I grew up in a church where “spiritual healing,” to the extent that it was discussed at all, was understood to be talking about healing the rift between us and God in a conversion-at-a-revival-meeting kind of way. (For those of you who know the theological language, that meant spiritual healing = justification by faith, and that was all there was to it.) I vividly remember the day I realized there was more to it than that. I was in a course on healing prayer, and our teacher pointed out that Jesus Himself said that He came to heal the brokenhearted. And then one of the facilitators began to tell story after story of spiritual healings she had seen–her own, and others’.
I left class that day deeply discouraged. Does that surprise you?
I had already learned the hard way, at the age of 16, that knowing things wasn’t enough–I actually had to forgive the people I had grudges against. Hard as it had been, I had done that (until I reached the point where I was totally unable, and then God worked a miracle–but that’s a story for another time.)
I had been taught (not explicitly, but by implication) that once I had given forgiveness, I would grow automatically through mastering the doctrine–the religious ideology of our tradition. I had given myself to that task, and I had been successful. I was a fair-haired son of our tradition, a rising young theologian.
But forgiveness is not healing, and studying is not healing. Forgiveness lays the necessary groundwork for healing. Studying can bolster your faith that God can heal. But laying the groundwork and believing that it’s possible is not all there is to it. The initial act, the sin against me, was like getting a splinter shoved into my skin. Holding a grudge was like letting it stay there and fester. Forgiveness was like pulling the splinter out and cleaning out the pus. But that does not magically close the wound — there’s still the actual healing to be done. It’s not automatic, or at least, it wasn’t for me.
I hadn’t healed. I was still carrying significant wounds, and suddenly I knew it. As far as I could tell, I still had a long, long road ahead of me. I hated it. I wanted so bad to just be done, and I wasn’t. I wanted to leave that healing prayer class, and never come back. I wanted to pretend I didn’t know.
But I stayed, and I asked God to work. He did. The road was not easy, but neither was it as long and grueling as I’d feared, because God is gracious. When we are injured, He gives back to us. But that’s a tale for another time.