Nearly five years ago, Rachel Adams, a friend of ours who had moved to India as a nurse for HIV orphans, walked into a brothel in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red light district. The experience transformed her. In Rachel’s words: “As I laughed and talked with the women there, the life I knew started to unravel. Over the next few months I grew to love a group of women and children who had survived trafficking and trauma. Six months later, I returned to the U.S. and cried myself to sleep for months. I didn’t know how to integrate what I had seen with my life in America.”
Rachel began to meet with a group from our church. They started a conversation around the oft hidden but very real tragedy of sex trafficking on American soil. The Polaris Project (an organization committed to combatting human trafficking) estimates there are hundreds of thousands of sex trade victims in the U.S. every year. Compelled by God’s restoration in their own lives and convinced that His generous heart extends to these women as well, Rachel and her friends asked the next necessary question: Having experienced God’s healing love ourselves, what part are we to play in His healing for these forgotten women and children?
The work of healing emanates from the very center of God’s redemptive action in the world. In the Eden tragedy, human rebellion inflicted a mortal wound on our soul. Sin infected our total existence, marring our communion with the Lord and wreaking havoc on our social structures, marriages, and self-identity. This lethal scar pierced through every fiber of creation. If God had not acted, death would have overwhelmed us.
But God did act. In Jesus, our healing arrived. Long before our Savior’s incarnation, the prophet Isaiah echoed Israel’s great hope in the One to come, assuring us that “by his wounds” we would be healed (Isa. 53:5 NIV). For generations, God’s people prayed and longed for the one who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3 NIV). Through Jesus’ cross, God applies love’s balm. Through the resurrection, Jesus heals the world.
The truth undergirding Jesus’ entire ministry was this: Everyone is sick; no one is well.
Jesus insisted that He came for those who are sick, not for those who are well. Of course, the truth undergirding His entire ministry was this: Everyone is sick; no one is well. We are all afflicted, and the question remaining is whether or not we’ll allow ourselves to be embraced by the healer. In Scripture, it seems the only barrier to receiving the healing God intends (and it’s important to remember that God knows what kind we require better than we do), is simply our willingness to receive it. When Naaman asked Elisha to cure his leprosy, he had to surrender his control and his illusion of self-sufficiency (2 Kings 5:1-14). Naaman had nothing to contribute in this moment; he needed only to succumb to God’s healing love. The same is true for us.
There is great freedom when we own the truth that we are hurting and sick, that we do not have the capacity to mend our tattered lives. While every human possesses a unique story, we all share a common malady: We are sinful, wounded beings. Yet, in this dire place, hope abounds. As Augustine said, “In my deepest wound I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me.” The splendor of God’s love gleams brightest when contrasted with the miserable mess we’ve made for ourselves. God is not surprised by our sad, helpless state. Jesus, with arms open wide, exhibits God’s emphatic welcome to every sin-sick soul.
This is why at our church we regularly invite people to receive prayers for healing of body and spirit. It’s also why we regularly tell one another stories of how God has mended our broken hearts and cured our addictions and raised us from death to beautiful, splendid life. We believe our God stands eager to make sick and ruined people like us whole.
When we speak of following Jesus, we’re speaking about this movement into life, into healing. It is the call to receive love—and then to give it away. To be a disciple of Jesus is to participate in what some Christians call Divine Therapy. Theologian Walter Brueggemann reminds us that Christians “do not flinch from the suffering of the world. We come to it with freedom and confidence, knowing that God entrusts to us the capacity to heal and transform.” Believers exist as a community of wounded healers.
When we follow Jesus, we embark on a journey toward wholeness, and we enter a lifetime of joining God’s healing work for others. These tandem movements embody our vocation as God’s people and our commission as Jesus’ disciples. “The church,” wrote the 4th-century preacher John Chrysostom, “is a pharmacy of the spirit.” We are a people who announce good news: God will “heal [our] waywardness and love [us] freely” (Hos. 14:4 NIV) .
A friend with a brutal story and heart-wrenching wounds told me recently how a handful of relentless, loving people have entered her life and gently sat with her in her dark, cynical place. Following several hurtful encounters in the church, she decided she had no time for God and believed Christian faith to be a foolish fantasy. Contemplating suicide for several years, she believed her life useless, wasted, and worthy only of being discarded. But in remarkable, unexpected ways, several friends pursued her. They each opened their heart and family to her. They shared their own stories of shattered lives renewed by the power of grace.
Though the claims of the gospel intrigue her now, initially such conversations disinterested her. What did catch her attention was the awakening she felt when she encountered people living out of their own brokenness and compassionately inviting her to share in the healing they’d found in Jesus. My friend tells me repeatedly that she is left speechless by this authentic transformation—the potent renewal erupting in the lives of clearly imperfect people. She wants to believe such healing is possible for her, too. My friend encountered a love that cures. She has found hope again.
This is what happens when we say yes to life with God. We find ourselves drawn into His healing presence. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis spoke of God’s presence as “a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?"
God’s best intention for humanity is life, not death—healing, not pain or sorrow. Following Jesus is the long path into love, the love that heals us and binds us, the love that restores our souls.