Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Scriptural Understanding Of "Healing"

Hope and Healing! We have hope to be healed. We pray for healing. I, personally, am a huge believer in God's power to heal my body, spirit, and emotions, and to redeem my life's baggage. And, frankly, I know what I want and even expect these desired healings to look like. When it doesn't happen to my specifications I can get down, depressed, turn from God, and think God messed up and caused me to miss the "healed boat." It's easy to forget in my humanness that God doesn't always share my perspective on things.  OK, He seldom seems to get my drift on matters of the utmost importance to me and that causes me to holler, "God, don't You care? Where are You in all this? This isn't part of my game plan!"

He manages to get my attention in the most surprising ways and remind me that I'm the one who doesn't get His drift on matters of the utmost importance and that I don't share His perspective! Sound familiar, maybe?

"Healing" is often one of those areas where we bring our human understanding, perspectives, and expectations and expect God to fall in line behind us. We can forget that there are over 6 billion of these understandings, perspectives, and expectations as we each bring our own versions to the table and God isn't going to change to suit each of us, or me in particular. No, I've got to get my understanding in line with His because He's not going to get His in line with mine...or yours.  Sorry.

I undeniably believe in miracles! I've witnessed unexplainable healings in this life. In the Bible, the Book of my faith, God heals and even brings people back from the grips of death in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as Jesus does in the New Testament. I've had my ophthalmologist look at my retinas, tell me he saw spots that shouldn't be there, send me for further testing that involved dye and x-rays, only to be told the spots were no longer there. In case you don't know, there are no "good" outcomes for spots on the retina. All explanations eventually end in blindness. Yet what one of the leading ophthalmologists, of his day, on the East Coast told me were there...well, they weren't when it mattered most. I say I was healed.

There are peopled healed of cancers, heart disease, all kinds of illnesses and conditions around the world every day. Sometimes God uses technology and medicine. Sometimes He chooses to act without them. Sometimes people pray for healing and sometimes it seems to come despite their apparent lack of belief. We're told attitude is key and I believe that. I'm a positive person, yet I've got melanoma. Positive people with their own melanoma will die today; people who prayed for healing will not be healed.

Or will they? Have we got something of a misunderstanding of what "healing" is?  I think maybe many of us do. In our modern minds, to be healed is equated with to be cured. Disease free in this life. And it can happen as I said. Miracles do occur!

Sometimes we forget God's eternal perspective on healing. We forget that this life isn't all there is.  OK, maybe we remember that...but only when we're 100 years old! We don't like to think about the finite quality of life when we're under, say, 80 or so!  

I'd like to offer a perspective for consideration and that is that healings always occur! We might not recognize the healing, it may not look like what we prayed for or hoped for. The healing may come in the form of a miracle.  It may come in the form of successful surgery, treatment, or medication. It may come in the form of death.

It's not a newsflash to recall that we are imperfect people with imperfect bodies in an imperfect world, subject to all the imperfections this world has to offer. Melanoma being among the horrible, imperfect offerings.  But as people of faith, we don't accept this world as being all there is. We may not know all the details of Heaven or life after death, but we are hopeful that it's better than this world, if not absolutely perfect.

The last book in the Bible, the Book of my faith, Revelation, gives a human description of what John saw in a series of visions. The following short passage is a small portion of what this perfect place will be like; a place we have to die to experience. Because I like how The Message puts it, that's what I'm offering you:

Revelation 21: 3-7 (The Message)
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate."  Then he said, "It's happened. I'm A to Z. I'm the Beginning, I'm the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty. Conquerors inherit all this. I'll be God to them, they'll be sons and daughters to me."

No more tears! No more pain! No more death! That means, no more melanoma! No more depression! No more grief! No more sadness! Healing! Healing of body, spirit, emotions! Healing of all our life's baggage! Perfect and complete HEALING!

Sometimes, we have to die to be healed.

Hear me, when healing comes with death, that does not mean melanoma or any other illness won.  That does not mean a warrior lost his or her battle. Melanoma always loses!  Melanoma can only do so much. It can kill our bodies and that's it. It cannot kill that part of us, our spirit, that lives forever and will be completely healed. I don't know what life after death will be exactly like or what our perfect, healed bodies will be like, but melanoma will have no part of them.

I bring this topic up to remind us that when we pray for healing, that's a prayer God always answers in the affirmative! It may not look like what we envisioned as we prayed. It may not take the form we hoped for. But, if in the end we prayed and hoped to beat the beast, be free to live a joyful and cancer-free life, to experience the BEST God has planned, and never ever have to worry about melanoma again...well, healing always comes and sometimes it comes with death to this life but life in the world to come without end.

Lord, in Your mercy. Amen.

Here are  resources for help to better understand the Scriptural understanding of "healing" that the Church Universal draws on. I'm a pastor in the United Methodist Church and the following links are to resources found in our Book of Worship and to the UMC theology of healing. These resources will stand in line with those of other Christian denominations and with the broader Jewish understanding (God's healing is a healing of wholeness that goes with us even into death). There may be slight nuances that will differ, but the information on these pages will offer a good, general understanding of Scriptural "healing." I hope this will be useful. Blessings.

Healing Ministry and Worship

Healing Service

A Liturgy for a Service of Healing

A Service of Prayer for Christian Healing

Pay attention to the words. "Healing" isn't completely and totally equated with our modern idea of "cure." God can and does bring "cure" but it is only temporary as we will all face death one day. "Healing" is a wholeness that in life and death we are healed of all life's pains, sins, and sorrows.

And I am grateful that that kind of ultimate healing awaits! Amen!

(Note: this post is actually a compilation of two notes at Melanoma Prayer Center on Facebook).