By Dr Chua How Chuang
Few people are more influential than Joni Eareckson in their ministry to the disabled. Joni is herself confined to a wheelchair as a result of a diving accident that happened more than 40 years ago when she was a teenager. Despite her deep faith, Joni was never cured of her disability. Once at a public meeting, the leader introduced Joni with these words before she spoke, “I doubt there is anyone among us here who is healthier and more whole than Joni.”
The unexpected introduction caused some stir among the audience, and indeed subverted their normal, oft-unquestioned understanding of health and healing.
I am thankful for the many people who are praying for my healing. Over these last three months of my convalescence, however, I am learning to discern the difference between being healed and being cured. Indeed God has brought to surface many wounded areas in my life that need healing as well, such as my spiritual pride and propensity to anger.
I became painfully aware that the Lord views the healing of my heart as more important than the curing of my body.
In today’s culture which is fixated on physical beauty and bodily health, it is all too easy for us to have our view of healing reduced to nothing more than being cured physically. The biblical understanding of healing is always in holistic terms, as Shalom, transforming the whole being of the person, body and spirit. Indeed true healing happens when a person begins to experience shalom, a wholesome peace that comes through forgiveness of sins, reconciliation of relationships, and restoration of one’s authentic identity as a beloved child of God (Mark 2:5; Ephesians 2:14-18; 1 John 3:1).
In other words, it is possible for a person to experience a miraculous cure from an illness and yet remain unhealed of the diseases of the heart (e.g. Hezekiah in Isaiah 39). Conversely, it is possible for a Christian to carry an unrelieved “thorn in the flesh” like the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) or Joni Eareckson, and yet experience the sufficiency of God’s healing grace and His good pleasure.
We also need to remember that complete healing of body and spirit — the fullness of Shalom — can only be experienced in our true home above, where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). It is also only in heaven that we will be completely changed into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 3:2). Meanwhile, as we pray for the sick in the course of our earthly sojourn, let us be careful not to place undue emphasis on their physical cure that we forget to seek God’s healing and transforming work in their hearts.