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Why We Must Be Surprised by the Healer

God's ultimate purpose in healing is so we know he is the Lord, our Healer.

This week I gave birth to my eighth book. Actually, it was a “co-labor” with my dear friend and mentor, Linda Dillow. When I use the word “labor,” I mean it. This book, Surprised by the Healer, was probably the most difficult that either of us has ever written.

Healing . . . it’s a controversial topic. Does God still heal? Maybe you’ve felt the sting of someone promising healing only to be disappointed. To add insult to injury, maybe that same someone accused you of lacking faith or of a hidden sin “proven” by your continued illness or brokenness. If this is your story, I'm so sorry. Talk of healing has perhaps done more harm than help.

So why did we write a book on the topic? Certainly not to add to your pain or offer false hope.

What God Promises to Heal

Part of the confusion about healing comes because we assume that it is God’s will for us to be healed of every ailment. I don’t believe this is true. Even the person with the greatest faith and most godly life dies a physical death. However, God’s will is to perform a deeper, eternal healing.

When Jesus walked the earth, he chose to heal some physical ailments, such as leprosy, blindness, and other disabilities. In rare cases, he even raised the dead. However, those physical miracles were temporary for the sake of displaying the healing and redemption that is eternal.

When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus had died, he was filled with sadness. It hurt him to see his friends Mary and Martha grieve their brother. Jesus said something strange to his disciples: “For your sake I am glad that I was not there [to heal Lazarus], so you may believe” (John 11:15).

Jesus didn’t just heal Lazarus simply so he could live a couple more decades. His friend’s body eventually decayed; Lazarus died a physical death, just as all humans do. Jesus raised Lazarus to impact people for eternity: that they might believe.

When Jesus healed, he did so for the purpose of pointing us to the eternal truth that he is the Son of God, able to forgive sin and set us free from spiritual bondage. In other words, God doesn’t heal a woman of the pain of sexual abuse simply so that she can enjoy sex in marriage (although this is a wonderful gift!). His ultimate purpose in her healing is that she will know that he is Lord, that he is her healer, and that he has the power to redeem our lives from the pit.

In Matthew 9:1–8 we read about a man who was paralyzed. Everyone assumed the man has asked his friends to bring him to Jesus for physical healing. Jesus’ surprising response reveals the man’s deeper wound: “Take courage, son. Your sins are forgiven.” When onlookers doubted that Jesus could forgive sins, he said, “I want you to know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (NIV). Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and healed him physically. Note that Jesus first healed the man’s spiritual wound, which was hidden, and then he healed his physical condition.

God has not promised to heal our temporary brokenness, although he can and sometimes does. What he does promise is to completely redeem those things that are everlasting: our hearts, souls, and spirits.

For this reason, Surprised by the Healer is not about temporary healing for our temporary bodies. It’s about eternal healing for our eternal souls. Jesus declared that he was sent by the Father to “proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, and freedom to the captives.” That’s you, my friend. He was referring to your broken heart, your unshakable shame, your bondage to sexual sin. He came to heal you.

Your Part in Healing

Although healing is a gift from God, we are often asked to have an active role in our healing. For three years, Jesus ministered on planet earth to real people with real brokenness. Recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are multiple stories of Jesus healing physical, emotional, and spiritual illness. If you read every encounter of healing in these four books, you will notice something: Everyone who was healed participated in their healing. The only exceptions are those for whom someone else interceded. In some cases, those needing healing stalked and begged Jesus. Other times, Jesus approached the person and asked them a question like, “Do you want to be healed?”

You have a role in your spiritual healing and in the lives of others who need redemption. When we assume that God doesn’t care or isn’t able to heal our wounds, we sit by passively.

One of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha, which means, “God the healer.” How many of our modern worship songs proclaim God as the healer? But even so, we rarely act on what we say and sing.

Linda and I have had the privilege to witness hundreds of incredible stories of God’s redemption in women’s lives. In the book Surprised by the Healer, we share nine of those stories. We have written this book as an invitation to you. Are you willing to actively pursue the healer?

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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