Inspired Angela

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Please: Quit Telling Me I ‘Need More Faith to be Healed’

"Christ healing the blind" by El Greco, 1578.

“Christ healing the blind” by El Greco, 1578.

The title of this blog post is a somewhat grumpy way of expressing my thoughts. Today’s Gospel story of the blind man’s healing brought up a touchy subject for me.

As you recall, the blind man sitting on the side of the road hears that Jesus is passing by. After crying out, “Son of David, have pity on me!” a few times, Jesus calls the man to himself. The Lord asks him what he wants. He wants to see. Jesus restores the blind man’s sight and tells him, “Your faith has saved you.”

That line is the clincher. It has both enlightened me and driven me crazy.

Regular readers will recall that I suffer from fibromyalgia, a mysterious chronic pain condition. I’ve had fibro for about four years now. (Please note: I am not seeking your remedy suggestions today.)

I also ‘married into’ a beautiful parish community known for being a local center of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. Here comes the rub… Now, listen: I have about a million praises for my charismatic brothers and sisters. Those whom I know are sacrament-seeking, bishop-obeying, Mary-loving, Christians. They have strengthened my faith, renewed my hope, and changed my life.

At the same time, there’s a phrase / concept that I’ve heard creeping around this circle (and other Catholic circles) that both annoys and – frankly – insults me. It comes out most especially during healing-prayer services:

“Just have faith and Jesus will heal you.”

By itself, there’s nothing wrong with this phrase. BUT! I’ve had people pray over me, use something like this phrase during their prayer, squeeze me tightly, look up, and then forcefully re-insist that I “believe! Believe that Jesus will heal you!”

Then I hobble away from the healing-prayer service. With fibromyalgia.

Don’t get me wrong: I truly do believe that God heals people during healing-prayer services (or any other time)! I’ve met folks in our parish who’ve been through terrible suffering and, by a miracle, were healed. Yes, God does grant physical healing to some people.

At the same time, for whatever reason, God’s eternal and infinite love leaves room for the physical and emotion pain that I experience as a fibromyalgia patient. And I’m OK with that. In fact, I have grown to appreciate the closeness I have to Jesus in my moments of suffering. Unfortunately, some of my fellow Christians look to today’s Gospel, and similar passages, and interpret them to mean that each time I’ve walked out of a healing service still suffering, I must not have believed enough. I must not have had enough faith.

Each time that a sick or suffering person is led to believe this really bad theology, the Christians who implied its truth are at serious fault.

Suffering, miracles, physical and other healings – these are mysteries beyond our comprehension. Oversimplifying these experiences can plant dangerous seeds in the spiritual lives of those whose suffering makes them especially vulnerable. A poor theology of suffering can lead a person to dismiss God altogether.

In the book My Peace I Give You, author Dawn Eden mentions a particularly insightful Catholic practice, called the “consecration of weakness” (emphasis is my own):

A traditional blessing confessors may give after absolving a penitent encapsulates this “consecration of weakness.” Invoking Jesus’ Passion, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the saints, the priest prays, “May … whatever good you do and whatever suffering you endure heal your sins, help you grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life.” With this blessing, the Church tells me that God does not merely heal my wounds. When I unite my heart to the Sacred Heart of his Son, whose own wounds are now glorified, he heals me through my wounds.

I can’t write an entire treatise on suffering here (and I won’t, when so many Catholics before me have done so). All I mean to point out is this: Each time Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you,” to a person He heals in Scripture, His words do not simply translate – “you had faith, therefore your [blindness, paralysis, etc.] was healed.” Christ’s words, “Your faith has saved you,” mean infinitely more. As Billy Kangas tweeted me today,

BillyKangasTweet

The blind man was saved from physical blindness, but through his process of seeking Jesus and coming to know His identity as the Christ, Son of David, he was also saved from spiritual blindness. Isn’t that what we should value above extraordinary physical healing?

Let’s help each other avoid poor explanations of suffering and healing.
Let’s show greater concern for one another’s spiritual needs as well as physical needs.
Let’s recognize that God heals everyone differently.
Let’s strive to see each other’s entire person – not just the wounds, warts, or disabilities – but also the beauty, the abilities, the hopes, and the gifts.

Am I making sense? Please, I welcome your comments.

13 comments on “Please: Quit Telling Me I ‘Need More Faith to be Healed’

  1. stclementmom
    November 19, 2013

    Absolutely with you. Hang in there.

  2. John Janaro (@JohnJanaro)
    November 19, 2013

    You make a lot of sense. Grace and suffering and healing are mysterious things. Sometimes Catholics in the charismatic renewal rely too heavily on the claims and assessment of the wider (Protestant) pentecostal movement, where many people have received graces, certainly, but without the refined discernment made possible only within the Catholic tradition and under the successors of the Apostles.

    Sometimes, Catholics also pick up from Pentecostals an inadequate or confused appreciation of the mystery of grace (even if, as Catholics, they affirm the doctrine that grace makes possible a meaningful participation by the human person in the redemption). Because of this lack of appreciation (which can be a kind of spiritual immaturity) they may not grasp very well the vocation that each of us has, in different ways, to share in the suffering of Jesus and to offer ourselves in union with Him. Thus not only in the matter of healing, but in general life, an excessive emphasis may be placed on externals and experiential “results”.

    I am sorry that you have to suffer this kind of misunderstanding from people. In cases of those who don’t know their faith, this kind of judgment could be devastating. Illness is hard enough to endure, and people need encouragement and respect as human beings. I know this myself only too well.

    I may have said this before, but I suffer from chronic, debilitating illness related to Lyme disease that was left untreated (in fact, at one point I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and there are many similar symptoms in my condition). I know how much it “costs” you in exhaustion and pain to do the work you do, but I can see that you are using your charism to build up the Church. The healing grace of the Holy Spirit is surely at work in you through your gifts and your work and your suffering. It can be hard to “see” this, but even that darkness (especially there) Jesus is with us and is sowing deeply the seeds of resurrection.

    God bless you, Angela!

    • Angela Sealana
      November 19, 2013

      John, thank you for your kind words and insights. I especially liked your comment about our need to understand our vocation “to share in the suffering of Jesus and to offer ourselves in union with Him.” I only recently discovered this! It is in direct correlation with our baptismal calling, the “priesthood of all believers” as the Catechism tells us. As a “priestly people,” we are called to imitate Christ by, in the words of St. Paul, offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship (cf. Romans 12:1). What a hidden treasure in Scripture!

  3. You make sense! I had a dear friend die from cancer at 42. People often told her to just have faith and she would be healed. She was healed, just not in the way we wanted. Or else they told her to drink canned asparagus juice, because that cures cancer but it a big secret. I think people are well meaning, don’t know what to say, are uncomfortable with pain, suffering and death and so they use faith as the answer in ways that can be less than helpful. As you’ve experienced. Peace

    • Angela Sealana
      November 19, 2013

      Deanna, so sorry to hear about your friend’s passing at such a young age. Thanks for your comment; I think you’ve got it – “I think people are well meaning, don’t know what to say, are uncomfortable with pain, suffering and death.” People are well-meaning. I appreciate that, and I should have emphasized it more. Perhaps in a future blog. But you are so right. I think we often want to provide answers, when most of the time, people just need love, not answers.

  4. theundercoverchristian
    November 21, 2013

    You ARE making sense – 100% sense with no added sugar or preservatives. I don’t know how Christians have become so robotic about this. Adrian Plass has a fantastic and hilarious short story on this that you might like – http://www.thechalkface.net/faith/leper.htm

    • Angela Sealana
      November 22, 2013

      :) Thanks for sharing. Reminded me a bit of Monty Python and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

  5. misstake
    December 2, 2013

    I know you don’t seek for our remedies, but you really should check this out:
    http://www.lyme.aquahobby.eu/

  6. Betsy
    January 14, 2014

    A friend of mine (4life4Life) posted this on her facebook. As a sufferer of an autoimmune disease myself I took a looksy. I’m not Catholic, non denominational here, but the principle of healing by miracle is one I think all sick Christians can relate to. :)

    When you said “God’s eternal and infinite love leaves room for the physical and emotion pain that I experience as a fibromyalgia patient. And I’m OK with that. In fact, I have grown to appreciate the closeness I have to Jesus in my moments of suffering.” I completely related. My faith grew stronger during my sickness and even more so after i had surgery to remove my colon and essential “cure” me of my disease. Now everyone knows surgery isn’t a miracle, (although the God given minds that created some of these procedures sure are!) but mine really was because of what it did for me after it was over.

    Over the years of sickness, I certainly prayed more, but I was always praying for healing, for relief from my pain. I also just talked to Jesus more, thanking Him when i was feeling better and hoping it lasted longer each brief spell. Over the course of a few years I was being led towards surgery as my only option and I kept holding out,waiting for miracle cure either in the form of a pill or an actual miracle. But what i wasn’t doing was listening to God.

    He was giving me my answer – surgery. I truly believe that when my colon burst and i had my emergency surgery to save my life, that that was God forcing His hand. Basically saying, “fine you won’t listen to Me pointing you down the path of wellness, then I’ll make you do it.” Especially since my recovery was text book perfect. Every doctor was amazed at not only how quickly i recovered from my initial surgery but that there was no infection, no problems with healing, nothing except me getting better at an alarming rate. That was my miracle. If I had been less preoccupied with wanting a miracle and rather listened to God, I would have avoided the extra pain, and more extreme procedure that ultimately damaged my hips beyond repair. But i’ve learned to listen to that instinct, that gut feeling. that’s God pushing me towards the answers I’m seeking.

    Ultimately though I’m glad I didn’t listen. I’m better for all that I went through. I appreciate life a lot more having almost died (technically i did die twice during my first procedure) I’m more outgoing, more open in my faith and more thankful for the things I do have. It was OK that I wasn’t miraculously healed; I don’t think I’d be as strong, in mind and spirit if I hadn’t struggled through everything. It’s OK to be who we are, broken pieces and all. :)

    • Angela Sealana
      January 15, 2014

      Amen, Betsy! God works in mysterious ways. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Jen K-M
    January 14, 2014

    This fellow fibro sufferer and Cathso sister agrees wholeheartedly.

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2013 by in love and tagged , , , , , .
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