God heals the unspeakable.
I used to be frustrated by folks who cryptically shared their health concerns for others to pray about. It felt purposely dramatic. As if you preferred that we just imagined all kinds of horrendous conditions. But they just wanted to be PRIVATE. Well, sort of. Bottom line, are we praying for pain relief? Or for your life to be spared? Gimme something.
Then, I had my own condition. And I discovered that some things are just unspeakable. Because words carry power. Words create images in our brains. So we need to be careful what we say and what we describe. It has been tricky to share vulnerably but not graphically. One of my friends from a pastorate long ago approached me through direct messaging and asked, “Is this a life sentence?” Now that, friends, is the point. She wanted to know what we are praying for: relief or life.
To be fair, for a moment or two, we didn’t know. Biopsies hadn’t come back and pathology results are needed to confirm what we are dealing with. At this point, everything points to life and complete recovery. Which is great, but let’s be real: any of us could get hit by a bus this afternoon. Our life rests in God’s hands.
As I have been impatiently processing the grueling pace of healing, I was struck by my situation and I heard God say,
“I heal the unspeakable.”
That is the God we serve.
In the New Testament, we have lots of sanitary stories of blind and lame dudes who are healed. But we also get the awkward healing of the woman with the issue of blood. God heals the unspeakable. And this story made the cut of healing accounts listed in the gospels. Bless Matthew, Mark, and Luke for including it.
As I heard God speak to me about the “unspeakable”, I realized he meant much more than my personal dignity. How many people have I have ministered to over the years with “unspeakable” hurts in their lives? The unspeakable nature of their abuse, their attempts at self-harm, or their betrayals all feel too embarrassing to share. And as they stuff their “unspeakables”, they deny themselves the support they desperately need from the body of Christ. They slow their opportunity for healing.
Now, hear me. These things don’t need to be spoken in a microphone to be healed. We do not need to exploit our situations or our experiences for honesty or attention. There is a huge difference between being transparent and being naked.
1 Corinthians 12:23-26 New International Version (NIV)
23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
When we treat the “unspeakables” in people’s lives with special modesty, we give honor to what God wants to heal in our lives. We don’t have to have graphic details. We don’t need you to relive and recount every indelicacy that has been committed against you. No one needs to be shamed by their unspeakable temptations. But we can and must share our brokenness in a manner that allows the community of believers to hold us up before God. We need to honor what God is doing and collectively call for healing in each other’s lives. James is clear about this when he describes prayer for the sick as a communal experience.
Healing isn’t a spiritual gift to consume upon our own afflictions. It is a gift used to build up the body of Christ. We cannot call out healing for each other unless we are aware of the brokenness that is present.
So we share.
We share the unspeakable.
Carefully. With grace. Without exploitation.
So that we can collectively pray for God’s intervention.
That we can collectively rejoice in the healing. However slowly or dramatically it may occur.
Because we serve a God who heals.
God heals the unspeakable.