Formations 05.09.2021: Compassionate Healing

Luke 8:40-56

If you or a loved one has suffered in any way—due to illness, disease, accident, job loss, failure, etc.—you have longed for compassionate healing. Yesterday, my brother’s wife learned some devastating news about her sister: the baby girl she was carrying had died within the womb at about thirty weeks’ gestation. Now, this sister is in the hospital undergoing a labor induction. Within the next day or so, she will give birth to a child who has already passed away. This grief will be more complicated because her sister (my brother’s wife) gave birth at twenty-nine weeks to a preemie who is now a healthy nine-year-old boy. The trauma of this experience will be with their family for the rest of their lives. They could all use some compassionate healing right now.

We love stories of Jesus staring down suffering because he’s able to do something concrete about it. Sick daughter? He’s on his way to help. Excruciating health issue? Just touch his robes in faith. Daughter is already dead? No worries—he will resurrect her from her “sleep.” There are many other stories of miraculous healings in the Bible. We love them and cling to them and long for them.

Maybe some of us have experienced this kind of concrete, obvious physical healing—whether personally or as witnesses to someone else’s healing. But it’s likely that many of us have walked through a circumstance where healing seemed elusive if not downright impossible. How can someone heal from the loss of a child? How can healing come when there are no medical options left for a terminal cancer patient? How can we thank God for physically healing one person when we know another person wasn’t healed?

What does “compassionate healing” even mean? I think we need to look at Jesus’ actions in our text more closely. He wasn’t swooping in with showy miracles to lift himself up with pride and presentation. Instead, he was looking into people’s eyes and seeing their pain, as we see when the grieving father approaches him. He was taking pain into himself—even literally, as we see when the bleeding woman touches his robes and power leaves Jesus. He was a witness to their suffering and a quiet presence in their grief. Even his resurrection of the dead girl was private, intimate, exclusive. Jesus’ healing is compassionate because he truly takes time to sit with other people’s pain.

We don’t have Jesus walking around physically with us. He can’t touch my sister-in-law’s family and awaken their dead baby. But Jesus is with us, within us and outside us, around us and through us. Jesus can extend compassion to us in our darkest moments through any number of ways: songs and stories, friends and family, gifts of food and comfort, quiet words spoken gently, the promise of peace and new life, the hope of renewal.

And Jesus relies on us to be the vessels of his compassion. Who needs his compassionate healing today? How can he work through you to heal?

Discussion

  • When have you longed for Jesus’ compassionate healing? What was happening in your life or the life of a loved one? How did it turn out?
  • How can you answer questions about suffering in relation to the Christian faith?
  • What does compassionate healing mean to you? When have you experienced it?
  • How can you be a vessel of Jesus’ compassionate healing to someone who desperately needs his love today?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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