Healing is a place where faith and science often intersect. Often the first things one hears when diagnosed with an illness is “you are in my prayers.” This can be reassuring, and often is the only way we feel as if we can help family or friends who are suffering, but it can also seem like a knee jerk response. And does praying for healing for a person suffering from a major disease do any good? Isn’t that what medicine is for?
Since the time that I was treated for cancer in 2012, I have come to a place where I am about as healed physically as I’m gonna get. I have extensive scarring and residual pain from radiation and reconstruction but that is a small price to pay for being relatively healthy and (to my knowledge) cancer free. To get to this place I had to endure multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy at the hands of many skilled nurses, doctors, and therapists.
There were other forces at work on my behalf during this time as well – those who were praying for me. What did they pray for? Healing? Comfort? Strength to endure? I don’t know the answers to those questions. As for myself, I often prayed just to survive. To survive through the anesthesia of both minor and major surgeries. To survive the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. To survive the pain of the post chemo injection which caused more pain than the chemo ever did.
After the hard months (actually over a year) of active treatment, my physical healing began. And long after my physical healing had begun, my spiritual healing began as well. Although a Christian, I was not engaged in any practices or habits that nurtured any kind of spiritual relationship with God. My illness changed all of that and I began both grappling with mortality and for a source of strength to endure. That process of spiritual healing often has led to more questions than answers.
Although I was fortunate enough to survive and thrive post cancer, I had many friends who were not. And I prayed for them fervently. Why then was I “healed” and they were not? Is there a rhyme or reason to who receives the gift of more years while others are taken from those they love entirely too soon? Of course there are no answers in our human understanding for these questions. I often think of these lyrics when I question why:
Farther along we’ll know all about it-“Farther Along”
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We’ll understand it all by and by “
So even though we may not be able to make sense of the afflictions that some recover from and others do not, and even though we may not understand the “why” behind it, we can continue to pray for healing for those who are hurting; and – while healing is the ultimate goal – we can also pray for comfort, peace, and strength. And as I have learned very recently, sometimes, when restoration to health is not possible, the pinnacle of healing is the release of the spirit from the broken body that will not recover.
The following is from the Book of Common Prayer:
O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit and relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction. In thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Karri Temple Brackett
July 28, 2019