We’ve said that true healing is encountering Christ. That is about the now — peace instead of panic, contentment instead of fear.
Physical healing will follow: soon, or later, or gradually, or partially. Certainly it will not be complete until eternity, but it will be complete then. All healing always has a ‘now’ and a ‘not yet’.
This is really important when it comes to chronic illness. Many of us live with chronic illness. Are we healed? Obviously we are living with a ‘not yet’ and certainly at one level a ‘not until eternity.’
But we can also enjoy the ‘now’. Even in chronic illness. Especially in chronic illness. We can thrive now. We know Christ’s peace now. We can enjoy abundance now. We can heal other others now.
I believe there’s always a ‘now’. And living with chronic illness, and praying for the chronically ill, is about stringing together a necklace of ‘nows’ that will stretch all the way to eternity.
They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56)
Can this happen today? It can, if we re-define ‘healing’ as ‘the start of healing’ or simply ‘enjoying the experience of thriving’.
I ought to say I believe what Mark is reporting: people reached out to Jesus with a whole GP’s surgery of stuff (rashes, cataracts, cancers, anxieties, fears, depression, strokes, diabetes, whatever) and emerged, blinking, stretching, smiling and completely well. But I believe this is exceptional, perhaps because Jesus’ healings were doing double duty both as acts of mercy and as signs of the Kingdom.
In the context of what I am calling ‘slow healing’, though, I believe everyone can encounter Christ and begin to thrive. The thriving is healing’s germination. How much physical healing happens now and how much is deferred to eternity is of course rather important to us, but it is secondary in the grand scheme.
The grand scheme is:
- Encounter Christ
- Thrive in his goodness in this life and the next
- Receive downpayments of physical and relational wellness in this life
- Ultimately be completely whole, physically and relationally.
All who touched him were healed. Still true today?
When it’s curtains for you, pull yourself together
I find it helpful to start at the end.
If ‘healing’ postpones your final dismantling by a few months or decades, it’s good, but it’s not that good.
Of course it is good: if someone dies aged 5 or 15 or 25, we feel very differently than if they’re tipped out of the wheelbarrow at 65 or 85 or 105. Putting back the evil day is an extremely good thing.
I prefer to think, though, that the real blessing of getting physically healed (especially, nearly dying and getting a let off) is what you go on to think and do. If you think wonderful, I’m back to my indestructible self, that’s the wrong lesson.
The right lesson is that now you’ve been awakened to the reality of your upcoming mortality, you can do something about it.
- Say everything good that needs saying to your loved ones
- Make peace with your enemies
- Get your affairs in order
- Sort out the God-and-eternity business in your head and your soul
- Gratefully relish each ‘bright blessed day’, and ‘dark sacred night’.
Do that, and you can walk hereafter with a lovely light tread on the earth, enjoying it absolutely more than ever and determinedly not getting your feet stuck in muddy glops of anger, fury, malice, bitterness, vengefulness or cynicism.
Longer, higher, wider and deeper than the other sort?
This is so fascinating. Part of our scenery as Christians is the dramatic, instanteous healing: the funeral is interrupted; the withered arm regrows; the woman bent doubled straightens up. Jesus did these kinds of things; I’ve interviewed missionaries who’ve also done them.
I haven’t looked on YouTube recently but I suppose there are plenty of videos there of the blind seeing and the deaf hearing.
Yet I feel these are the tips of the healing iceberg. They are the edited highlights, the signs. They are spectacular geysers in the overflowing goodness of God; but the real miracle is not the geyser, it’s the irrigation of the whole land.
Worse, If you think the dramatic, instanteous stuff is the normal operation of God’s healing power, you are setting up to hurt yourself and others.
Typical scene: some Christian meeting is going on and they start praying for the sick. Febrile atmosphere. Poor disabled schmuck is pushed up to be prayed for; is prayed for; nothing much happens; everybody tries to forget about it and move on. I’ve had this done to me, and I’ve seen it done to others.
And we have to do better than this.
I want to explore this over coming posts in the next few weeks. Alas I only I have one piece, my own, in the jigsaw. Please add more pieces if you can.
- It’s all about Jesus.
- It’s now and not yet
- It’s internal and external
- It comes in weakness
are how the Kingdom of God is breaking in (as I blogged earlier). Healing is a part of the kingdom, so we can think about it in the same way. As follows:
- It’s all about Jesus. Healing is about meeting Christ, and about his priorities for us. We put ourselves in his hands and ask him for help. He is King: kings act. The blind beggar called out, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ meaning ‘So you’re the King? Do your job.’
- It’s now and not yet. Some healing comes now; all will come later. The exact blend of what you get now and what you get later is up to the King. But we must focus on the now: too much healing prayer (in my experience) focusses on some vague future point which is a cop-out.
- It’s internal and external. Healing is never really about a single organic solution. It’s also always about our heart and our relationships. It accepts Western medicine which focusses on repairs, but extends far beyond it. So, for example, the person with a stomach ulcer clearly doesn’t just need a cure for ulcers. Healing prayer embraces all this wholeness, one reason why it is encouraged to happen within the wider context of the church’s leadership and pastoral care structure (as in James 5:14).
- It comes in weakness. So our approach to the sick (and when praying for ourselves) is gentle, tentative, loving; not desperate to prove something.
Psalm 106: vv 12-13:
‘Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise
‘But they soon forgot what he had done
And did not wait for his plans to unfold.’
Behold the terror and the joy
Imagine rowing a boat on your own across a lake. The fears and joys are yours alone.
We are always alone. People may sit by our fireplaces–as it were–over many wonderful evenings and years. They may hug us and hold us, accepting each other as completely as two humans can.
But no-one knows us quite fully or quite truthfully. There are always veils. We are not entirely as we present ourselves, even to those we love the most.
Thanks to faith in Christ, though, I’ve discovered I’m never alone.
When I’m rowing alone across a lake, also known as living, Christ knows with me all the terror and the joy. Other loves may kindly watch, from the shore or other boats. Other loves may cheer and blow kisses. But he knows it all and we share it together.
/Around 2008 an atheist SF writer named John C Wright prayed this:
Dear God. There is no logical way you could possibly exist, and even if you appeared before me in the flesh, I would call it an hallucination. So I can think of no possible way, no matter what the evidence and no matter how clear it was, that you could prove your existence to me. But the Christians claim you are benevolent, and that my failure to believe in you inevitably will damn me. If, as they claim, you care whether or not I am damned, and if, as they claim, you are all wise and all powerful, you can prove to me that you exist even though I am confident such a thing is logically impossible. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation in this matter, John C. Wright.”
Three days later he had a heart attack.
‘Do you love me?’
Inside all of us–I guess and hope, because I’m surely not the only one–is a red-faced, awkward, sweating, small and ugly person. It’s when that person and Christ talk together the real work is done.
Peter and Jesus had that conversation. Ignore their history, their beards, the sound of lapping waves and crunching footsteps, the barbecued fish in their teeth. Ignore their age and size, big blokes, rugby team blokes. Ignore Peter’s secret tears, recriminations, justifications, sleepless nights, self-doubt, arguments with himself and despair.
Here’s the conversation:
‘Do you love me?’
‘Tend my lambs.’