Finding Thankfulness in the Midst of Pain and Healing

Note: The following sermon was delivered September 6, 2015, at the Virginia Scottish Games Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans Service.

Luke 17: 11-19

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Here we have a nice, little story of healing from Jesus. Isn’t it sweet and quick? And isn’t that what we always want when we’re hurting and looking for healing? Don’t we want a prayer, a puff of magic smoke, and an instant healing? But so often, it’s not like that at all. It’s a long, drawn-out process. And we often wonder why.

So often it’s like the healing of Eustace in C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The selfish boy, through his own greed, had been placed under a curse and turned into a dragon. By the end of the book, he’s vainly trying to rip his dragon skin off. But he can’t. It’s then that he encounters Aslan, who says, “You will have to let me undress you.” It is a healing that is anything but quick and instantaneous. Eustace recounts:

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. …

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. …

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me … in new clothes.

It’s reminiscent of the time my own boy, Kenny, pulled hot tea down on himself. Third degree burns covered his little body. I watched as they debrided him – scraped the dead and damaged skin off his body. Everything within me wanted to stay the hand of the doctors, but I knew that he had to go through this pain in order to heal. The new skin beneath wouldn’t grow without the removal of the dead and damaged skin.

My point is, sometimes – most times, truthfully – our healing takes time. One of the men Jesus healed was healed instantly – but he’d been blind from birth and was about 40 years old. So he’d waited a long, long time for his healing. Sometimes, it takes a while.

And what of our Samaritan friend? Why can’t our healing be like his? Well, a quick perusal of the Werner Bible Commentary gives us non-Jews the macro version of what Jesus was asking them to do. Remember, His command was for them to show themselves to the priests:

According to the law, the priest would examine the healed leper and determine whether the diseased condition no longer existed. This would be followed by a cleansing ceremony involving the use of two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. …

[Following that,] the cured leper would wash his garments, shave off all his bodily hair, and bathe. Seven days later, he would again shave off all his bodily hair, wash his garments, and bathe. On the eighth day, he, depending on whether he could afford to do so, would offer two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished female lamb, [and] about six dry quarts of choice flour mixed with olive oil, and … about two-thirds of a pint of olive oil. [For the sake of time, and because I don’t want to put you to sleep, suffice to say there’s a lot involved, but eventually] the priest would offer one of the lambs as a sin offering and the other lamb as a burnt offering, accompanied by the grain offering. (Emphasis mine.)

So this was no mere five-minute exam. The process would take over a week. For the nine, ungrateful Jews, this was no big deal. But for the Samaritan, it would be wildly uncomfortable, because he wasn’t just a medical outcast, he was a social one as well. The Jews did not get along with the Samaritans.

So even then, his healing, while experienced on the way to the priests, wasn’t declared publicly till he’d gone through over a week of humiliating discomfort. And, in addition to being a Samaritan, since he’d been the only one to go back, he’d be sure to be the last one dealt with by the priests. A long road to official healing.

I’ll close with this last story. In December 2014, I discovered that my heart was in horrible condition. One artery was 99% blocked. Another was 80% blocked. I prayed for a stent. I prayed for the Lord to just stick a holy finger in there and clear the arteries. Surely, the One Who made me – Who knitted me together in my mother’s womb – could easily heal me. Instead, He chose to include a double bypass in my path of healing.

And I learned something. I’m not a patient person … at all. It’s been nearly nine months, and there are still days and moments of pain, and still things I cannot do. But He promised to walk the path with me. He always does. And based on this Scripture, I’ve chosen to thank Him during my healing, instead of waiting till I’m fully restored.

And that’s the takeaway from today’s lesson. There are those here today who are hurting and seeking healing. And those who are being healed more slowly than they’d like. But regardless of where you are on the healing path – whether you’re still hurting or not – we serve a God Who walks with you. One Who will never leave you, nor forsake you. One to Whom we can be thankful no matter where we are on the path to healing.

Remember that … and it will make all the difference.