By Chuck Griffin LifeTalk Editor
James 5:13-15 (NLT): Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.
All of this week’s lessons from James about how to live come together in a special way at the end of his letter. It is easy to stereotype a giver of solemn advice like James as dour, but here we see he is a man full of hope, one who trusts fully in God’s willingness to heal us.
Are any of you suffering hardships? In any group, there are always some who suffer, for so many different reasons.
James begins with simple advice: Pray. Keep doing what you have been doing as a follower of Christ. Stay immersed in the connection you already have.
There is a flip side to suffering, though, and James never wants us to forget this. There are good times, too, those times when all is well, when joy prevails, when all seems right with the world. We find such times in moments involving babies and brides and other big, happy events. We find them in the simplest of moments, too, for example, sipping a cup of coffee in the quiet of the early morning on a back porch.
In those good times, his advice is pretty much the same: Pray. He specifically says to “sing praises,” but such a sound is nothing but a variation on prayer, our words blended with music that expresses the ineffable part of our joy.
With this encouragement toward constant prayer in mind, James asks, “Are any of you sick?” Suffering and sickness go hand in hand, don’t they? And he’s not specific about what he means by “sick.” In modern times, we know we can suffer from all sorts of sickness.
There is physical illness, of course. We can be mentally or emotionally ill, too. As Christians, we also know we can be spiritually ill. Our relationships can be quite sick, too. And of course, these can all overlap or intertwine—for example, mental or spiritual problems can lead to physical problems or relational problems.
I don’t know if James had all of these illnesses exactly in mind, but I know Christian communities have seen healing in all of these areas.
Our starting point is spiritual healing. It is guaranteed as we open ourselves to God through faith in Christ’s work. When we seek miracles—direct intervention by God in situations that seem otherwise hopeless—we have to first let God heal our relationships with him through our belief in Christ’s work on the cross.
Spiritual healing also is the greatest healing. It is permanent. It grants us eternity. All other forms of healing simply are signs that God is breaking into this sinful world to make his presence known.
Those other forms of healing are wonderful to receive, however. And as a church, we do see such healing occur. Bodies are restored, minds find peace and calm, and emotions become manageable. Even relationships are healed when people at odds for one reason or another mutually submit to God’s presence.
Never be afraid to seek healing. If you are in church, there is a community that will come alongside you in the process, formally or informally.
Lord, may we see healings that astonish us, and may we have the courage to testify to what we have experienced. Amen.