Weekly Edgework #16 - Oct 18, 2004

Healing and Cure

The woman with the issue of blood was both cured and healed, and that is easy to understand, but curing and healing are not always the same thing…I have witnessed the healing which is more profound than curing several times in my life…One compassionate and deeply loving Russian Orthodox priest said that he was often baffled when asked to intercede for those who were ill, because their suffering did so much good for their souls. This sounds callous, but it isn’t (The Irrational Season, Madeleine L’Engle, p127, 129).

Recently a close friend of mine told me that he had stopped praying that I would be cured of my illness because he was afraid that that would disrupt the healing that he saw taking place in my life. For those who don’t know, I have not been able to hold down a full-time job for the past two years due to an illness that the doctors cannot diagnose. Although my condition has improved somewhat, I am quite far from being cured – that is restored to my former level of health and vitality. Instead of praying for my cure, he directed me to the book I have quoted from above.

My first response was to think, Who needs a friend like that - unwilling to intercede for a cure that would allow me to pick up life where I had left it more than two years ago? But soon thereafter I felt honored that my friend had noticed the process of healing taking place in me in the context of not finding a cure. In his mind, this healing process was more valuable than seeing me cured. I was also humbled, however, because I know that there is so much in my soul that has not yet been fully healed.

I think it is only human to desire and seek a cure for whatever ails us. Everyone wants to be physically well all the time. But that is not how life works. Our country spends more on attempting to cure people than on anything else. If only we could all be cured of our maladies then life would be great, at least that is what we think. Let us imagine a world in which all illness and deformity has been eradicated. Would the world really be a better place? Would that perhaps depend on the level of healing that would have accompanied this grand curing project?

Yes, we are thankful for the cures that have been found for many of the illnesses that plague our planet. When I was young one of my neighborhood friends, Irene Suderman, died of polio when she was thirteen years old. Shortly thereafter a vaccine against polio was made available to all children. It was a big deal getting all children vaccinated against polio – no one should be left out! Polio must be beat! But the vaccine was too late for my mother’s friend, Elaine Moffat. She contracted the dreaded disease shortly after she married Ray Allison and spent much of the rest of her life in an “iron lung” because she was too weak to breath on her own. For her there was no cure. Yet, I remember the awe with which my mother read her love-filled letters and how she marveled at the steadfast devotion of her husband through it all. Even as a young child I picked up the notion that there may have been more value in the healing of a soul than the cure of an illness.

Even when a cure is found for one’s particular illness, we know that its effect is only temporary. Everyone who has been cured of a particular disease will eventually succumb to some kind of affliction that will end in death. It may happen at the age of 107, as it did for one man in our community recently. For most it comes earlier than that, but come it will. So is it true that it is more important to be healed than cured? Healed persons are those who have come to terms with the reality of life as it confronts them. They have learned to live gracefully with their limitations. They have been forced to concede that the inner health of their spirits is more significant than the healing of their bodies.

How sad and difficult it can be to relate to an old person whose soul has never healed. My friend Nettie works in a nursing home. She tells me that some ill or incapacitated older folk are so full of anger and hurt that they scream curses at her no matter what she does to try to help them. Others, she says, who are much worse off physically, are pleasant to be around and thankful for her help. The difference is, of course, that the latter have found healing which has eluded the former.

By saying what I do, I do not wish to make light of the sufferings that people must endure because of their illnesses. A part of me really does wish that all sick persons in the world could be cured of whatever ails them. But that would be a world without death, which at least for now is not within our grasp. It seems that Jesus had this same impulse because frequently the scriptures say he restored back to health all those who were brought to him. At the same time, when he recognized that many were looking for a cure without inner healing, he fled to the mountains to avoid the pressure to cure the sick. And when the chips were down and Jesus was called upon to suffer himself, most of those whom he had cured abandoned him. I suppose they were hiding out somewhere clinging to their hope that at least their cure would last – that their suffering was over.

It is quite clear that there is not a cure for everyone’s illness in this world of ours. But I would like to believe that inner healing is available for everyone. In the same breath in which the Apostle Peter notes that Christ suffered, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, he notes that it is by his wounds that we have been healed (I Peter 2:21-24).

What good is it to be cured and then live to be a cantankerous, old person who swears at his caretakers – unhealed. I would rather die young and healed, than old and unhealed.