Healing work is an act of love, principles 6-10 by Elaine Elliott

But Jesus’ wounds heal us May 23, 2022

1 Peter 2:19-21, 24 For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient in you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. … He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. [quoting Isaiah 53:4-6]

I could write a book about home health aides. Karis and I entertained each other with aide stories, many of them wonderful, and some leaving us shaking our heads. Here’s one of the latter:

It was transplant clinic day and I had multiple errands to run, so I asked our new aide to meet us in the waiting room at the hospital. She could care for Karis through the many hours we had to wait between the early blood draw and when the doctor showed up for clinic, so I could attend to my errands. I carefully explained to the aide what Karis needed, especially how important it was that she not leave her unattended, since Karis was unsteady on her feet and with her walker couldn’t navigate opening the heavy bathroom door, nor safely do all that was needed inside. “I’ll be back by 10:30,” I told her.

I buzzed through my errands and returned to the hospital earlier than I expected. The aide was nowhere to be seen and Karis was so desperate for relief she burst into tears when she saw me. “The aide left right after you did,” she told me. “I didn’t know what to do.”

We cared for her needs, which included a change of ostomy bag because the one she had was so full it was about to rupture. We had just made it back to the waiting room when the aide wandered in, chatting on her cell phone and munching fast food. When she saw me, her eyes widened, and she hastily ended her conversation. “I just stepped out for a few minutes because I was hungry,” she said.

I asked the aide to accompany me to a secluded place so we wouldn’t disturb others in the waiting room and described for her the condition in which I had found Karis and what would have happened if the ostomy bag had ruptured. I asked her why she had not followed my instructions. “But I didn’t!” she protested. “I was only gone for, like, ten minutes!”

Aides were hard to come by. Without one, I couldn’t leave Karis ever for more than a few minutes at a time. I didn’t want my relationship with this one to end before it had even begun. My spiritual director had been telling me God is easy to please because he loves us. I wanted to be easy to please too.

But Karis’s anguished face and her tears and what had almost happened, unbearable shame and mess in a public place, burned my heart.

“I’m sorry to hear you say that,” I said. “If you had told me the truth, we could have talked about giving you another chance. But I can’t entrust my daughter’s wellbeing to someone who disregards my instructions and then lies to me.”

A series of emotions crossed the aide’s face, then she said, “I understand that you are overly attached to your daughter because she’s been sick. For that reason, I have decided to forgive you for the terrible words you just said to me. But really, you need to let her grow up. Helicopter moms are not attractive.” She stood and walked away.

She decided to forgive me … ?

I called the home health agency, told them what had happened, and requested a substitute. They didn’t have anyone else, they said. It might take a few weeks for them to find another aide for us.

With the shortage of aides, did that girl get a by at the agency? Did she learn anything? I’ll never know. The experience was traumatic enough for Karis it took her a while to be able to laugh at what happened. A small illustration of Elaine’s healing principle #6:

Principle 6: Healing may take time

Among the many stories of healing in the gospels, one describes Jesus touching a blind man.  At first, the partially healed man saw people walking around, looking like trees. (Mark 8:24) The story shows that some healings take time, since Jesus’ second touch healed him completely.  Among family and friends, we have seen many healings, and most of them have taken time.  In fact, I now have a far less romanticized view of healing and realize it may take nursing care, doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and patience.   Sitting patiently with someone ill, or simply prayer over a long period of time, is challenging. 

When my sister Sharon could not walk or raise her hands after a seizure and stroke, recovery took time.  She held on in faith and kept doing the physical therapy, and within several months had become completely well.

Principle 7: Healing ministry honors Christ and is a way of following him

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them to Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:8) Healing became an important part of their message, bringing kingdom life through their good news. Today we still deal with life-threatening illness, bacterial infections, and psychological challenges.  We can follow Jesus’ instructions and include modern methods.

My mother-in-law had a “return to life” when headed to a life of ministry in Guatemala.  The tetanus shot given her sent her into anaphylactic shock, the doctor arrived late and found she was no longer breathing.  A shot to the heart brought her back.

Principle 8: The one healed has received a gift of healing

Some have suggested that those who are healed are the ones we should say have the gift of healing.  They received something amazing they can share with others and their testimony honors Christ and may encourage faith for others.  Those who Christ or the apostles healed became important parts of the story, evidence that something wonderful is at work in the world.  In the gospels, at least 37 individuals healed become characters we do not forget. Out of 3,779 verses in the four Gospels, 727 regard healing of physical and mental illnesses, nearly a fifth of the whole, demonstrating its importance. Our stories of healing today have similar importance in sharing Christ.

Principle 9: Simultaneously ask for healing and accept the current reality

We can always ask for people to be healed—we should have no shame or embarrassment in making the request.  When we have received positive answers, we are encouraged to keep asking for the next case.  When healing has not occurred, we still trust God’s wisdom.  As the Psalmist prayed, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

This challenges us when we face chronic illness where medical research has not come up with any known cures.  In these cases, we can get discouraged and feel like it is hopeless to ask.  But faith keeps asking and stays alert for any help or aids to improvement, even small improvements.  We persist in prayer looking for breakthroughs, and as people exercise their trust in God in the middle of illness and suffering, they give him glory. 

Principle 10: Always be grateful

We can remain grateful however God chooses to act.  We remember that only one of ten lepers came back to offer thanks, but Jesus commended him. (Luke 17:17,18) We can say under the threat of suffering, If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t…” (Daniel 3:17,18) “Even if he doesn’t” answer when we want and what we want, we will still be grateful.  And, unsurprisingly, gratitude has a healing effect.

My ten principles have emerged from my experiences.  Doubtless others can improve or add or change these to create a theological explanation of healing for our time that avoids the extremes of “healing doesn’t happen” versus “healing must happen right now if we have faith—no doctors needed!”

Karis’ life illustrates the principles:  she received cutting edge medical interventions which preserved her life far beyond expectations; when her suffering reached a critical point she received her entry into heaven; thousands of people became engaged in praying for her; many joined with faith when things seemed discouraging; clearly Karis did not have any fault in having a life-threatening birth defect and her story awakened compassion; some of her hospital stays were incredibly long, but she recovered; her story is an announcement of the gospel at work in a community of believers; her life became a gift of healing, a sign of God at work; many (like myself) never gave up hoping for healing while accepting reality; and Karis expressed joy and gratitude in a way that blessed so many of us.

I now know that healing is normally not flashy.  Instead, it is based on love responding to need, something Karis’ family certainly offered her.  Over and over, we are told that Jesus was moved with compassion, and his concern led him to heal.  It was one of the strongest characteristics of his ministry. Healing work is an act of love.  It is a way of loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Healing is far more about love than about power—love is at the root of this gift.  I think I liked the idea of the gift because it seemed glamorous and powerful.  Now I think of healing as humble, patient, and quiet, motivated by love.  We saw that at work in Karis’ story.

I (Debbie) will add that we saw God’s miraculous healing in Karis’s life so many times I lost count. In 2009, for example, doctors told us four times to call our family together (from Brazil, Italy, and several places in the U.S.) to say goodbye to her, because there was nothing more to do; this was the end. Each time God intervened, and Karis recovered. She was not surprised by this. “God still has work for me to do here on earth,” she said. “Why were all of you so worried? It’s nice to see you. But go back now to your own work.”

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