In the exploration of what it means to be a “Jesus Freak,” Sara Miles has to talk about healing, right? Imean, other than dying on a cross, healing is probably what Jesus was most known for. From leading the blind into sight to raising the dead, from reversing paralysis to alleviating the pain of a hemorrhaging woman, Jesus cured a lot of people in his life time. Yet in the midst of all this curing, he also healed. “What?” You may ask. “Why wouldn’t healing and curing be the same? Isn’t healing just another word for what happens when your ailments go away and you’re healthy again?”
For Miles – and myself, though I’ve read work arguing this distinction long before picking up this book – healing does not equal curing. Curing happens to our physical bodies; healing is so much more. In the midst of a conversation with two doctor friends, she reminds them (and us) that “Jesus specifically heals people even when they aren’t cured. He doesn’t stop suffering, but promises to be with us in suffering” (p. 73). Curing is when cancer goes into remission or a stroke victim regains movement. Healing goes beyond the body; healing brings the pieces of our broken selves back together, even when a cure is no where to be found. And in divorcing the two, the distinctions between the sick and the healthy begin to dissolve. When you need a cure, it’s assumed you are sick. Only the healthy can cure the sick. If healing is about more than the body, we are all in need of some healing. When we think in terms of being healed, we can start looking beyond all the stigmas of sickness, and really see each other.
As in the previous sections of Jesus Freak, there is so much to talk about. This time, I want to zero in on something I have always struggled with – how to deal with the uncomfortable feelings of grief and comfort when there is no cure yet healing is still possible. What do we say when someone loses a loved one to death or gets laid off and cannot find work? How do we comfort someone grieving after disaster or war? Too often, Miles points out, there is an “airbrushed fantasy of a happy ending promoted by many Christians” (p. 84). The airbrushed fantasy is created when Christians say things like, “God needs him in Heaven” or “When God closes a door, he opens a window” or “God had a reason for taking her away.” If I lost a loved one to death or lost my job or my home, I don’t think I would want to hear anything about how God has a plan and a reason for the grief and the pain.
Thankfully, Jesus would not have contributed to our airbrushed fantasy in times of suffering. Jesus promises abundant life, which includes pain right next to joy. Jesus would be like Miles’ friend Cheryl who simply sat with the mother of a boy who had been shot in the back of the head. Cheryl tells Miles she was uncomfortable as the mother cried and suffered for her son, but also that God was present in that space. We don’t have to force cheerfulness or hope in times of pain; we simply need to sit and listen and let God in. Sometimes healing happens in unexpected places, at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. Jesus is the poster child for healing those who are the least, who are the outcast, who others have dismissed because there is no cure. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and not know what to say to someone who is suffering. That is when healing occurs, when we are honest in our discomfort, when we reach out to someone without thinking about what we will gain.
Jesus cured. Jesus healed. And in distinguishing between being the two, Jesus gave everyone the power to heal.