A couple who struggle to have children conceive a baby. A person suffering flashbacks of a traffic accident is bothered by them no more. The latest scan reveals no sign of cancer. Some things submit to the quick, instant fix.
I’d love to hear from a GP on this but I have the feeling that many, perhaps most, medical conditions don’t fit this model. Perhaps some people are just wearing out. Others keep seeking appointments really because they are lonely and sad. (Just the other day I heard of a survey at one GP practice that found its most frequent frequent-flyers were not the eighty-year-olds but women in early middle age.)
Lots of people have multiple things wrong with them, so if instant healing was being offered, they’d have to keep rejoining the queue. This is in fact quite a good picture of how the NHS is currently structured.
Yet in the gospels people meet Jesus and all who even touch the edge of his cloak are healed.
What does that mean for those with multiple, long-term chronic conditions or who are sad and lonely or who are just wearing out? I guess doctors struggle with this stuff all the time.
Surely it means that healing is finding a way to thrive in any and every circumstance. This may be lit up on the way by some wonderful moments of physical or mental deliverance, thanks to doctors or prayer or both or more, but true healing is a wide, deep, slow turning over of the soil of our lives so that it produces a good harvest of joy and peace. It’s a transforming encounter, and an ongoing discipline and experience.
The neat thing is, I suspect such an inner transformation will itself be an ally in our fight against everything else. ‘All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast’ (Proverbs 15:15). We start to see ourselves as givers, not takers, receivers of grace not unfortunate victims, our lives defined by the goodness of God, not by our ailments. This isn’t easy or inevitable; but it isn’t impossible either.