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Making music after church conflict

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To be honest, I don’t have a Norman Rockwell image in my head of what a church looks like any more. That image of a sublime country church where kind, loving people gather each Sunday morning was wiped from my consciousness a long time ago by, you guessed it, much time spent in the real deal. In the real world, church life doesn’t always go well for congregations or pastors. In other words, conflict happens. One such brouhaha in church life occurs when a once cherished pastor leaves the church as a result of conflict that reaches critical mass behind the scenes. It can be especially ugly when the pastor does not recognize, for whatever reason, his contribution to the split. When the breakup happens, the congregation can tend to divide into four camps: those who are angry because they feel the pastor was treated unjustly, those who are relieved that the pastor left because they experienced the pastor’s questionable behavior firsthand, those who use the event to find another church, thus avoiding the unpleasantness (in which case they are no longer part of the equation), and those who are bewildered as to what happened (often the largest group). All four groups can include people who feel wounded by the event.

One of the reasons why people permanently sour on the church has to do with the unfortunate tendency of congregations and church leaders to overlook the wounded who get hurt in conflicts between congregants and pastors. When a pastor leaves a church due to conflict reaching critical mass, there is often an outpouring of support for the pastor, which can be a healthy and proper response (but not always). That said, I wonder why we do little to offer support to our fellow congregants who were wounded in the melee, as well. The use of social media exacerbates this problem. Some people think nothing of jumping on Facebook to express their fawning support of a pastor who leaves a church due to excessive conflict, yet it seems like nary is any support forthcoming for the wounded who left the congregation as well as the wounded who remain in the congregation. Granted, we all have a Biblical mandate to forgive those who hurt us and to apologize and seek forgiveness when we hurt others. But a valid question remains: is there an unhealthy one-way street when it comes to forgiveness and healing in church culture today? An example will help answer that question.

Steve (not his real name) was a pastor on staff at Good Shepherd Church (not its real name) before Cindy and I became members. Apparently some of the good folks of Good Shepherd had treated Steve poorly, which eventually prompted him to resign and join the staff of another local church. We started attending Good Shepherd about the time they recruited a new senior pastor, long after Steve’s departure. Our new pastor eventually became aware that a few people in the church had mistreated Steve in the past. One day our new pastor asked the congregation to go to Steve’s new church during an evening service so we could apologize for hurting him and seek his forgiveness. It was a moving and healing experience to witness. Our new senior pastor simply became aware of an injustice and sought to make it right in accordance with Romans 14:19. Our pastor discerned that the church would struggle to move forward until we made amends with Steve. But what happens when a pastor’s actions or words hurts people in the church? Should the church expect an apology from the pastor? What happens to the wounded if no apology is forthcoming? Should those who were wounded turn their backs on the church forever and retreat to their darkened bedroom with a bottle of vodka and a book of teachings by Friedrich Nietzsche?

People naturally want to move forward after a bad experience. But after a major conflict in the church, I wonder if moving forward too quickly sends the unintended message to the wounded that their pain and disappointments are inconsequential and they should get over it and move on. Also my gut tells me that The Almighty isn’t too pleased when some in his flock are left to nurse their wounds as best they can after a significant conflict. We humans are complex beings. Some of us recover quickly while others require years to work through anger and disillusion following emotional or spiritual wounding, especially if the wounds come from a spiritual leader for whom we had great admiration. When our wounds run deep and raw, God’s tender spirit often does not rush us through the healing process. You see, healing requires a malleable heart, which, like it or not, can require a lengthy season of crushing and softening on the road to healing. And even those who weren’t directly hurt in a church conflict may have their own issues to work through in its aftermath. All of this takes time to heal. It takes time spent in the Gospels or in the books of wisdom like Proverbs and Psalms. It takes prayer, patience, and time with other men and women of God who have the wisdom to navigate turbulent times in the church. A softer heart filled with God’s love can indeed emerge from the aftermath of conflict in the church.

Unfortunately, untended wounds can fester and rob us of contentment and spiritual growth. Such situations are stressful and destabilizing in a church. The best medicine is to forgive. And forgive. And forgive again. But we must also acknowledge our culpability, if any. Not sure if you have any flaws that made you culpable in the conflict? With a sincere heart, ask God and he will be glad to show you (and don’t I know it). And if you know brothers or sisters who were wounded in a church embroiled in conflict, encourage them to not give up on God, or the church, and what God wants to show them. Perhaps it would be wise of church leaders to provide trusted and credible professional or spiritual counselors to aid the wounded in the aftermath of a church conflict with the pastor. Yet ultimately our source of healing comes from God and the people in the pews who love us as we love them.

Metaphorically, I believe God wants the people of his church to experience the divine joy of singing, dancing, and making music in harmony. It can happen. Finally, pray that God will give our church leaders the vision, time, wisdom, and resources for healing the wounded that come under their care. This will help people grow in deeper faith that Jesus is real because the response of the church is very different from a world that chews people up and spits them out like rubbish.

Apply Your Christian Faith Safely

Danger Ahead

If the title of this post caught your attention, you may be thinking “I didn’t know there was an unsafe way to apply my faith.” The answer is yes, there is an unsafe way to apply your faith, and it can be lethal. More accurately I should say that immersing oneself with reckless abandon in certain teachings or practices of the church (which can look like a zealous faith) can be hazardous to your health. Allow me to elaborate with two examples:

A good friend of mine became a Christian as a young adult after years of indulging sinful enticements and unorthodox spiritual pursuits. His conversion was so radical, miraculous and complete that the church and all things Christian and biblical completely consumed him. He became and uber-believer in Christ and in the healing power of Christ. He believed it with ALL his heart and mind. He had good reason to believe it because he witnessed firsthand examples of God healing illness and other issues in the lives of people in the church. But many years later my friend was diagnosed with a potentially deadly illness. He lived in denial for years, but eventually he accepted the diagnosis with the unshakable conviction that God would heal him. He waited, and waited, but no divine healing came. Eventually he began medical treatment and has been relatively stable, though his health paid a price for his procrastination.

Recently, a family member of mine was not as fortunate. She was a devout Godly woman who embraced the Pentecostal tradition of the church. So when she was diagnosed with cancer, she automatically assumed God would heal her. And why not? All her life she felt the movement of the Holy Spirit and witnessed the Spirit’s healing power in the lives of fellow believers. But like my friend, she delayed treatment, opting for a miraculous healing. She eventually sought medical treatment that worked for a while. But when the cancer returned, other Christians (who felt they had “a word from the Lord”) tried to support her by telling her that they felt in their spirit that the Lord was not finished with her yet and that she still had work to do, especially within her family. She passed away about a week ago. Her death left me feeling sad, and angry. It also left me with a nagging question: Would her life have been prolonged had she sought medical treatment instead of thinking that God would miraculously heal her? Certainly she bears some responsibility for her own decisions, but I also lay part of the blame at the foot of the church. How so? The church may be harming people by the way it teaches about miraculous healing and the way it projects healing in the church. The church tries too hard to have a positive attitude about miraculous healing (and just about every type of miracle), often leaving the flock with the impression that if we just have a positive attitude and strong faith, God will heal.

A well-intentioned pastor I know has for years taught about hearing God’s voice. He has built an entire teaching based largely on one passage found in John 10:27 where it says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The pastor teaches young and old that we can hear God’s voice since God’s spirit is constantly communicating with our spirit because God’s spirit lives within us. The pastor’s specialty is teaching Christians how to discern the difference between God’s voice and our own internal dialogue. It is a fascinating teaching, and there is some truth to it. I myself have experienced God’s voice on rare occasions (no, it is not an audible voice) communicating with my spirit. Most of the time striving to hear God’s voice is a harmless endeavor. In fact, it can help us grow spiritually. But it can be a dangerous endeavor because if you get it wrong, it can lead you to make bad decisions about things like your health, which can reduce your survivability when faced with serious illness. Your see, despite our conversion to new life in Christ, we remain flawed beings who live in a damaged imperfect world. With flawed minds we are easily seduced into hearing what we want to hear when seeking to communicate with God. Even young Samuel had trouble discerning the voice of God in 1 Samuel chapter 3.

After decades of witnessing what goes on in a variety of churches, I feel confident saying that many of my brothers and sisters in the faith have a distorted perception of how and how often God speaks to us as well as how often God intervenes to heal medical afflictions. For instance, a large church in Northern California has regular healing services where the sick are invited to seek miraculous healing. If a hundred people show up but only ten get healed, the church responds with raucous celebration over God healing the ten. Little, if any, is said about the ninety who did not receive healing. Don’t get me wrong, giving God all the praise for healing is definitely the right thing to do. But by ignoring the real numbers we perpetuate the false perception that God always heals, or that he heals Godly men and women who have walked faithfully in the ways of the Lord for decades. We can’t apply a healing or speaking formula to God. Those with seniority in the faith do not always get healed and brand new Christians sometimes get healed despite their rookie status.

In some ways, the church is a lot like a Norman Vincen Peale seminar on positive thinking. When praying or seeking a word from the Lord, any negative thought, suggestion or attitude is shunned. Yet some of the most beneficial things I ever heard from God, well, let’s just say Mr. Peale would not have approved of their real-world tone. My wife experienced a negative-sounding word from God. It happened during an altar call where people were invited up front to be prayed over for physical healing, my wife prayed for a well-known Godly man in a wheelchair who was struggling with a potentially deadly illness. He had sought healing on numerous occasions. My wife felt God was telling her to tell the man that he should simply rest in the Lord (in other words, there would be no miraculous healing from God). She prayed what God was telling her, and the man received it with humility. Such stories do not get all the hoopla in the church as the miraculous healings.

The church must tell it like it really is instead of presenting an overly positive, yet illusory, projection of how often miraculous healings and dialogue with God occurs. Sometimes we commit to our faith so wholeheartedly—which is admirable in many ways—that we live in an inaccurate world of faith. Yet even stout Christians sometimes think “If I only had more faith, I would get healed.” Here’s the thing: At some point it is not possible to have MORE faith. You either believe that Christ is the Son of God, that he died for your sins and rose from the grave, or you don’t. You believe Christ has the power to heal, or you don’t. Beyond that, we only need commitment to the long haul, without assuming so intensely that God will perform a miracle for us that it becomes a presumption (which is dangerously close to a demand).

Yes, the Bible tells us to have faith like a child. It also tells us to be as shrewd as snakes. If we only have faith like a child, we will get hurt. If we only have faith like a shrewd snake, eventually we won’t have ANY faith. A healthy faith requires both.

Philip Seymour Hoffman: The long fight

Philip Seymour Hoffman / Justin Hoch

Philip Seymour Hoffman / Justin Hoch

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an excellent actor, in my book, partly because he was unencumbered with dashing good looks like Tom Cruise, George Clooney, and Pierce Brosnan. While Hoffman surely used his physical appearance in his craft, he had to develop strong acting skills to connect with audiences. In a culture enamored with beautiful people, it was good to see a guy who didn’t fit the mold make it in the entertainment industry. I don’t know if he was a good person or if he had a faith in God. I don’t know if he struggled with mental or physical ailments, though it would seem so. Certainly his death was tragic. It was self-destructive and will affect his family for the rest of their lives.

In Christendom, we tend to react to the type of death suffered by Hoffman as sad but also confirmation of our opposition to the evils of alcohol and substance abuse. Read Proverbs 23:31-32 and Proverbs 31:6 for a Bible perspective on substance abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the abuse of alcohol and drugs can indeed have tragic consequences for many people. Addiction is a lethal enemy that comes dressed in many disguises. For instance, I knew a wonderful Christian man who ate so much food and put on so much weight that it resulted in his early death.

Stories like Hoffman’s beg some uncomfortable questions, such as: What is a person supposed to do if they are in constant mental or physical distress for which modern medicine has no cure? What is a person afflicted by chronic pain supposed to do when God does not heal in response to prayer? Sure, there are trite answers that we Christians offer in an attempt to comfort the suffering and guard our faith. Answers like: “Because Jesus was also human he can relate to your suffering.” If I am in chronic pain, hearing clichés like that does not help. Chronic pain (whether physical or mental) walks over reason, morality, and the ability to choose wisely. Pain is an adversary that is often beyond our ability to cope with. Even so, we must continue petitioning God for relief. God does not react to us the same way we react to a child who keeps pestering us for a new toy. We are told in the Bible to keep asking God for what we need.

Here is where I have a problem with some people in chronic physical pain or mental distress—when there is a cure or treatment that can reduce or eliminate their suffering, but they reject it. Hoffman at least tried to defeat his addiction using the tools available to him. Many people don’t even try, or they try by using the wrong tools. Anyhow, knowing Christ doesn’t guarantee we will overcome our addictions, pain, and all problems in this life. If that were the case, the entire human race would flock to Christ for the wrong reasons. Our biggest problem is our sin and separation from God. And Christ, if we let him, always forgives our sin and leads us back to God. Forgiveness of our sins and friendship with God are what improves our odds of overcoming addiction, pain, and life’s problems.

Medicine and Forgiveness: How we mistreat our ills

MH900390526My medicine cabinet contains something shocking–medicine. Despite the fact that millions of Americans consume pharmaceuticals worth billions of dollars, we have developed a strange cultural tendency to decry the use of medication as somehow morally inferior. After a lifetime among fellow Christians, I can honestly say believers often share the same aversion to medicine. We might even be worse than the general population in our attitude about the use of medicine for healing.

Recently I listened to a Catholic priest being interviewed on the radio about the many confessions he had heard during his lengthy career. The priest said that a number of Christians he met for confession could not accept forgiveness because they had tethered their sins to clinical maladies. For instance, if John Smith has obsessive compulsive disorder that he believes is somehow connected to the sins in his life, it will be almost impossible for Smith to accept that he has been forgiven. Tragic! Even more shocking was the priest’s revelation that the vast majority of believers with a psychological disorder refused to pursue treatment. He said only 2 out of 20 would ever follow-up on his suggestion that they needed professional clinical help that might include counseling and/or medication. Many of these folks were convinced that their suffering was related to sin rather than something clinical. They refused to get the help they desperately needed. They resigned themselves to the belief that suffering was part of God’s plan for their lives and it was just their cross to bear. To this I say bull$&!#.

Back in my day (stop rolling your eyes, millennials), the medical profession was beginning to explode with new drugs and ways of treating diseases. Many of those diseases had formerly meant an automatic death sentence for people. We called them miracle drugs and we viewed doctors and surgeons with awe. These days I know people who argue with their doctor about almost everything. I am not suggesting that we idolize fallible medical professionals. And certainly the pharmaceutical companies have made grave (no pun intended) errors. But should we default to stigmatizing all medicines and their use?

In Luke 10:30-35, we read the story of the Good Samaritan. Recall that the Samaritan bandaged the victim’s wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells some sick people in the church to stop drinking only water and start using a little wine for their stomach and frequent illnesses. Back then, wine was used like a medicine (today it seems to turn people into snobs). They didn’t have the water purification systems we have today. In essence, Paul was dispensing medical advice for their digestive health.

Here is my point: It is OK to take appropriate medicine for a legitimate injury or illness. We get no moral or heavenly kudos for going the natural route at the expense of our health. There is no glory in needless suffering. Of course it is best to eat right, exercise, and embrace healthy lifestyles. But using medicine does not make us worse Christians. At worst, denial about our ailments and refusing medicine can put us at risk of faulty thinking about sin, suffering, and forgiveness. God’s forgiveness does not require that we choose to suffer. Choosing to suffer needlessly is just obtuse, not noble.

Going Mental Over Money

Daffys_straight_-_jacketWhat happens when a loved one dies? (No, Google doesn’t bombard you with casket ads . . . yet.) Some relatives grieve while others lose the ability to hide the crazy. It doesn’t matter if the estate was worth millions or little more than a shopping cart full of trinkets, the greediness of some people springs forth. It seems like every family has one or more irksome souls who start grabbing as much for themselves as possible when a relative passes away. Along with their greed and selfishness is their compulsion to inflame old wounds and dissention in their family. What are they trying to prove? You’d have to ask a psychiatrist or Dear Prudie. Such loathsome folk are in grave (no pun intended) danger.

If a person is willing to steal or manipulate the law to get more than their share from the deceased at the expense of other living relatives, something has gone horribly wrong in their life. They may feel justified because they were wronged by the deceased or other family members. Or perhaps they feel entitled because they had a great relationship with the deceased. Either way, corruption in their heart can damage their mental health, and that of others. How so?

Believers and even many unbelievers know of that famous Scripture about the love of money found in 1st Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil . . .” But the preceding verse is even more chilling: “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.”

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that just because we don’t desire to be a billionaire we are immune from this danger. If you are poor, a thousand dollars seems like a lot of money. Regardless of what number we consider to be rich, we should take note of the words “ruin” and “destruction” in verse 9. These two words can mean many things. So allow me give you an example of what it can look like.

After the death of the family patriarch, one of the patriarch’s son’s, Frank (not his real name), took more than his share of money, real estate, and other property from the patriarch’s estate. His actions resulted in many fights and raw feelings with his siblings. Tragically, Frank has gradually deteriorated into bitterness and periodic irrational thinking and behavior. One of Frank’s siblings has also started to display bouts of irrational thinking and paranoia since Frank betrayed their trust over money.

THIS is one example of what the Bible means by “ruin” and “destruction.” It’s a cautionary tale of the dangers of letting money have too much influence in our mind and heart. If something goes wrong with our money, it can literally make us crazy (yes, I know that is not the correct clinical term) . . . especially if we are not on sure footing in our faith and thought life. We all have flaws and wounds. When we encounter a bump in the road with money, it can exacerbate those flaws and wounds. Fortunately, God can restore our mental health. But first, it may require letting go of our right to be angry over old hurts. God will take it from there.

My Dog is Bitter (No, I did not mean biter.)

It is a beautiful day in Northern California and my two dogs won’t go outside after breakfast. (If they had thumbs they would play video games all day.) Anyhow, we recently bought two identical food bowls, one for each dog. Each food bowl is divided into sections designed to reduce the speed at which my dogs gorge themselves at feeding time. My female dog, named BG, is often bitter and irritable if our male dog, named Joe, gets his bowl of food a few seconds before she gets her bowl of food. BG probably thinks Joe is getting fed with her bowl. In the spirit of détente, my wife wrote each dog’s name on their bowl with a permanent marker, but that didn’t ease tensions between the dogs at meal time. (No, I have not questioned my wife as to why she thought it helpful to write the dogs names on their identical bowls, which made me wonder if my dogs are more literate than I give them credit.)

BG often gets irritated at everything Joe does. If Joe gets a few pats on the head, BG growls at him. If Joe runs to get his bone, BG growls at him. If Joe tries to sleep under the bed with BG, she growls at him. If we go to the park and chuck a tennis ball for Joe to retrieve, BG chases Joe and barks at him. (Their relationship is a lot like marriage . . . did I just say that?)

Have you ever noticed how some people are just like BG? They find fault with everything and everybody. Negativity oozes from their pores. If management changes the layout of office furniture at negative Neal’s place of employment, he doesn’t like the new layout. If a colleague at work makes a mistake, he is on it like white on rice. If the company changes a policy, negative Neal whispers complaints under his breath. If a meeting starts late, negative Neal gripes about the leader’s lack of punctuality. On the other hand, if negative Neal makes a mistake, well, you bring it up at your own hazard. In the mind of negative Neal, his work is important and highly confidential while the work of others is unnecessary and inconvenient, especially when it interferes with his duties.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not an acolyte of Norman Vincent Peale. I do not bow down at the altar of the power of positive thinking. To deny that bad things happen is to deny the truth. I do not believe God expects us to live in a fantasy world where we pretend everything is OK. But I find it disconcerting when encountering uber-negative Christians who have been churched a long time. I have fallen into this trap at times. You know the type: the person who will tell you they are an imperfect sinner but never seem to see their own flaws, only the flaws of others. Again, don’t get me wrong, I too see all the faults and warts that are part of the modern Christian church. What I am talking about here is an unhealthy personal feeling of superiority to others. A need to constantly feed the beast of superiority through criticism is evidence of something amiss in a person’s life. It is, rather, a weakness and a possible sign of deep insecurity.

If the entire Christian church would spend several weeks a year studying and implementing the three verses in Matthew 7:3-5 (it will have more impact if you look it up), it would send shock waves through the darkness for generations. It would also drastically improve the spiritual, mental, and physical health of God’s people. In addition, Philippians 2:14-15 tells us to stop grumbling and complaining. We can attend church for years and go through all the motions of piety, but it is just dead religion if we never make these verses active in our lives. Sure, we’ll feel good when our ears are tickled by truth, but we won’t be transformed down deep in our soul. These verses are the cure for many ills.

Visiting Hours

Everybody wants to feel like they are missed from the group when hospitalized or stuck at home fighting a prolonged illness. And yet the clergy and laity don’t seem to visit folks, or check on them like they used to. I’m just as guilty as the next person in this area. But this type of ministration will become more important with each passing year as baby boomers find themselves spending more time in hospitals. The healthcare industry is preparing for the additional load. Churches would be wise to prepare for this vital ministry, as well. Besides, the baby boomer generation is not the type to quietly enter old age. They will expect attention from their church community. I see a clash of priorities ahead between boomers and the busy church.

We are busy people. How do we squeeze hospital visits into frantic schedules? Adding to the problem is our natural tendency to avoid hospitals. Hospitals make us uneasy. They are where we go when something has gone wrong with our bodies. They are filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells; and not all of them pleasant. Perhaps they conjure up uncomfortable childhood memories of visits to the emergency room or going to see a dying relative. I have visited a few folks in the hospital and they all had the same desire—they wanted to go home or get back to work as soon as possible.

These feelings are understandable, but somewhat unfortunate. Why? Because, even though hospitals are sterile institutions of science, they are ultimately houses of healing. Except for the acute onset of illness or injury, most healing arts are a slow process. Lab tests and other diagnostics take time. It is also a time for the patient to begin to heal by slowing down. Time moves at a different pace for patients in hospitals than for the “healthy” outside. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a stay in the hospital is like a vacation, but it is an opportunity to evaluate our lives and commune with God on a different level. I think in the hospital we need God more. We become very aware of our mortality.

So the next time a friend or family member is in the hospital, go and sit with them for a while. Listen and pray with them. If you find yourself in the hospital, don’t be afraid of the slow inward journey where you may meet God in a new way. You will find healing for your soul and, perhaps, a new orientation when you get out of the house of healing.

Pain

Something remarkable happens in Matthew 9:18-22. It is a mysterious miracle behind a miracle. Here is Saint Matthew’s account:

“As Jesus was saying this, the leader of the synagogue came and knelt before him. ‘My daughter has just died,’ he said, ‘but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.’
So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’
Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said. ‘Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.”

I would like you to focus on this part of the event: “. . . a woman who had suffered for twelve years . . .” It is waaay too easy to read those eight words and not grasp the gravity of what is happening. We tend to focus on the miraculous healing Jesus performs with this woman’s chronic illness. But if I may make so bold, I will share with you what it means to suffer for twelve years with chronic illness and pain.

In the beginning, you know something is wrong but you don’t know what. You try to shrug it off and get on with life. But the pain interferes with increasing frequency. You have trouble sleeping. You can’t concentrate at work. Many of your favorite activities make the pain worse. Finally, you go to the doctor. He orders an X-ray, some tests and lab work. The results are inconclusive. He prescribes medications to ease the symptoms. The meds work for a while but eventually the pain returns. Desperate, you give up many activities. It’s almost impossible to get comfortable at night and this causes you to lose sleep. You are constantly fatigued. You quite work and take a job with fewer responsibilities in exchange for greater flexibility from your new employer. You still miss a lot of time from work. You earn a fraction of your former salary. You continue to see doctors and specialists. Much of your time and income goes to doctors, physical therapists and the pharmacy. Your family’s standard of living takes a dive. You can’t do the things everyone else does. You endure a surgery that fixes part of the problem, but the pain continues. You begin to think it is all in your head, but you know better. You try alternative treatments. You reveal your condition to Christian friends and clergy. They often lay hands on you and pray for you, but there is no relief. As the years slip away, self-loathing creeps into your thoughts. You are irritable and gloomy. It becomes very difficult for your spouse and family to endure you. Sexual intimacy decreases to almost nil. You entertain thoughts of jumping off a bridge. You wonder if the pain will get so bad you will, in a moment of madness, abruptly end your life. You get pissed off at God for allowing this to continue. You challenge God to either kill you or make you well. You become the definition of discouragement.

Then one day it all comes together. The doctor orders an MRI and the problem is identified. You try a new medication and the pain is gone. With some minimal lifestyle modification and staying on your medication, you can live for many years without chronic pain from your illness. It’s impossible to describe how exuberant this feels. Getting your life back is the miracle behind the miracle of healing.

Here is where I must be absolutely honest with you. I do not know why miraculous healings happen so rarely. But the longer I’m alive on this earth the more I appreciate that healing is healing, period! When you struggle for years to find healing, you’ll take it any way you can, even if it’s through what we consider the conventional science of modern medicine. To me, the most sacred and miraculous part of healing is the miracle behind the miracle of healing—getting your life back. Once you get it back, are you going to do something special with it, or try to return to your former life? Here’s the secret: there is no going back to your former life after you’ve been healed.