Healing Is Not an Achievement

a yellow leaf and dead vines wrapped around a chainlink fenceHealing is not an achievement. 

It is not something where if we just work long enough, just eat the right foods or say the right prayers or believe better or try harder, we will succeed. 

As I finished up a draft of my next book, To Be Made Well, I kept coming back to this idea again and again. It’s so tempting to want to make healing into a formula. Faith plus prayer plus Jesus equals freedom from shame, release from pain, an experience of forgiveness, connection to community.

Sometimes we are given those things. Sometimes we can notice the patterns of stress that harm our bodies and our souls and our relationships. Sometimes we can see exactly how God (or medication or therapy or a Mediterranean diet) works in our lives to bring transformation. And sometimes we just get sick. And sometimes healing feels incomplete, even if we’ve done everything right.

Theologian John Swinton pointed out to me once that no one in the Bible is writing about healing in a biomedical sense. In a world without antibiotics and genetic sequencing and chemotherapy and the like, healing wasn’t about fixing or curing disease. It was about being restored, being made well. It was about being reconnected to self, to God, to others, and to the community. 

So healing can come even when sickness and pain and hardship remain. 

Healing is not an achievement. It is an invitation to live in the presence of God’s love. It is a gift.


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