Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Names are powerful. Have you noticed how touched you are when someone remembers your name (and how awkward it feels when you can’t remember theirs?!)
I have always loved how God was so intentional in His use of names throughout Scripture.
- Isaac, “God Laughs”
- Moses, “Drawn out”
- Immanuel, “God with us”
And isn’t it amazing that the LORD entrusted Adam with the responsibility to name every living creature:
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” Genesis 2:19
It was an old school video series, the Nooma video series (anyone remember those?!?), that first got me intrigued by the many names of God. Rob Bell and his crew were sharing that God’s very name, Yahweh, couldn’t be spoken amongst our founding fathers- it sounded more like one’s breath than any distinguishable word.
And isn’t that just about perfect… God is our breath, Yahweh, nothing more, nothing less really needs to be said.
I also appreciate God’s decision to add spice to His own story. He didn’t have to give Himself many names, the great “I Am” is quite all-encompassing. But He did—because He can.
And that, my friends, is how we got Jehovah Rapha. God called Himself this name throughout scripture:
- “..for I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26)
- “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds…” (Jeremiah 30:17)
“Jehovah” is derived from the Hebrew word Havah meaning “to be” or “to exist”. “Rapha” means “to restore” or “to heal” in Hebrew. When the two words are combined then, Jehovah Rapha can be translated as “The Lord Who Heals.” (https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/name_god.cfm)
As a physician myself, I have found much encouragement to call upon “The Great Physician.” There have literally been times in surgery where I have been lost with where to go next. The patient is bleeding, the power is out (again), the suture is expired and breaking (again), and I am hot, overwhelmed, and desperate. This simple cry for help, however, has continued to bail me out,
“Jehovah Rapha, please help.”
At times, however, I have also found myself wrestling with this same name that claims to be “the healer of all things”. You see, MY definition of Jehovah Rapha would have no terminal diagnoses, no treatment fails, nor any recurrences in disease.
Let me share a story about my friend Harriet. I don’t even need to change her name as her story has become her testimony. Harriet is the headmistress (think principal) for a prominent all-girls school here in Northern Uganda called Rapha Secondary School for Girls (you already see the irony, don’t you? Go God, right?!)
Harriet was transferred to me for care as she and her husband had been unable to get pregnant for over 14 years. After meeting her and evaluating her, I was able to determine the underlying blood pressure problem and start a treatment plan to improve her condition. It was an “easy fix” (medically speaking). Soon thereafter, Harriet and her husband got pregnant- pregnant with twins in fact.
My friend Harriet is smart, committed, and responsible so she never missed an appointment and a necessary prescription never went unfilled. PLEASE RECOGNIZE– Both of these points are near miracles as resources are scarce here and so money spent on one’s healthcare, especially for an unborn child, is hardly ever seen! What a treat it was to care for someone who was committed to her care and was willing to selflessly sacrifice whatever was required.
It was in August of this year when I was invited to speak at a women’s leadership conference in Rwanda. Due to some family illnesses right before my departure, I had to miss two weeks of my regular office hours during this time. As I said, however, Harriet was committed so she came to my house one week and went to see my nurse in the office during the second week to be sure her blood pressures stayed under control.
When I saw her back in my office, she was 30 weeks pregnant with one boy and one girl. Her blood pressures were normal again this week and her labs all came back “within normal limits.” All the signs were pointing towards another “baby Bridget” to be cradled in my near future.
She was wearing a pretty red dress with white polka-dots…I remember because I even made mention of “how smart” she looked (our way of saying “you look nice or pretty” here). I tried to fill the air with conversation but there was one pressing problem: I could not hear any fetal heartbeats.
We moved over to the ultrasound room and for a moment I was convinced that I had forgotten everything my 17 years of practicing medicine had ever taught me. I could not, no matter the angle or sonographic intensity, find the fetal heartbeats. Never in a million years did I suspect there could be fetal demise.
I sent Harriet to a Ugandan colleague of mine who also had an ultrasound. I needed a second opinion and I needed it from someone I trusted. It was with his call that my world shattered, “Both babies are dead. I agree with your findings Dr. Bridget.”
My findings. Is that all these were… findings?
I didn’t see Harriet for 3 weeks. She was upset (understandably) and had the pregnancies removed at the local government hospital. I was a mess. We did everything “right”—how in the world could she have lost both pregnancies? Why did I leave for Rwanda? Why didn’t God protect them? I was DOING YOUR WORK in Rwanda—couldn’t you have tagged in for the week? You are the “Great Physician” after all!!!
I was driving home from a lecture I had given when my caller I.D. read “Okello Harriet.” I almost hit a cow as I raced to answer my phone (third-world problems).
“Hello Doctor, Praise the Lord. Are you around this afternoon? May I please stop by for a few minutes?”
“Absolutely,” I responded. “I am driving home from Lira University but should be back by 1030.”
Harriet soon came over and she looked tired. She sounded flat. Her outward appearance expressed the physical and emotional grief she had been mulling over for the previous 3 weeks. But her words… her words were filled with a HOPE that this world could never explain.
“Doctor, you see, I know God is in this. I was so angry, I was so sad, and I even saw my husband cry. But then I remembered who Our God is. Our God is JEHOVAH RAPHA, the Father God who heals all our diseases. Doctor, I can’t go on being sad or angry, I am too tired for that. I have decided to trust in my God’s goodness alone.”
Friends, HOPE IS HARD, especially in light of this world’s sufferings. But may the testimony of my dear friend Harriet help us to never forget,
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5: 3-5