Healing ministry is broadly, wholeness ministry. This includes helping people become medically, mentally, physically, and emotionally whole. After he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told those standing by to unwrap him. There are countless church members who have been raised from the dead but have never been unwrapped. They’re alive and walking, but they’re still bound with fear and guilt. Jesus gives them new life, and it is our job to unwrap them.
A doctor I know told about one of his elderly patients who was suddenly gripped with severe rheumatoid arthritis. When he examined her, her hands were like claws. Trying to understand her sudden affliction, he asked her, almost casually, “Has anything been happening in your life lately?”
“I know exactly what you mean. Doctor,” she replied coldly, “and furthermore, I have no intention of forgiving him!”
Obviously, the physician had uncovered the problem that was producing the symptoms. So many of our mental and even physical problems are rooted in our attitudes.
Glen Warner, a Seattle oncologist, practices a whole-person medicine. He uses traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer, but his immunotherapy operates on the assumption that the human body has two magnificent therapeutic centers: the immune system and what he calls “the pharmacy of the mind.”
Researchers are finding a healthy brain can mix all kinds of medications in the right proportions and at the right times. Natural narcotics and other chemicals of the brain can go a long way toward alleviating discomfort, producing a sense of well-being, and healing one’s body.
It’s even possible for a vigorous immune system to overcome cancers, but unhealthy mental attitudes can severely restrict the healthy functioning of the brain. Resentments, fears, and hopelessness can actually block the immune system, according to Warner. Healing comes with the introduction of positive spiritual qualities: forgiveness, peace, hope, joy, and love.
Lay people can’t do brain surgery, but some of the key words used to explain illness are stress, loneliness, resentment. Healing comes when those negative emotions are replaced with love, purpose, and hope.
Sometimes struggling people will find help only when they begin to look outside themselves toward heaven. Worship, because it focuses outward, can bring a healthy corrective to narcissism, as it did for my young friend. One cannot truly worship God and be fixated on one’s self.
In an entertainment-oriented culture, however, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the focus of worship on God. We’re all tempted to think, at times, “I didn’t get anything out of worship today,” as if worship is primarily performed for our approval.
Larson, B., Anderson, P., & Self, D. (1990). Mastering pastoral care. Series statement from jacket. Mastering ministry (33). Portland, Or.; Carol Stream, IL: Multnomah Press; Christianity Today.