Healing & Miracles: A Reality?

“God’s spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act.'” (Luke 4:18-19, The Message)

While I cannot begin to unfold the mysteries and devastation of conflict and suffering, I can say that my paradigm regarding healing shifted dramatically while I was pursuing my doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Every one of my professors in that program not only believed in God’s miraculous intervention, but they also assumed it as they ministered. Most notably was John Wimber, whose course, “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth,” repeatedly made headlines both within and outside of Christian circles. It was during that course that I witnessed firsthand God at work in powerful ways: messages revealed that could only have come from God, bodies healed before my eyes, painful hearts replaced by hopeful, forgiving, loving hearts. Unfortunately, at the seminary where I taught, it was forbidden to believe that God was the author of these “wonders”; such displays were considered either emotional reactions or demonic in origin. I had more than one “chat” with the dean and fellow instructors. They did not want to see a young professor ruin his career by running wild with silly notions of modern-day miracles.

But the bell cannot be unrung. I saw what I saw. But now the question was, what was I to do with it? This was a challenging question when I was a pastor; it is just as complex as a psychoanalytic psychologist. But the history of psychoanalysis is literally filled with “cures” that are mysterious at best. Analysts, when they are honest, often look at the wonderful progress of their patients and attribute it (usually post hoc) to their psychoanalytic theory, while secretly wondering if something more — something that they cannot truly grasp — might be at work. Some theorists even allow for this “something more.” Thomas Ogden (Reverie and Interpretation: Sensing Something Human, 1997), for example, speaks of the development of a “third” that exists between therapist and patient, and of the “reverie” that occurs within both parties. Even Freud’s rule of unrestricted speech and free association and the privileged role of dreams, which aimed at getting to one’s unconscious, may actually be soliciting the spiritual dimension of a person. Biblical writers often referred to this faculty of one’s person as the “heart.” Make no mistake, good therapy, like good pastoral care, is focused not only on someone’s physical and emotional health, nor solely on their life’s circumstances, but primarily on the transformation of the heart: nothing else brings lasting healing.

Some of us in the church might talk in terms of words of knowledge, words of wisdom, prophecy, healings, deliverance, and miracles as powerful ways God interacts with us to bring about someone’s health and wellbeing. Some of us in our professional offices might use concepts such as empathy, attunement, attachment, transference and countertransference, defenses, relational templates, and many more to describe the subtle processes of connecting with, caring for, and working toward health and freedom of those in need. Psychoanalysis and indeed, psychotherapy in general, has been referred to as the “impossible profession.” Before I leave for work in the morning, I am always humbled by this and pray, “God, I cannot do this without You!” Recently, as I prayed this prayer, a soft reply came to me: “I agree with you.” I laughed. As long as we are both on the same page!

When I talk with people (whether pastors, physicians, psychologists, or other providers) about my life, my heart, I certainly need to know that these people are highly competent and committed to their work with me, but increasingly, I need to know that they are aware that apart from God they can do nothing, diplomas on the wall notwithstanding. I need my heart touched and transformed. Nothing less. Increasingly, I believe that many, if not most of my patients, are hungry for the same thing. We long for a touch from God, a miracle. And if we read Jesus’ mission statement correctly in Luke 4:18-19, it seems this is why He came. If this is what we long for and this is what God longs to give, then there’s no telling what could happen next!