had potentially lost a great deal by losing the use of his right hand but God in his case had restored it back in full (I know this is not the case for everyone with a similar story, but I want to make a more important point).
God used this life-altering trial to soften John’s heart. His hand was healed but more importantly, his heart had been healed. My brother had come to faith in Christ. Hearing his testimony sowed a Gospel seed inside of my heart so that five years later, my heart would be healed. His injury being healed not only became the catalyst for his conversion but for mine as well!
Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. (Mat 12:13 ESV)