Curing Versus Healing

Curing Versus Healing


Scripture: Luke 17:17

Then Jesus asked, 'Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?



In the summer after my second year at divinity school, I worked as a chaplain intern at Yale-New Haven Hospital— which was one of the most important learning experiences of my life.

Standing next to a patient on a gurney or with a family during a meeting with the medical team, I began to see something that my chaplain supervisor was keen to give us the eyes to see: that there is a difference between "cure" and "healing."

Cure is more obvious. The symptoms that subside, the ominous specks from the last x-ray that vanish on the latest one, the new medicine that makes your aunt feel like her old self — that's cure.

Healing is more subtle. It's a way of naming how we come to terms with how our lives are changing, and maybe even ending (which of course, is also a form of changing) in the wake of our physical condition. It's about how we make meaning within what has happened to us— how we still find ourselves within and beyond the experience of illness.

Thus, it's possible to speak about healing even when cure is not possible. And it's possible to say that someone may have been cured of what's been ailing them, but that they actually still aren't healed from it.

We see an example of cure when Jesus heals the ten lepers. But we only see healing in the case of the one who turns back to give thanks. He is the one who sees that it is not enough to feel like his old self, important and blessed as that must be. Even so, that's only part of it. Being free of his affliction has taught him deeper lessons— and given him eyes to see the source of his wholeness as a person. That's healing.

It's a reminder to all of us that who we are goes much deeper than how we're feeling, and that God's love and hope are even wider than we might well imagine.


Lord, give us the eyes to see your healing, and the heart and hands to be healers where you most need us to be. Amen.

Max Grant

The Rev. R. Maxwell Grant is pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Greenwich.

October 05, 2016
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