A Faith Healer Nearly Destroyed My Faith
Learning the hard way what God says about sickness and health.
by Rebecca Schrader as told to Esther M. Bailey
Never have I considered myself a gullible person. When I held a top executive position in business, I readily recognized the difference between ethical and fraudulent schemes. Since then, my life has undergone drastic changes.
Within two months, my affluent lifestyle dissolved. No longer could I ride around in my fancy car with a handsome husband by my side. Unemployment and another woman left me alone and soon to be in financial distress.
At that point, I turned to God. Through the instruction I received from a wonderful church, Jesus Christ entered my life as Lord and Savior.
Cancer had already invaded my body before I became a Christian, but I believed that a mastectomy had restored me to health. When cancer recurred, requiring a second mastectomy, I began to look to God for healing. My church friends prayed with me and for me.
In spite of the prayers, my health continued to decline. The diagnosis of bone cancer frightened me, but I refused to consider a bone marrow transplant. I reasoned that if God wanted to heal me, He could and would without the suffering involved in such a procedure. I accepted the fact that God might not heal me; I only wanted His will to be done.
Then I met Sylvia (not her real name). Sylvia impressed me with her knowledge of the Bible and her charismatic personality. She quoted a scripture verse for every situation and posed as a loving, caring person, willing to make the supreme sacrifice to minister to others.
As I got to know Sylvia, she expressed deep concern about my physical condition. “You know, it’s always God’s will to heal,” she said in a soothing, loving tone of voice. With the authority of the Bible behind her and the power she demonstrated in prayer, how could I doubt what she said?
If healing were the children’s bread, I certainly wanted to claim what was rightfully mine. Through Sylvia’s influence, I began to believe it was actually a sin to be sick. That gave me even greater incentive to be healed: I did not want to sin against God.
My relationship with Sylvia progressed to the point that she made me a proposition. “If you could provide a house where I could also conduct my ministry, I would move in with you and care for you. Then I’d be right there to help build up your faith so you can be healed.”
Even though I would pay all the bills, the arrangement appealed to me. My needs would be taken care of, and I could be part of her ministry at the same time. Sylvia did not want to work because she needed to devote her time to prayer and Bible study. That was how she received divine power to cast out demons and set people free.
I rented a house, and we moved in together. Almost immediately, Sylvia’s attitude toward me changed. Her loving manner became stern. We needed to establish rules that would bring about my healing, she said. I had to give up my church to attend church with her. She explained that the people in my church did not understand the doctrine of healing. Association with people who were unenlightened could hinder my faith for healing.
Sylvia claimed total authority; I was not to question anything she did. She quoted 1 Samuel 26:9, where David said concerning Saul, “Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” Sylvia professed to be anointed by God.
When Sylvia refused to take care of my physical needs, she explained she was acting in my best interests. “If I fix you a meal, you will depend on me,” she said. “If you are forced to do it yourself, you will depend on God, and that will build up your faith.”
Because Sylvia needed so much money for ministry, I got behind with bills. I struggled with guilt for failing to keep up my end of our bargain. When I went to Sylvia in tears, suddenly her loving nature returned.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said as she caressed my hair. “I’ve been blind. I should have seen what the stress was doing to you. Let me handle the money from now on. God has given me the ability to make a dime stretch into a dollar.”
I knew enough about money to know how far a dime will stretch, but I figured that at least Sylvia would be forced to live within a budget.
I was wrong. The needs for the ministry accelerated. She explained that I shouldn’t worry about how much went to God, because He would return the money to me with interest. “It’s like an investment,” she said.
Buying a van
When I sold my car, I decided to purchase a van. Because I was bedridden, Sylvia offered to go to the dealer to pick it up. She called me from the dealership. “They can’t put the title in your name unless you come down to sign the papers,” she said. “But they could put it in both our names, and I can sign the papers.”
That seemed reasonable to me. The van would be used in her ministry, and she would be doing most of the driving. I gave Sylvia the information she needed to complete the transaction.
My health continued to decline. Doctors advised hospitalization, but Sylvia argued against it. “The only reason you’re sick is because you’re going against God. He wants to heal you, but your lack of faith won’t let Him. Your disobedience and your rebellion make it impossible for God to work.”
Sylvia condemned most everything I did as evil. To her, even my devotion to my dogs was idolatry.
Alone in the darkness
Against Sylvia’s authority, I entered the hospital. She did not visit me or even call to see how I was doing. The time in the hospital was the darkest period in my life. Totally alone and in despair, I cried out to God, “Please have mercy on me!”
I pleaded; I confessed every sin I could remember, but darkness remained. I didn’t even feel like a Christian.
Light and freedom
I went home from the hospital drained of physical and emotional energy. Sylvia kept her distance, and I began to explore the Bible for myself. I learned that God does not promise health and wealth to those who serve Him. I learned that what I had already done by accepting Jesus as my Savior made me a Christian — not following a set of human rules.
Light began to penetrate the darkness, and a wonderful sense of freedom flooded my being. In one moment I knew my faith was planted firmly on the rock of Jesus Christ.
Life with Sylvia became even more difficult, but I refused to allow her to manipulate me. For some time I had suspected her of misappropriating funds, so I relieved her of the responsibility of handling the money.
That made her angry. Still, I hesitated to evict Sylvia. She had brainwashed me to the extent that I could not go that far. Finally, I read a verse in the Bible that required me to remove Sylvia from my home: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him” (2 John 10). I did not want to share in her ministry or be a party to her deception.
When Sylvia did not leave at my request, I changed the locks and denied her access to my home. Although I had questioned the fact that money had sometimes disappeared, I had petty theft in mind more than grand larceny.
Path of forgiveness
I was shocked to discover that Sylvia had titled the van in her own name instead of jointly as she had indicated. I could not recover the van because she had possession of it as well as the title. Besides the van, other evidence of theft added up to approximately three thousand dollars.
The house seemed to be cleansed from evil with Sylvia gone. Thank God her deception did not destroy my faith, but I had to deal with an attitude in my own heart. Bitterness and peace could not co-exist, and I wanted peace. On my own I could not forgive Sylvia for what she had done, but I knew God would give me strength to do so.
I struggled and prayed, then struggled and prayed some more until peace finally came. I can now pray for Sylvia with genuine concern. I pray that she will humble herself and repent — for her own sake as well as for that of others.
God may choose not to heal my body. But no matter what happens, I know He’s granted a greater healing in my heart.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.