BEING HEALED BY THE LORDA Sermon by Rev. Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, Illinois January 28, 1996
“Then Jesus went about all the Cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).
Any of us who has had a cold or the flu recently knows that being sick is a very unpleasant experience. When we’re sick, our physical body usually feels somewhat foreign to us, and regularly sends messages of discomfort to our mind. Accompanying the physical symptoms there can be the frustration and discouragement of not being able to do as much and as efficiently as we would like to do. Many people find themselves in the midst of a period of sickness wondering if they will ever get well.
The Writings of the New Church tell us that all diseases correspond to or have a counterpart in a spiritual problem. As I read in the lesson from the Arcana Coelestia: “… spiritual sicknesses … are evils destructive of the life of a will desiring what is good, and falsities destructive of the love of an understanding to see what is true; in short, things destructive of spiritual life composed of faith and charity” (AC 8364:3).
Many of Jesus’s miracles were miracles of healing. His work in the world represents a kind of healing that He wishes to bring to our lives. The question is, What do we have to do to receive this healing?
The first step is that we must recognize that a part of our life is in need of healing. With a physical disease, this often isn’t very hard for us to recognize. When we have a sense of what it is like to be healthy and then recognize in a short period of time that we have begun to feel poorly, we suspect we are sick. It is much trickier when a sickness or a physical problem comes on very slowly and without obvious changes over a long period of time. For example, it is common for a person who needs glasses to be relatively unaware that he no longer sees as well as he should. There is an assumption that probably everyone sees just as he does. He doesn’t even reflect on how fuzzy things are at a distance. Sometimes a person can recognize that he needs to have his vision corrected by noticing that the people around him see things that he doesn’t see.
The spiritual ills that interfere with our lives are particularly hard for us to recognize because some of the core ones in our life have always been there. It’s as if we have only the vaguest idea of what it means to be healthy. We’ve always been somewhat spiritually sick in that particular area of life.
For example, a woman can have a pattern of reacting very defensively whenever the slightest indication is given that she has done something wrong in an important area of her life. Her defensiveness makes her lash out at the source of what she perceives to be criticism. It can make her berate herself and can foster feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It makes a mess of many interactions with friends, at work, with her husband and children. But she doesn’t even realize that there is any other way to react to indications that something might be wrong. If this woman is seeking to be led by the Lord and trying to be a good and useful person, He can gradually lead her to see that this pattern of reaction is hurting herself and others. It is keeping her from realistically seeing herself and recognizing what she can do to be more useful.
Another example of a spiritual sickness would be that of a man who rarely reflects on the broad patterns in his life. Each day’s events are seen by him as unique and explainable in terms of external circumstances. Since he isn’t aware of his own role in reacting to what has happened, he is unaware that if he asked for the Lord’s help in changing his reactions, many events would go very differently from their all-too-typical course. The man is hurting himself and others but doesn’t see it.
Sometimes we can feel discouraged by the too frequent reminders of our fallible nature that occur in the Lord’s Word. It can seem that every time we turn to it, it says, “You are really sick.” This in itself can lead a person to shrug his shoulders and say, “Why even try to get better? There is too much wrong.” The first step in being healed by the Lord is that a person recognize that there is a problem that needs to be attended to. This is spoken of in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:4,6). To the extent that a person just shrugs off problems with the reaction “Well, that is just the way things are,” there is likely to be little sense of personal responsibility or personal capability of bringing about a change, and consequently the present state of affairs may continue unchanged indefinitely or even get worse.
A wonderful passage in the Arcana Coelestia strongly reassures us that we aren’t complete and total messes. It starts out, “In some states a person can be called fairly perfect” (AC 894). And then it goes on to say, “but in countless others he cannot.” The Lord doesn’t expect us to be perfect throughout our lives, but He does want us to recognize that some of our faults and flaws are seriously dangerous to ourselves and others. They are spiritual diseases that will interfere with important uses that we would like to accomplish. They need to be healed.
Usually when we get physically sick, we don’t feel guilty because some germ or virus has gained a foothold in our body. Similarly, the Lord encourages us to recognize that all the evil that influences our lives comes from hell. The debilitating guilt that a person feels for faults and flaws likewise has its source in the evil spirits of hell. They love to induce evil loves and false ideas into our consciousness and then condemn us for their presence. They are the enemies spoken of in Psalm 41 who accuse and condemn with these words: “All who hate me whisper together against me; against me they devise my hurt. ‘An evil disease,’ they say, ‘clings to him. And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more” (7,8).
In many of the Lord’s miracles of healing, the people came to Him for help. They came to be touched by Him and so healed. In many of these miracles the sick person’s faith was an important part of the healing. We too need to seek the Lord if we are to be healed. We can recognize that we need His help in some area of life and pray to Him for what we need.
We may sometimes wish that we could be healed of our spiritual ills as instantaneously as the miracles in the New Testament. We rarely are. Sometimes a person feels that he has been working on the same spiritual problem all of his life, and in some states of mind it appears that he has made little or no progress. The reason that we don’t experience instantaneous change when we ask for it is that the consequences of such change would actually not be good. A person who gets a pair of glasses for the first time certainly can see better instantly, but for some period of time these glasses will seem foreign to him. He won’t really feel like himself. The same would be true if the Lord instantly changed us. Another problem with instantaneous change is that we don’t know what the consequences of changing one area of our life will have on so many others. Our spiritual state is a complex interconnection of so many features that even small changes in one area can have surprising results.
Another feature of being spiritually healed is that sometimes progress can look more as if we are going backward. A natural example of this is renovation of a kitchen. A lot of demolition, dust, and mess are the first steps before a new and much more useful kitchen can begin to take shape. A somewhat similar event occurs in our spiritual development. Consider the following passage from Arcana Coelestia: “Before anything is restored to order it is very common for everything to be reduced first of all to a state of confusion resembling chaos so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. And once these have been separated the Lord arranges them into order” (842:3).
Not only did the Lord heal people when He was in the world but He also gave power to His disciples to go out and heal. From this power they were able to perform miracles of healing themselves. We too can be like the Lord’s disciples as we work to support what is genuinely true and good in the people around us. Our words and deeds can help the Lord bring healing to others. We can help others to see themselves more clearly and the effects that their words and deeds have on others. Without condemning them we can help them recognize that there are spiritual diseases harming a part of their usefulness. We can help them recognize that change is possible. We can help them turn to the Lord for this help. We can even help them by helping them understand what is true and good even when they don’t recognize that the Lord is the source of this order. The book of Revelation speaks of the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. These leaves represent the sensible ideas that we can share with others and help them to live wiser and more useful lives.
The Lord would heal us of the spiritual diseases that are hurting us and those around us. He will certainly come to us when we call. May we trust in His loving care. May we open our eyes to see the qualities in our life that need His healing touch. May we seek this healing touch each day. Amen.
Lessons: Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1-4; Psalm 41; AC 8364
Arcana Coelestia 8364
All the disease that I have put on the Egyptians, I will not put upon thee. That this signifies that they are to be withheld from the evils that pertain to those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil is evident from the signification of “disease” as being evil (of which below); from the representation of the Egyptians as being those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil (see n. 7097, 7317, 7926, 8148); and from the signification of “not to put upon thee” when said of disease, by which evil is signified, as being that they are to be withheld from evil; for Jehovah, that is, the Lord, does not take away evil but withholds man from it, and keeps him in good (n. 929, 1581, 2256, 2406, 4564, 8206). From this it is that by “not to put disease upon them” is signified that they are to be withheld from evils.
That “disease” denotes evil is because in the internal sense are signified such things as affect the spiritual life. The diseases which affect this life are evils, and are called cupidities and concupiscences. Faith and charity make the spiritual life. This life sickens when falsity takes the place of the truth which is of faith, and evil takes the place of the good which is of charity; for these bring this life unto death, which is called spiritual death, and is damnation, as diseases bring the natural life unto its death. Hence it is that by “disease” is signified in the internal sense evil; and by “the diseases of the Egyptians,” the evils into which those cast themselves who had been in faith separate and in a life of evil, whereby they had infested the upright, which evils have been treated of in what precedes, where the plagues in Egypt were treated of.
Evils are also meant by “diseases” in other passages in the Word, as in Moses: “If thou wilt keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments which I command thee this day, Jehovah will remove from thee all sickness, and will not put upon thee all the evil weaknesses of Egypt which thou hast known, but will give them upon thy haters” (Deut. 7: 11,15).
“If thou wilt not obey the voice of Jehovah thy God, by keeping to do all His commandments and His statutes, Jehovah will send on thee the curse, the disquiet, and the rebuke, in every putting forth of thy hand which thou doest, until thou be destroyed, because of the wickedness of thy works, whereby thou hast forsaken Me. Jehovah shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He has consumed thee from upon the land; Jehovah shall smite thee with consumption, and with a hot fever, and with a burning fever, and with a raging fever, and with drought, and with blasting, and with jaundice, which shall pursue thee until thou perish: Jehovah shall smite thee with the ulcer of Egypt, and with the hemorrhoids, and with the scab, and with the itch, that thou canst not be healed. Jehovah shall smite thee with fury, and with blindness, and with amazement of heart. Thou shalt become mad from the look of thine eyes. Jehovah shall smite thee with a sore ulcer, upon the knees, and upon the thighs, whereof thou canst not be healed, from the sole of the foot unto the crown of thy head. He will throw back on thee all the weakness of Egypt, also every disease, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law. Jehovah shall give thee a trembling heart, consumption of eyes, and grief of soul” (Deut. 28:15, 20-22, 27, 28, 34, 35, 60, 61, 65). By all the diseases here named are signified spiritual diseases, which are evils destroying the life of the will of good, and falsities destroying the life of the understanding of truth; in a word, destroying the spiritual life which is of faith and charity. Moreover natural diseases correspond to such things, for every disease in the human race is from this source, because from sin (n. 5712, 5726). Moreover, every disease corresponds to its own evil; the reason is that everything of man’s life is from the spiritual world; and therefore if his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes a disease there. (See what has been said from experience about the correspondence of diseases with evils, n. 5711-5727.) …
As diseases represented the hurtful and evil things of the spiritual life, therefore by the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have led to spiritual death. For Divine miracles are distinguished from other miracles by the fact that they involve and have regard to states of the church and of the heavenly kingdom. Therefore the Lord’s miracles consisted chiefly in the healing of diseases. This is meant by the Lord’s words to the disciples sent by John: “Tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the poor hear the gospel” (Matt. 11:4,5). Hence it is that it is so often said that the Lord “healed all disease and weakness” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 14:14,35,36; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 6:17; 7:21; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10).