Healing is Hard

On October 13th, 2019, I led worship and preached about healing during the evening Empowering Life service at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) near Gig Harbor. I’ve written before about my experiences there if you’d like to read more.

For security reasons, I was not able to record the message from that service, but I do have my manuscript to share. The sermon that was preached that evening doesn’t match this script exactly. The Holy Spirit does all kinds of things, pulling me in and out of my sermon drafts. There were moments where we lifted praises to God with loud voices, pauses that weren’t planned, and moments of prayer throughout. I hope even in its draft form, the Holy Spirit might speak to you too.

Healing is Hard – Message for Empowering Life Worship, October 13th, 2019

Our readings were 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Luke 17:11-19.

“He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” ~Luke 17:16a

Healing is hard.

We don’t always know what to do to find the healing we need in our lives. And we don’t always have access to the resources we need. We don’t always know if we have the strength to do the work. We don’t know always know if we can be healed.

Healing is hard.

Sometimes I feel like I have healed so many things, so many hurts, so many traumas, so much brokenness in my heart and in my body that I should be an expert by now.

Scraped knees

That it should be easier by now. Maybe it is. For some things at least. When we’re little, a scraped knee seems like the end of the world, now we have so many scars and bumps and bruises that a scraped knee is something we barely notice.

But still, healing is hard.

Especially when healing from trauma, when it seems like progress is so far out of reach. When we find ourselves in spirals of shame or blame or heartbreak. During set-backs or a breakdowns.

Healing is hard.

I think about our readings today, about Naaman and the ten men who call out to Jesus. They weren’t asking for healing from trauma or scraped knees, but something that seemed incurable, something that made them feel ashamed and broken and alone.



In ancient Israel, leprosy was a umbrella term for any kind of skin disease, whether contagious or not, dangerous or not, terminal or not. And so to be a leper meant that you were on the outside of society.

Unclean. Unwelcome. Unworthy.

Often in ancient Israel it was seen as some kind of punishment for your sin, making it all the more humiliating.

Naaman’s Story

Naaman was considered a great man, a powerful army commander. He didn’t suffer from the same kind of shame as the Israelites in our reading from Luke, but still was plagued by his disease. When his wife tells him her slave recommended a prophet from Israel as the answer to his search for healing.

I wonder…it surprises me that he didn’t refuse. This was the enemy, why would they help him? And even if they could, and even if they would, why should he trust them?

But still, Naaman sends word to his king who sends word to the king of Israel, and eventually Elisha sends a message back to Naaman. Dip in the Jordan River seven times and you’ll be healed.

And this is what has Naaman annoyed.

Healing and Frustration

That Elisha didn’t come to him, didn’t stand in front of him calling on the name of the Lord. Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to step outside his own door to greet Naaman. There was no pomp, no circumstance. Not even a prayer that Naaman could witness.

He had to go and wash himself in the dirtiest river he could think of, not once, not twice, but seven times. The audacity of it. The ridiculousness of this request. What kind of healing is this Elisha peddling?

But luckily, Naaman was surrounded by people who knew pain, who knew trauma, who knew healing doesn’t always come from places or the people we expect. The wisdom in Naaman’s story comes from servants. From the slave girl who was taken from her home. From the two servants with him. A subtle reminder that God often works through not the powerful and great but the unexpected and hurting.

And so, Naaman’s servants point out to him that if he was willing to do the really hard thing, willing to do anything, why not do something simple?

Why not do something simple?

Why not do something simple?

In my own healing from trauma, I’m an overachiever. I look for all the work. All the books and worksheets and therapy sessions. All the prayers and all the forgiveness and strength I can muster. If there’s a new tool or new resource I’m looking for it.

Sometimes I found healing through it all. Sometimes I found frustration, sometimes I found shame that I couldn’t just get over it, that I couldn’t just move on. And sometimes I found the simple things, to be the places where God poured out healing water.

Little moments

A few minutes of silence. The sound of rain hitting on the roof. A smile from someone when I needed it. Little moments that brought me peace, even for a second, for a minute, for an hour. And those little moments could grow into a day, a week, a month where the pain or hurt was dulled.

Healing is hard.

Healing takes all kinds of work. Sometimes it’s all the steps to take, all the resources. Like physical therapy after a broken arm. You have to do the work to heal properly.

Sometimes though, it’s God doing something unexpectedly simple, even for a moment.

Naaman is healed so thoroughly there isn’t a blemish, a mark, or a scar on his skin from his disease. No wonder his faith in the Lord of Israel becomes so strong in the face of that miracle.

Rarely do we heal from pain without any marks left behind.

Rarely do we heal from pain without any marks left behind.

Jesus knows that better than most.

When those ten men call out to Jesus, I wonder if they were even hoping for healing anymore. On the outskirts of town by the side of the road. Not too close, keeping their distance from the passerby, even keeping their distance from Jesus as they call out to him.

I wonder if they were just desperate to be seen. To be heard. I wonder if when they asked for mercy, if they were just hoping that Jesus would pray over them, would talk to them, would treat them with compassion or care. I wonder how surprised they were, when Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests.

They weren’t allowed at the temple if they had leprosy. They could show themselves to the priests, and if they were clean they could return to their community. But if they arrived there still sick, they would be turned away, shunned even harder, maybe even punished.

But all ten of them go.

First Steps

They all take that first step away from their spot by the road. And as they begin to make their way, they’re healed. They’re made clean. They’re made new.

And one of them turns around, so shocked by this gift, so shocked by this healing, by this incredible miracle. That he begins praising God with a loud voice.

Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, when we find even a moment of grace, when we find even a moment of healing, when we are reminded just how loved we are by God, just how whole we are made by Jesus.

Praise God with a loud voice.

Face in the dirt thankful

The man comes to Jesus’s feet and prostrates himself, that means he literally falls to the ground, face in the dirt thanking Jesus.

Have you ever been face in the dirt thankful?

That’s how thankful this man was.

Luke notes for us that this man, the only one of the ten who turned back was a Samaritan. He was no stranger to being considered unclean. Because of who he was, because of his faith, because of his background, because of where he came from, he was often treated as an outcast. Long before he got sick.

And so maybe he is able to see this healing as the gift from God that it is before the others, because it is so much more for him than just his skin, this is a healing for his whole life.

This is a healing for a new life.

For all the moments in our lives when healing feels so distant. When it seems like progress is so far out of reach. When we find ourselves in spirals of shame or blame or heartbreak. For every set-back or a breakdown. For all the moments that healing is hard.

Soul-Deep Healing

Through all of those moments, Jesus is right there, on his way to Jerusalem, on his way to the cross to bring healing and hope and grace to each and every one of us. Not because we made all the right steps on our paths, not because we earned it, but because God loves us, God loves you SO much, that Jesus experienced some of the worst this world can offer on the cross.

Jesus died and rose from the dead and guess what – his scars were still there. Those marks were still there. Because the healing Jesus brings is so much more than skin deep, it’s soul deep. It’s new life deep.

It’s the healing that tells you that you are beloved, that you are made in the image of God, that you are worthy of this grace because Jesus said so. So that you can know wherever you are in your journey of healing, you are not alone.

Thanks be to God, amen.

Pastor Megan Filer