It Takes Guts to Be Healed: A Meditation on the Difference Between Healing and Relief

I recently came across the following dialogue. I do not know the source, though it is in the form of the sayings of the desert Fathers:

To a distressed person who came to him for help the Abbot said, “Do you really want a cure?” And the man replied, “If I did not, would I bother to come to you?” “Oh yes” said the Abbot, “Most people do.” “If not for a cure, then for what do they come?” asked the distressed man. And the Abbot said, “They come not for a cure, that’s painful. They come for for relief.”

Yes, real cures, and substantial healing are not easy. Often true healing comes only after lengthy surgery, whether physical or spiritual. And those who have sought true healing know, and have come to experience, that it takes guts to be healed.

True spiritual and moral healing requires that we accept significant change and be willing to have our thinking and habitual practices challenged and replaced. In confronting what ails us, we often come to discover that its cause is far deeper than we thought, and that its remedies are far more sweeping and paradoxical than we had imagined.

Once, in the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, that saw me hospitalized for a week and ordered to take a month off to recuperate, I went to a priest and spiritual director who specialized in the care of priests in need of psycho-therapeutic counseling. I explained to him that I had frozen in fear, and panic, and I felt my life had gone out of control. “I never want my life to go out of control again,” I said. He said, “Until you let go of your need to be in control, you will never be well.”

Paradoxical indeed, and scary too. But I have discovered through the years how right he was. My only way “out” of my anxiety was to journey deeper toward its center and find the Lord waiting for me there. Yes, it took guts to be healed. And I’m glad the Lord didn’t let me run somewhere else for mere relief. Healing was harder than relief, but better and lasting.

The Lord Jesus was journeying one day through Jericho (cf Luke 18:35ff) and a certain blind man kept calling out, “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me!” Finally the Lord stopped and asked this blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” A strange question, perhaps, to ask of a blind man. But consider that this man’s life will be totally changed if Jesus heals him. More will be expected of him and it will no longer be tolerated that he should sit and beg of others. All that he has known will vanish as a new world, and new expectations dawns on him. So Jesus asks what he really wants, healing or relief? “Lord I want to see!” And he not only saw, but proceeded to follow Jesus up the road. A new vision, a new path, a new destination, a new life. It takes guts to be healed.

And so Jesus asks you and me too, “What do you want me to do for you?” Careful how you answer. Remember, it takes guts to be healed. Too many want mere relief and not real healing. They want comfort rather than true change.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

As you view this video, I ask your prayers for a young man (in his late 20s) who visited the parish this week. He came back to the church of his childhood, remembering a more innocent and simple time in his life. And now that his life has become hell though drugs and other bad choices, he has a decision to make. Pray that he has the guts to accept the long healing he will need to come forth from his hell on earth. As I heard his story I thought of this song: