If You or Someone You Know is Sick . . .


I believe in healing. Good thing, because my prayer list is growing these days. So many of the people I love are struggling with mental or physical illness. Some people are skeptical of “healing” as a spiritual phenomenon. They believe in medicine and doctors, but not anointing someone with oil, laying on hands and praying, as Christians are urged to do in James 5:14-15.

Modern medicine is incredibly effective, but we know its limitations. Many diseases of mind and body are not susceptible to pills and shots. And even when powerful drugs are at work, people need something more to get well. They need love. They need our presence and our touch.

Some years ago I read a book called The Rise Of Christianity, by a Princeton sociologist named Rodney Stark. The author isn’t a Christian, he’s a sociologist who set out to answer this question: How did Christianity take over the world?

How did Christianity spread like wildfire against considerable odds? How did an obscure movement within Judaism take off and become within 400 years the dominant religion of Europe and the essential feature of Western civilization?

Were the first Christian preachers that compelling? Were the healers that effective, the teachers and catechists that successful? Was Christian worship that enthralling?

Stark concludes that Christianity was so successful not because the ideas were so compelling, but because Christians lived differently. They respected women when the Roman world saw them as property. They didn’t kill their infant girls and so after several generations Christians simply had more mothers, more children. But what I remember most from that book is the role healing played in saving lives and contribuing toward the survival and social dominance of the Chrisian community.

When plagues struck, for example, Stark notes that Christians took care of one another. Their doctoring may have been no better than what non-Christians had, but they sat by beds and held peoples’ hands, assuring them of their presence and love. And as everyone knows, very often a patient survives not because he or she gets better medicine or doctoring than the person in the next bed, but because someone strokes their forehead through the long night and bolsters their will to live.

That is the kind of healing I believe in. Not the flashy, cured-in-an-instant version, but simply doing what James 5 tells us to do: visit the sick, anoint them with oil, lay on hands and pray. Sick people, people in hospitals are isolated and lonely. They just want human presence. Someone to listen (and generally stay about twenty minutes). Someone to touch them since they feel essentially quarantined and a little less than human. You don’t have to believe in healing–as Stark suggests, it just works.

I’ve seen it happen, not only in others, but in my own mind and body.

3 Responses to If You or Someone You Know is Sick . . .
  1. Susan
    May 11, 2018 | 11:15 am

    Thanks for this, David. I certainly believe this too. I like what you said about listening. The sick do not need the “noise” of our words, but rather, I heard recently that they have “skin hunger” that goes bone deep.

  2. Ginny Lovas
    May 12, 2018 | 11:29 pm

    I have always believed in the importance of touch, and found that I was a better toucher, hand holder than I was running around getting everything the doctor wanted from the “Code Cart” As a Night Supervisor at Stamford Hospital, I always tried to be the hand holder in the situation at hand.

    One patient, a Doctor, remembered that and talked to me about how much it helped him during his own crisis.

    Blessings to all the Hand Holders and to those who have their hands held and healing prayers said!


    • David Anderson
      May 13, 2018 | 2:03 pm

      I love that–Hand Holders. No greater mission in life.

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