Dear Portia: My friend got healed, and I didn’t.

Dear Portia,

I keep praying for healing, and I am not healed, but someone else in my circle did get healed and I am trying to be okay with this but I am not.

A

Dear A,

Is it even possible to address your question without using some sort of unhelpful or even offensive platitude?

Let’s attempt it, shall we? And if I fail, feel free to ignore my advice with disdainful panache.

Last week I sat on a balcony eating ice cream with a delightful and earnest college student I hardly knew. She will be moving away in a few weeks. In that weird way that being strangers forges immediate intimacy, we shared our life stories with each other. I know from crazy childhoods; hers definitely qualified.

As the sun dropped, sighing, into the ocean, she asked me an question. She asked, hesitantly, how I overcame the trauma from my childhood and found intimacy and relationship with my husband.

Looking at her, my heart ached. Because I knew the fear behind her question, one I felt acutely at her age, so ridiculously young: what if I’m so jacked up I never get married?

And I told her, honestly, that I couldn’t really answer her question, because there were no guarantees about life partners, or marriage, or children. That I knew a lot of vibrant, healthy, awesome people who never married, through no lack of trying. And that it’s not “being jacked up” that holds anyone back from marriage or family, but simple, brutal demographics.

Not everyone gets married when they expect, or at all. Not everyone can have children. Period.

And: not everyone finds healing. The statistics on that are even more brutal than the pool of marriageable Christian men or the number of viable eggs in our ovaries.

But I know you know that. It’s not statistical knowledge you need. It’s some sort of comfort. So:

I wonder, to steal from Brené Brown: what is the story you’re telling yourself about your not-healing?

Is it a story:

  • about performance, wherein you feel like you’ve worked your ass off to qualify for wellness, and you feel gypped?
  • of love, in which you are the abandoned step-child, her face pressed against a window while your siblings celebrate Christmas?
  • of ache, where this is one more disappointment in a crushing litany of problems?

What does it say about you (in your mind) that you did not experience the healing you desperately need? What does it say about your friend that he or she did? Do you suspect God found you lacking, or deserving punishment? Name that to yourself.

I assume that like me at 21, and like the college student I talked to, you assume not getting what you need is somehow your fault, or, perhaps, someone else’s fault.

Can I ask you, very gently, if that posture is the most generous story? The only possible way of framing things? Is there a bigger, more open-hearted alternative that you might practice alongside the less-gracious version, at least until Jesus sends further instructions?

I give you permission to roll your eyes at the idea of other narratives. But maybe consider some as you roll your eyes, since we both know God has a way of being sneaky with improbable plot twists featuring “unconditional love”.

I suspect that if you dig down into the place where your not-okayness rests, you will find hurt and fear. I also suspect that if you sit with that hurt and fear for a while, you will learn how to feel it and grieve it. That’s when, I think, you’ll discover you have compassion for both yourself and your friend.

But regardless of whether my advice helps: you don’t have to knit any generosity of spirit yourself from bitterness or shame. No: it’s patience and hope and honesty, and keeping your eyes and heart open for alternative paths that will bring you to where you wish you already were. 

I pray that that makes it easier to deal with the burden you’re carrying. And I pray for healing and wholeness, which we all need so desperately.

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Heather Caliri

Heather Caliri

Writer at A Little Yes
Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego who uses tiny, joyful yeses to free herself from anxiety. Tired of anxiety controlling your life? Try her mini-course, “Five Tiny Ideas for Managing Anxiety," for free here.
Heather Caliri

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  • How can it be demographics when God is sovereign; when He owns the cattle on a thousand hills? To say it’s demographics seems to limit God, as if he hasn’t enough resources to work with.

    • Except that that’s the paradox of miracles. I’m always struck by story of the pool of Bethesda – Jesus healed the one paralysed man – but the place was chock full of similarly ill people who weren’t healed.

      It’s not easy, by any means, to reconcile these things. Miracles are by definition things that don’t happen very often.

      • Amen to that. I believe that God can do far more than we can ask or imagine. I believe that it can happen physically, with real miracles–I’ve seen it happen. Yet he doesn’t always do it on our timetable, nor with the results we expect. And to keep telling people that healing can happen in any case with enough faith does grave damage if God does not choose to heal as they expect. He’s not a cosmic vending machine.

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  • Jamie

    This is great advice. I think there are so many times that we are telling ourselves a story that is painful and comes from a place of fear or shame.