Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Healing in Community


When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. Matthew 9:23-25

The amazing power of Jesus to counteract the forces of nature still astounds those who follow him. Driving winds were reduced to gentle breezes. Gravity quit working. Disease, death and decay relinquished their victims.

The most touching displays of Jesus miraculous power was in this last area of disease and death. People struggling under spinal deformation, blindness, unholy spirits and even death were freed instantly from the grip of these unwelcome invaders of the human body. While miracles alone didn’t convince everyone Jesus was the Son of God and Messiah, his mighty displays of power did arouse attention and wonder. People flocked to hear Jesus speak, see him perform miracles and, hopefully, have him transform their own bodies and spirits.

Physical suffering, especially when it is prolonged, attacks not only the body but also our minds. Physically afflicted people can become downcast and depressed. They can lose the will to fight their disease and succumb to it. This process works in reverse as well; those who are depressed can invite invaders into their bodies, rendering them physically ill. To those suffering from emotional or spiritual attack, the intervention of Jesus into their lives to heal and deliver brought joy and celebration.

That same healing work is needed today. Disease still wracks bodies, unholy spirits still assault our souls and hearts, and death still summons. How often have we wished we could simply wave our hands or speak the words and loved ones we grieved over would open their eyes? But we lack some of that healing power of Jesus. But we don’t lack all healing power.

M. Scott Peck took a break from a community-building seminar he was conducting. On the way to his room he saw a woman with a towel around her heard in obvious discomfort. "What’s the matter?" he asked her. In obvious agony the woman mumbled, "I’ve got a migraine."

The woman then said she was very angry. When Peck asked what she was angry at she said she was mad at the "charismatic phonies" who pretend they are spiritual. Peck replied that she might be right about some of them, but others may just be having fun. To this the woman replied, "I’ve never had fun." Peck told her hoped she could someday. Later that afternoon he saw the woman in better spirits and heard her telling others, "Dr. Peck healed me. I’ve never had fun. Dr. Peck healed me."

How did this medical doctor and psychiatrist account for such a seemingly-miraculous recovery for this woman from her painful migraine? His explanation is something for all of us who are Christians to consider, especially when we consider all of the suffering and dislocation that abounds in so many lives. Dr. Peck said,

"The best psychotherapists eventually learn, if they hang in there long enough, is to stop trying to heal their patients. What they can realistically set their sights on is building the best possible relationship - or community - with their patients; within that relationship, healing will naturally occur without their having to ‘do’ anything. I believe that the power to heal, a spiritual power, comes from God. It is a gift. And I believe it is the intent of the Giver that it should be used in such a manner as to ultimately give it away." (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, 195-6).

We cannot wave our hands or speak words of power that can chase disease and force death to give up its victims. We lack that supernatural power of Jesus. But we can invite the diseased, lonely, weak and shamed into our lives, form relationships with them, and share with them the love God has lavished upon us. We may not know how to minister to the brokenness, assuage the guilt, and heal the hurt, and we don’t have to. We just have to build sincere relationships and God will provide any healing. We may not be able to heal like Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t agents in God’s healing ministry today. Some suffering with a migraine, broken heart or loneliness is looking for you today. Share with them your healing presence.

Warren Baldwin

Note: for a very insightful lecture on the problem of pain, listen to Joni Eareckson Tada on Theology of Suffering.

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