What is your reaction when you hear these two words: God’s healing? Is it joy? Heartache? Questions? Anger? Wonder? Doubt? Or, maybe, something other. God’s healing has been a conundrum for me for some time. Where some have stories of instant healing, others remain ill, be it from physical or mental addictions, disease, or heartache. Where some in the world live life with health, wealth and vibrancy, others in the world lack for clean water and medical opportunity. When the news we watch is full of toxicity and evil in the world; it makes me wonder, “Where is God’s healing?”
As a child, my heart prayer was for God to heal my mom. My mom has been a long time sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis. When you grow up in a home where your mom or dad is ill, your eyes grow a different vision. Through young eyes, I watched a disease weave it’s way into our household. It wound its ways into joints, twisting fingers and curling toes. It caused surgeries and left my mom’s body in pain many a day. And, still does. Pain was the uninvited guest in our home. It showed up when we least expected it, looking to steal joy and cause harm. Strangely, pain, over time, became the norm. And, when something becomes the norm, senses meant to tune into compassion dull down a bit. My compassion waned and frustration took it’s place.
As I grew older, I started to ask, “Why? Why my mom? Why our family?” I’d pray for miraculous healing, to which the prayer remained unanswered. Today, mom’s health is still a brutal giant at times. I’ve watched other people fall ill, suddenly or with unfair diagnosis, and I’ve asked, “God, where are you? Where are you in this pain and heartache? Where is your miraculous healing I’ve heard about?” I’ve read the stories of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible and I’ve wanted this type of healing for myself and others. I’ve wanted instant healing. The kind of healing that comes pain-free, with the flick of a switch and, VOILÁ, all is better. In our consumer society of “order today, receive it tomorrow”, I, selfishly want healing at the snap of my fingers.
A few Sundays back, I sat in church with Josh by my side. Something different was in the air this Sunday. For one, a large cross leaned in the front of the Sanctuary, normally a vacant space. Surrounded by white fabrics, aloe and lavender, the beauty of the cross drew my focus towards it. A cross with hammer marks and splints, the cross reflected the feel of our often hurting hearts. This Sunday was a service of healing.
Rod’s sermon invited us to consider God’s healing from a new vantage point. He shared how at AA, even if you’ve been sober for years, you still introduce yourself, “Hi. My name is Ally and I’m an alcoholic”. This kinda blew me away. Why, once sober, would former alcoholics still claim a version of their former selves? Rod went on to say this is because they are coming into the space vulnerable, willing to let their guards down, willing to recognize that yes, they need God. They need God’s help for their inadequacies and they need the community of one another to aid them in their healing. I reflected, “Are the painful places in our lives an opportunity to commune with God? Are the breakdowns and heartaches in our lives opportunities to connect with others?”
Rod challenged us to consider: How are we bringing our vulnerable self to Christ? Also, how are we bringing our vulnerability into our church community allowing others to pray and care for us? Can the church be the place where we go when we need an ear, a shoulder to cry on, a friend? As members of Christ’s body, can we reach out to others and listen with little judgment, giving them an ear and not advice? Can we become the safe space of hearing their story, their burden, with compassion? Can we sit with another and offer caring for their heartache, whatever it may be? In this way, when we ask God for healing, can we recognize the opportunity all around to aid in the heartache of the world? Are we able to be real about our lives and ask others for their assistance?
Rod’s sermon challenged me on several levels. First, no longer could I claim that it was all up to Jesus and his miraculous touch to bring healing to the world. Instead, I was invited to consider how I am Christ’s hands and feet in the world to aid in the healing of others’ pain. I was even more challenged by the notion to come in and allow my own struggles to be seen. Isn’t this asking too much? To share my struggles and my current heartache? To peel back the layer of “all is right in the world” and allow those places that chip away at my heart to be seen? What if my pain gets a lukewarm response from another? What if a Scriptural platitude like “I will pray God’s will be done for you” is thrown at me? No! I’m not sure I want God’ will! I’d rather keep my pain to myself than to risk lukewarm words and painful platitudes.
The healing service continued. The community was invited to arise with written prayer to take to one of our three pastors. I was doubtful. I thought, will anyone actually rise and take their concerns to a pastor for prayer on the spot? The moment came to walk to the front. We were asked to bring a band-aid to the cross and say a silent prayer of healing as we placed our band-aid on the cross. Then, if we chose, go to Rod, Jim or Roger with our written prayer. Josh and I walked up, placed our band-aids and quietly returned to our seats.
I did not take a card up to be prayed for. I simply couldn’t do it. I wasn’t able to walk to Rod, Jim or Roger – these three people who I regard highly. Instead, I returned to my seat. The invitation was waiting for me, and I politely declined. I observed floods of people standing in line to receive verbal prayer. Tears were visible in people’s eyes. The air was charged. Voices hummed along with “Come and heal your hearts with your peace” playing in the background. My eyes welled recognizing the huge need for prayers of healing. Long lines to receive prayer was a wake up call to the burden of pain people carry on a daily basis. Our three ministers wrapped people in their arms – laying hands. Sometimes, a couple, other times one person. People flocked to let their guards down and receive prayer.
I wondered what held me back from receiving prayer? I was smack up against my own claim that vulnerability is life-giving and yet, asking for prayer for the painful places in life left me seated. This experience awoke me to how difficult it is for me to ask for help. To ask for others to enter into my pain with me. What is the fear? Maybe allowing the vulnerabilities to show would break me to the core.
The end of the service came. Joy overflowed. The whole worship that morning felt like one beautiful prayer. The way tears fell and hearts were unguarded. The time I spent sitting next to my oldest, arm wrapped around him in the moment. The way I looked upon these people who walked up and lifted them in my own prayer. Yes, this is my church family. Those people that have spurred me on in my own spiritual growth. And, I realized, sitting among a community in prayer for one another, even those left seated, was a healing time. Sitting amidst the prayers of a community, I realized we are not alone in this world. We are a community of hurting people who come to this place, called church, to receive the grace of God. Even though I didn’t have the hands of a minister on me. I had my hands on my son. We were present. And, in this presence, God’s healing was present.
No, there is no magic wand to be waved for healing. Instead, God invites us to be the outreach of healing. I recall the people over the years who have reached out to my family when my mom has been in the hospital. People who have dropped off food, made a phone call, said a prayer. And, I can look back and see God’s protective hand over our lives. Yes, God’s healing is in those who support a hurting heart. God’s healing is in the food made and dropped off when one is ill. God’s healing is in the prayer that is lifted for self and others. God’s healing is in the listening of stories. God’s healing is in the response of others when they see a pertinent need. God’s healing is in the donations made on another’s behalf. God’s healing is in friendships. God’s healing is in kind nurses and caring hands. God’s healing is in the random conversation in the waiting room getting your mind off the circumstance at hand. Mostly, God’s healing is mysterious – like the story of a daughter with a mom, fallen ill, who can share a story that, yes indeed, there is hope. There is life.
“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.” – Luke 5:18-25
Looking back at a difficult time, consider the people and circumstances that aided you to get through that time. Allow yourself to consider God in the midst. Notice how Jesus told the man to take his mat. What from your past do you still carry that allows you to recognize your need for Jesus?
With a Child:
Name a time when you’ve helped a friend. Then, thank the child for aiding in God’s healing in the world.