This past Sunday, a parishioner told me a pearl of wisdom that her mother had passed along to her. It is this: “If it cannot be cured, it must be endured.” I have been pondering curing and enduring since there is a lot in life that is incurable and, as such, must be something to be endured.
At our monthly healing service, we pray in two general categories – healing and acceptance. It’s like this: if God doesn’t cure the person or situation, then we pray for peace, patience and acceptance of what is.
I grew up during tube era of television evangelists. One popular show (for lack of a better term) highlighted a dynamic preacher who would, more or less, strike someone on the forehead with his palm to heal them. It seemed to work. The message I am sharing with you would not be popular with them. In other words, some people, even Christians, do not seem very big in the endurance department. I’ve never seen Christianity explained on TV that with God, you can endure. There is nothing wrong with messages that say with God you can do anything and anything can be done. And yet, I’ve seen the Spirit help people endure life situations a lot more than I’ve seen miraculous healing.
A clergy friend of mine is on a sabbatical of sorts. He is walking the Camino de Santiago. This is a pilgrimage route that ends at the city of Santiago de Compostela (in Spain). The month-long, 500 mile walk takes pilgrims across ancient Roman roads, gravel paths and muddy trails. He recently wrote that he can’t make the Camino go his own way; it goes its own way and the pilgrims follow it. Since the Camino in this sense can’t be cured, it must be endured.
Or must it? I wonder if curing and enduring are actually not polar opposites but rather are simply interconnected. Going back to our healing prayers, whether someone is cured physically or given grace to handle the life situation, I believe the end result is the same, acceptance and peace.
Jesus encountered a man who was waiting to be cured. This man was lying by the pool of Bethzatha near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. The mystical Jewish belief was that when the water in the pool was stirred up, the first one in got healed. Unfortunately for this poor man, he’d been waiting for 38 years and never was the first in. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” Although this seems like a strange question, it points to the curing/enduring aspect. He’s been enduring for a long, long time. Perhaps he had come to peace with it and no longer was seeking a cure. A sudden curing might disrupt his peace and maybe even dislodge his acceptance of his place in life. And it might even require him to explain who it was that healed him and he’d then have to work for a living instead of begging at the Sheep Gate. Although the man did receive healing, we never found out if he accepted his new lot in life. Jesus sensed something that I think I might miss when dealing with very ill people — there is a relationship between enduring and peace and ease.
Life with Christ is not always an easy or a smooth path. Sometimes it’s ruddy and muddy. Nevertheless, we learn and endure. And, we are called to endure with Christ, or to be cured, but in most instances it is not our choice to make. The choice we can make, however, is to seek Christ in both curing and enduring situations and have faith that the Holy Spirit will give us ease and peace.