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What Healing Isn't

Almost everywhere I go, people talk about healing past hurts. Churches sing about it, books discuss it, therapists say they offer it, but what is healing? How do you know if you've gotten it? More importantly, what do people pass off as healing that really isn't?

Do you think the blind man Jesus healed knew he was healed? Dumb question, right? When you receive healing, you know it. Everything improves.  There are many counterfeits, but nothing can compare to the real thing.

There's an author who sells literally tons of books about healing. Every one deals with nutrition, and he is rather obese! Nutrition helps our bodies, but eating right alone can't heal anything.

Counseling doesn't cut it either. I recently met with a therapist who was supposed to interview me to discern if her church should ask me to lead a retreat. She grilled me on my work, my life and my relationships. She even called people to check up on me. I soon suspected she would never approve of me doing a retreat there. How did I know? When I asked her about her work she said, "I like to think people get healed from my counseling." Like to think? When people get healed, they change - dramatically. I knew she would be threatened by my work. Real healing exposes the fatal flaws of cognitive therapy, which only handles problems from the neck up. Talk therapy keeps people dependent on the therapist; it's designed to serve the income stream of the therapist more than the needs of the patient. I know people who have gone to the same counselor for five, ten, even 20 years! Friends, this is a scam. If someone hasn't begun to dramatically help you after seeing them for three months, bail, unless you just want a paid friend!

I seldom see clients as long as six months. On very rare occasions, I've met with clients for a year. Usually, after a few months, they don't need me any more. Of course, it depends on the nature, depth and longevity of their problem. But the first person I helped heal came to me with a problem that traditional therapy would have taken three years just to identify. After three sessions, she didn't need to see me any more. More importantly, she changed her entire life. I know this because almost 20 years later, she still tells me every time I see her how grateful she is for our work together. She says she doesn't know what would have happened if we hadn't done the healing work we did. That's the difference between healing and counseling: efficient, lasting, radical transformation.            
Talk therapy alone doesn't heal. It usually doesn't even get to the core issues that need healing. Those are buried deep in the heart, not the head.

Sadly, most therapists take up counseling because they need help, but nothing in their training heals them. It mostly fills their head with untested theories, useless information and methods that are marginally successful. Consequently, psychiatry has the highest suicide rate of any profession. And why not? It's awful to need healing, not get it, then spend your life trying to help others get what you don't have and desperately need.

The therapist who interviewed me for that church told me she didn't really believe the healing I talked about was possible. Needless to say, that church made an excuse for not getting back to me. Ironically, it's stated purpose involves healing hurts!

In conservative religious circles, it's popular to believe that the only thing people need to receive healing is a closer walk with God. Now don't get me wrong, I love God. Jesus isn't my crutch, He's my wheel chair! But God wouldn't have given "gifts of healings" to the Church (I Cor. 12:28) if we didn't need them.

Many conservative Christians embrace a belief system that claims to believe in the Bible yet explains away huge blocks of it. It has single-handedly robbed the church of tremendous power and blessing. Ironically, it's motivation is similar to that of the secular counselors it denounces. It reads things into the Bible to design a theological system that discredits the relevance of healing, miracles and the supernatural. These people argue vehemently that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, the Red Sea parted, dead men rose from the grave, and Mary was a virgin. They defend the supernatural events in the Bible, labeling liberals who don't believe it literally as 'anti-supernaturalistic'. Ironically, while doing this, they also explain away the supernatural for today!

How do they do this? They labor to make the point that the supernatural was necessary in Jesus day to start the early church. They argue that once we had the Bible, the supernatural ceased to be necessary. Hello? Have they visited a hospital lately? Have they ever seen the inside of a psychiatric wing or watched sick people limp up to the pharmacy counter? Have they even considered how lame it is to offer their own parishioners a feeble prayer that God would guide the surgeon's hands?

Years ago, when I pastored a United Methodist church, I visited a dear sweet elderly man who spent many days in the hospital. I'll never forget a question he asked me one day. "Ken," he said, "I've seen many pastors visit people since I've been here. How come you're the only pastor who prays for people?"

We don't really believe in healing today. Sometimes we say we do, but we really don't. I remember John Wimber's comments when he first attended churches after his conversion. John was keyboard player for the Righteous Brothers for years, a profane rock musician, before he gave his life to the Lord. Once he did, he took the whole Bible very seriously.

"When do we do the stuff?" he'd ask pastor after pastor. "What stuff?" they replied. "You know, the stuff the Bible says we should do: heal the sick, cast our demons, raise the dead." "Oh, we don't do that any more," they told him. I got similar answers when I asked such questions in seminary. John started the Vineyard, a movement of churches that really took God at His Word. Through that, many thousands across the US and around the world have been healed. It's one thing to believe in the Bible, quite another to practice all that it preaches.

Getting close to God is wonderful. We all need more of that, but it doesn't necessarily heal anything. God gave healing power to Jesus. He shared it with His disciples. They used it to birth the early church, and not just so people would know God could do great things. God heals because He IS Love and He cares about our suffering. He knows all that happened to make us the way we are and He yearns to heal our pain if we'll let Him. God doesn't heal as a means of proving anything, He heals because He is love. Any church that needs theological excuses for their own spiritual impotence, just doesn't fathom the Love of God.

So if nutrition, and counseling, and getting close to God doesn't heal us, what does? The book of James says healing happens when vulnerable spiritual leaders have effectual faith in God's power (James 5:14-18). I'd just add the use of valid spiritual gifts God gave us to do the job. Simple, huh? Simple, powerful and  profound.

When I do healing work at my retreats and in private practice I seek to uncover core issues, not just treat symptoms. The surface problems people face are usually connected to far deeper issues from much earlier in their lives. I use intuitive spiritual gifts and experiential exercises to find these. Once we uncover the deep pain that hinders people, I help them go back through the painful event the right way, allowing them to cry, feel and express whatever they must in order to finally resolve it. We then pray for God's Spirit to heal that which has been broken for so long. Usually a warm, powerful tingling begins that can last for a long time, as the Comforter, our Healer, does Christ's work. The tears turn to joy, the pain morphs into ecstasy and the fear becomes faith as Jesus heals the broken places in our heart. After that, the change that was impossible becomes Him-possible. The person leaves freer, happier, more loving, peaceful and joyful than when he or she arrived. That's healing. Everything less simply can't compare.  

Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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