Posted by: Renee | September 26, 2011

Healing vs. Curing

by Renee Sappington

This weekend I watched the movie Music Within – the true story of a man who returns from Vietnam severely hearing -impaired and does amazing work on the behalf of Americans with disabilities.   I was fortunate enough to watch this movie with friends, including a couple of folks with disabilities – hearing about their own experiences made the movie’s message that much more powerful.   We were all appalled to learn that there were actually ugly laws in some of our cities up until the 1970’s – laws that made it illegal for persons with “unsightly or disgusting ” disabilities to appear in public.   While such laws have been repealed, you need not look long to realize the underlying attitude remains in many places – we suffer from a pervasive discomfort with disease and disability; and we’re willing to despise and relegate persons with such conditions for the sake of our own comfort.  Sadly, they in turn often buy into those messages, believing they are lesser-thans with little to offer society. 

One of the things I was left to think about after the movie and conversation was what the stories of Jesus’ miracles have to say to us.  While many might want to focus on those miracles as providing cures – the lame being able to walk or the blind and deaf being able to physically see and hear – I find that focus troubling.  For one, it might imply that such conditions can be cured if one’s faith is great enough, and I hate to think of how much damage has been done to already hurting souls when they or their loved one is not cured.  But it’s also troubling because I think it ignores the possibilities for living a full, rich life even if the condition remains.   What we know about biblical times, and unfortunately our own times as well, is that disease and disability often meant physical and social isolation for persons with the condition.   And what we see in Jesus’ miracles is that he purposefully touched these people and made them part of the community again – actions that offer much more than a cure – they offer healing.   In an essay on healing vs. curing, I found the following insight:

But healing has little to do with the removal or ending of symptoms. Rather, it is an intimate and integrative process that encompasses the entire spectrum of our existence. Healing transcends the simplistic notion of throwing away the crutches and walking again, or the sudden cessation of back pain; it involves the harmonious alignment of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being and how we relate to the world. The result is a greater experience of wholeness, wellness , and soundness. And wholeness is the birthright of everyone.

In Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness Jean Vanier tells a story from a pastoral care class he taught: 

At one point in the class, people were sharing their various spiritual experiences.  The woman who was deaf, Angela, began to tell us about a dream she’d had.  In that dream she had met with Jesus in heaven.  She and Jesus talked for some time, and she said she had never experienced such peace and joy.  “Jesus was everything I had hoped he would be,” she said.  “And his signing was amazing!”

For Angela, heaven’s perfection did not involve being “healed” of her deafness.  Rather, it was a place where the social, relational and communication barriers that restricted her life in the present no longer existed. 

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to seek cures for diseases, but what I am saying is that we shouldn’t deny our power or neglect our responsiblities to offer healing regardless of a cure.   There is much work to be done in making our communities accessible and welcoming to folks with disabilities – many of our roads, sidewalks, buses, businesses, and churches continue to send the message that our differently abled brothers and sisters are of lesser importance and worth than the rest of us.   Let’s help change that!



  1. Wonderfully said Renee! Thank you so much for your thoughtful words!

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