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Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Copyright 2009 Christian Association for Psychological Studies

2009, Vol. 28, No. 2, 121-129

ISSN 0733-4273

God as Healer: A Closer Look at

Biblical Images of Inner Healing
with Guiding Questions for Counselors
Philip G. Monroe
Biblical Theological Seminary

George M. Schwab
Erskine Theological Seminary

The Christian community almost never speaks with one voice about any one tenet of the faith. Yet there
are tenets that the majority of Christ followers assert. One of these fundamental beliefs is that God heals
and restores broken people. Doctors may perform extraordinary procedures which save lives or bring
relief, but few Christians will hesitate to thank God for the physical or emotional healing. Similarly, Christian therapists acknowledge that God provides the ultimate power to heal clients. However, many divergent models of healing exist and the Christian psychologist may not feel adequately trained to discern
which models best reflect historic Christian doctrine and biblical interpretation. This article seeks to avoid
atomistic use of bible passages or superficial use of the text by building on an alternative foundationa
thorough Biblically based, theological review of the Bibles overarching message of healingfor clinicians
as they develop their own understanding how God heals broken people.

support verses, Jesus healing ministry, or vivid

personal experiences.
This article seeks to build a better foundation
for the Christian psychologist providing a review
of the language and imagery of healing in the
bible using biblical theological techniques. The
biblical theological approach allows the reader
to look at individual texts from the light of the
entire canon. Such a review will give counselors
an opportunity to shape their own clinical practice regarding the nature and role of Gods healing activity and avoid simplistic biblical

Few Christians deny the healing power of

God. Most agree that Gods healing agency
stands behind every successful human effort to
bring relief to broken people. The biblical text
seems to support such belief with innumerable
narrative and poetic examples of Gods activity
in redeeming, transforming, and relieving
human suffering. Despite modern psychologys
early rejection of religious explanations for
change (e.g., King, 1909) the clinical landscape
now includes many medical and psychological
researchers willing to talk openly about the role
of spirituality in healing and health (e.g.,
Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001; Pargament, 1997; Shafranske, 1996; Siegel, 1986;
Thomas, 1997). As a result, there is a growing
body of literature suggesting that spiritual well
being positively influences health and coping
with illness (e.g., Plante & Sherman, 2001;
Paloutzian & Park, 2005).
While the psychological community investigates religiosity and spirituality as mediator and
moderator variables of health, pastoral writers
within the Christian tradition explore the topic
of inner healing and produce a separate body of
literature. But this literaturemostly popular in
stylerarely affords the thoughtful Christian
psychologist the opportunity to think critically
about the theological foundations for healing
since many of these works are based on a few

The reader may first wish to define both inner
healing and biblical theology. What is inner healing? From what grid should empirically informed,
Christ-following clinicians view healing language
in the Bible? Should we treat it as a theological
term or something to operationalize and study?
Unfortunately, we often use the language of healing, health, and wholeness casually, without a
satisfactory understanding of their meanings.
Despite hundreds of volumes on healing, it
remains a deep mystery for manya mystery
often entangled in doctrinal controversies over
the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For the purpose of
this essay we define healing or inner healing as a
divine work bringing growth or positive spiritual
change to painful or distorted perceptions, experiences, habits, or emotions of a person. Such a definition does not attempt to ascertain the cause of
the inner turmoil, its location in the person (e.g.,
body, soul, psyche, etc.), nor the person of the

Correspondence regarding this article should be

addressed to Philip G. Monroe, Psy.D., Biblical Seminary, 200 N. Main Street, Hatfield, PA 19440





trinity doing the work since these issues rarely

concern the troubled person.
What is biblical theology and how will it help
the reader develop their own view of inner
healing? Biblical theology, as opposed to other
theological ventures, seeks to analyse and synthesize the Bibles teaching about God and his
relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bibles overarching narrative
and Christocentric focus (Alexander & Rosner,
2000, p. 10, emphasis added). This approach,
originates from the exegesis of the biblical
text (Fesko, 2008, p. 449) but seeks a canonwide view of biblical themes assuming there is
a core unity within the diversity of texts due to
Gods unfolding revelation of himself to image
bearers across generations and cultures. Essential to the project of biblical theology is reading
the biblical text not only from a grammaticalhistorical perspective but ultimately through a
christotelic lens (Fesko, 2008). This approach to
understanding themes within the bible may
help avoid two common problems found in
many writings on healing: atomistic proof texts
based on an interpretation of single verse or
passage and experiences built into theological
models only partially supported by a wider
view of Scripture.1
Foundations for a
Biblical Theology of Healing
A biblical theology of inner healing (and our
activity in it) attempts to understand how the
entire body of Scripture weaves a picture of the
Divine Healer. This approach safeguards against
only using the etymology of a Hebrew or Greek
word, a verse (e.g., Exodus 15:26), or even the
larger accounts of Jesus healing ministry to
develop a theology of healing. Unfortunately,
with the exception of Brown (1995), many of
those who have written about healing have
focused intently on either one command such
as found in Luke 9:2, or the human elements of
healing and not on the character of the God
who heals. Below, we present an analysis of
the biblical language of healing including the
use of metaphor as it relates to psychological or
spiritual problems. Before providing some
questions to stimulate clinical application we
will explore Jesus healing ministry as it relates
to metaphorical healing imagery throughout
Scripture as well as explore the limits of healing
this side of heaven.

The Language of Healing in the Bible

Both the Old and New Testaments contain a
rich vocabulary of healing. In the New Testament, for example, Louw and Nida (1988) list 13
Greek words in the semantic domain, Health,
Vigor, Strength, and 43 words in the category,
Sickness, Weakness, Disease. Before reviewing
a number of these Greek words well explore
two Hebrew terms.
The Old Testament. One word that the Old
Testament (OT) uses to speak of healing is
haruwkah. Nehemiah 4:1 and 2 Chronicles 24:13
use the term to speak of the rebuilding of the
wall and of the temple, respectively. In these
cases it should be translated, rebuild, repair,
or restore. The word is found also in Isaiah
58:8, Then your light will break forth like the
dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and
the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Here the word is used in a metaphor to speak of
the healing of a nation. It is found in this sense
as well in Jeremiah 8:22, 30:17, and 33:6, referring to the spiritual restoration of Israel.
The Hebrew word rapha is found 69 times in
the OT in various forms. Its participial form is
rendered healer, or physician (e.g., Jeremiah
8:22). Elsewhere, Asa the king sought help from
physicians rather than from Yahweh (2 Chronicles 16:12). God identifies himself as Israels
physician in Exodus 15:26 when he claims, I
will put none of the diseases upon you which I
put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD, your
healer. However, the usual use of rapha is as a
temporal verb that depicts the action of restoration or physical healing. For example, priests in
Leviticus 14:3 are instructed in how to determine
if a leper is healed.
Repeatedly, God is shown to be sovereign
over restoration and healing, and over sickness
and death as evidenced in Genesis 20:17, Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech. Later, God has Israel recite the curses for
failing to follow Gods commands, The LORD
will smite you with the boils of Egypt, and with
the ulcers and the scurvy and the itch, of which
you cannot be healed (Deuteronomy 28:27-8). It
is God who heals the brokenhearted and binds
up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Such healings
include both actual physical healings and the
restoration of broken objects and relationships.
This metaphorical usage of healing in the OT
will be explored below.

The New Testament. The verb
(therapeuo , from which therapy is derived) and its
nominal cognate can be found 46 times in the
New Testament (NT). Although it is used (rarely)
to describe deliverance from evil spirits (Luke
8:2), its primary meaning is the healing or curing
of physical ailments (e.g., Matthew 4:23-24:
Jesus healing of epileptics and paralytics; 10:7-8:
instructions to disciples to heal the sick; 12:22:
the healing of a blind and dumb demoniac). In
most cases, (therapeuo ) has a meaning of physical healing.
(iaomai) also carries the sense of healing from sickness (e.g., Mark 5:29: healed of
her disease; Luke 5:17: Jesus given the power to
heal; Luke 6:19: for power came forth from
him and healed them all; James 5:16: healing by
the hands of elders).
- and
- denote

the state of being in good health. Jesus asks the
paralytic, Do you want to be healed? (John
5:6). Elsewhere Jesus says, People who are well
do not need a doctor (Luke 5:31).
- o)
- is usually translated save, as in

Matthew 1:21, He will save his people from
their sins. However, it also can carry the sense
of a cure. The demon-possessed man was
cured or saved of his legion (Luke 8:36). This
- o),
word has some affinity with
which also carries both senses of to save and
to heal. For example, the centurion sent to
- o)
- his slave (Luke 7:3).
Jesus to heal (diasoz
) properly means to
cleanse. This has particular significance in
relation to healing in the account of the ten
lepers in Luke 17:14-15. As they left Jesus they
were cleansed. One of them, when he saw
that he was healed (iaomai), turned back,
praising God. Thus, to be cleansed of leprosy is to be healedthe terms are in this
case synonymous.
- and

are glossed made strong and given completeness respectively. They are used synonymously
in Acts 3:16, By faith in Jesus, this manwas
made strong. It is Jesus name and the faith that
comes through him that has given this completeness to him, as you can all see. (holokleria)
indicates a state of wholeness, perfect health of
the body.
These various terms can, at times, be used
interchangeably. For example, in Acts 4:9-15 the
- are used
- o),
- (hygies),
- and (therapeuo)
terms (soz
to signify a single act of healing.




Analysis of the biblical words for healing.

The building blocks of a biblical theology are
the key words and phrases used in Scripture. We
see here that the terminology of healing in the
bible carries the sense of the restoration of what
is abnormal or unsound in the human body, be
it skin diseases, infirmity, wounds, paralysis,
epilepsy, blindness, hemorrhage, or any number
of other ailments. However, biblical writers
extend the meaning of these words to the
metaphoricalthus broadening the meaning
beyond the physical. Taken together any biblical
theological understanding of healing should consider both its physical and spiritual (or
metaphorical) aspects. It is the rhetoric of healing spiritual problems that we wish to turn now.
The Metaphorical Use of the
Language of Healing
The object of Hebrew rapha is many times
not an individual human being. Leviticus treats
the reconditioning of a house that had been contaminated with mildew as healing, pronounce
the house clean, for the disease is healed
(14:48). The object of the healing can be water
(Ezekiel 47:8), a potters vessel (Jeremiah 19:11),
or the altar of the Lord (1 Kings 18:30). These
uses illustrate the presence of spiritual healing as
metaphor to physical healing. In 2 Chronicles
7:14 the Israelites are corporately considered as a
single body suffering from a wound and in need
of treatment, If my people, who are called by
my name humble themselves, pray, and seek my
face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I
will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin
and heal their land. As noted above, Jeremiah
8:22 makes this same claim.
The OT metaphor of healing extends to psychological maladies. Jeremiah laments, They
have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, peace, peace, when there is no peace
(8:11). Here, to counsel the people with false
peace is to provide superficial help for their corporate wound. Proverbs 12:18 reads, There is
one whose rash words are like sword thrusts /
But the tongue of the wise brings healing. This
verse expressly places a counseling ministry in
the category of healing. While this usage is rare,
it is justifiably within the metaphorical employment of the word rapha.
The NT also uses the rhetoric of healing in a
metaphorical way. This can be seen with Peters
consideration of Isaiah 53:5 (With his stripes we
are healed). Isaiah depicts the torment of an





individual as bringing spiritual healing to a multitude. 1 Peter 2:24 interprets the verse in the
following way, He himself bore our sins in his
body on the tree, that we might die to sin and
live to righteousness. By his wounds you have
been healed. The wounds of Christ were physicalbut the healing to Christians is manifestly
not of the same order as Christs wounds. In
this sense, all Christians are healed, or are
being healed, regardless of the state of their
physical bodies.
Jesus himself uses physical healing as a
metaphor for other realities. In John 9, he heals
a man born blind. After the man is questioned at
length, Jesus says concerning the inquisitors,
For judgment I have come that the blind may
see and the sighted may become blind (9:39).
Thus, Jesus used the physical healing to point to
another kind of blindness that he also came to
heal. Throughout Johns gospel, miracles performed by Jesus are called signs which witness
to Jesus identity and mission (e.g., 4:64, 6:14,
12:18, etc.).
We argue that a full-orbed biblical theology
accounts for both the non-metaphorical usage of
the healing of a physical body and the
metaphorical usage pointing to spiritual or inner
healing. However, to depict the healing of the
people or the land as metaphorical does not
imply that a true restoration does not take place.
Brown (1992) argues that the restoration of
Israel would be as literal as her smiting had
been. A metaphorical healing is a true
healingin the sense of a restoration. And yet, it
is important to recognize (contra Brown) the
metaphorical use of the language since the processes involved in restoring the land or a wayward people are unlike those involved in
restoring a diseased body.
At this point, Jesus own ministry of healing
must be examined in greater detail. Why did
Jesus heal and what was his primary focus in his
healing activity?
Jesus Healing Ministry Points to
Something Greater
Out of compassion, Jesus heals (Matthew
14:14). Earlier, Matthew summarizes Jesus early
ministry in the following way,
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching
the good news of the kingdom, and
healing every disease and sickness
among the people. News about him

spread all over Syria, and people

brought to him all who were ill with
various diseases, those suffering
severe pain, the demon-possessed,
those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. (4:23-24)
This ministry is extended to the Twelve
(Matthew 10:7-8) and the Seventy-Two (Luke
10). Roughly speaking, these elements can be
organized into three distinct but related categories: healing the body, deliverance from Satan,
and proclamation (evangelism). In healing the
body, his work closely parallels the work of the
Levitical priests charged with inspecting diseased
persons. Contrary to the OT order, when Jesus
touched a leper, his cleanness made the
unclean leper clean, not vice versa. His proclamation of the kingdom echoes the call of the OT
prophets to turn from idols and other god-substitutes and to return to the Lord. His ministry of
deliverance illustrated his power over spirits and
is in the same category as calling upon the wind
and rain to be at peace.
Notice that each of these elements illustrated
that he is a king with authority of a new kingdom. If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God,
then the kingdom of God has come upon you
(Matthew 12:28). Jesus healing ministry thus has
an eschatological dimensionpointing to the
day when all will be set to rights. His miracles
actually do set things to rights, but they also
point beyond themselves to the future consummate restoration of all things.
Stories of Jesus healing ministry in Mathew 8
point to the coming kingdom. The healing of the
leper (8:1-4) concludes with Jesus command to
the man to show himself to the priest as a testimony of the coming kingdom. The healing of
the centurions slave (8:5-13) highlights the role
of faith in healing but the storys most powerful
point is that there is coming a day when Gentiles
will feast with the prophets while unbelieving
Israelites will be cast out. Later in the same
chapter Jesus heals Peters mother-in-law and
many possessed with demons. Verse 17 tells us
he healed these individuals in order to fulfill Isaiah 53:4, he took up our infirmities and carried
our diseases.
Chapter 9 of Matthew continues to provide
evidence that Jesus healing of physical illness
points to his ability to heal spiritual diseases.
He healed the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8) to
show he has authority to forgive sin. When

John the Baptist wondered if Jesus really was
the messiah, Jesus answered,
Are you the one who was to come,
or should we expect someone else?
Jesus replied, Go back and report to
John what you hear and see: The
blind receive sight, the lame walk,
those who have leprosy are cured,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
and the good news is preached to
the poor. Blessed is the man who
does not fall away on account of
me. (Matthew 11:3-6)
But some may wonder if Jesus exhortational
work is a genuine healing ministry. Luke 5:29-32
tells the story of Jesus eating with sinners. The
religious leaders demurred and Jesus answered,
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to
call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Here Jesus explicitly connects his calling sinners
to repentance with his healing power. Sinners
are afflicted with injurious unbelief and Jesus
teaching is one part of a unified healing ministry.
Joel Green (1997) writes,
Adopting other imagery more at
home in Luke 5, Jesus portrays toll
collectors and sinners as sick, and
himself as physician. Given the categories of illness and health developed in 5:12-26, this signifies the
psychosocial displacement of Jesus
tablemates. Indeed, Jesus thus draws
on traditional conceptualizations of
Yahweh as physician and of divine
redemption as healing. Against this
backdrop, healing is understood as
restoration to relationship with Yahweh and his peoplethat is, forgiveness. (p. 247-248)
Each of these passages make clear that Jesus
healings belong to a new order, bear witness to
his kingship and point both to a serious disease
and a solution at the consummation of all things.
His healing first and foremost illustrates his
authority and power to provide the greatest healingthat of restoring Gods people to himself by
means of forgiveness of sins. His work here connects to that of Gods call to the Israelites to turn
from their apostasy. In Jeremiah 3:22 and Hosea
14:4 God tells Israel he will heal their faithlessness (Hubbard, 1989)to bring them salvation




via a therapy of love (Mays, 1969, p. 187). The

bible seamlessly presents a God who, shows
that he is the physician who not only can help
[his people] in [their] external necessity, but
who can above all heal [their] obstinacy (Wolff,
1974, 235).
The connection between Jesus healing ministry and repentance and/or forgiveness should
not be ignored merely because some have suggested (wrongly) that all physical illness is the
result of unrepentant personal sin (e.g., John 9).
2 Chronicles 7:14 and James 5:14-16 connect
healing with confession of sin. As far as the
Bible is concerned, injurious unbelief and idolatry is part of human sickness and the cycle of
faith, repentance, and trusting Jesus in difficult
times is the therapy bringing healing to the hurting inner person.
Limits to Healing
Both the metaphorical usage of healing language in the bible and Jesus healing ministry
point to the necessity of spiritual healing and
redemption of Gods people. In 2 Corinthians
4:16-5:3 we see a distinction made between the
inner man and the outer man.
Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting
away, yet inwardly we are being
renewed day by day. For our light
and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far
outweighs them all. So we fix our
eyes not on what is seen, but on
what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary, but what is unseen is
eternal. Now we know that if the
earthly tent we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God, an
eternal house in heaven, not built by
human hands. Meanwhile we groan,
longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are
clothed, we will not be found naked.
According to Paul, God has given to Christians
his Spirit that dwells in the inner person, and
who renews the inner person even as the outer
person is wasting away. Later in chapter five (v.
18-20) Paul commands believers to work for the
healing and restoration of those estranged from
Gods love. This suggests, at minimum, that the
aspect of Jesus ministry still operative for today
is his healing work of the inner person. Encouraging both believer and unbeliever to repent





and believe the Gospel anew has affinity with

the component of Jesus supernatural power to
resurrect and regenerate hurting human souls.
While all who Jesus healed from physical disease later died, genuine healing of the inner life
lasts forever.
Building a Biblical Theology of
Inner Healing
Having labored through a number of biblical
texts related to Gods healing work we begin to
assemble the data into a coherent framework.
We will now highlight pieces of the framework
and conclude with recommendations and questions for counselors.
God Cares for and Heals/redeems
His People
From our study we can see that the God of the
Bible is concerned about the well-being of his
people. Both testaments point to Gods compassionate care for those who suffer. Both also
point to the need for a spiritual or inner healing
met ultimately in Christs redemptive work.
Physical and Inner Healing are not
Separate Ministries
God portrays himself as Israels healer and
divine doctor. In sharp contrast to other ancient
near-eastern deities, God need not be begged for
healing. He restores what is wrong, sick, broken,
sinful, or deficient out of the goodness of his own
heart. God is portrayed as the restorer of all that
is dysfunctional thus eliminating a false dichotomy between physical and spiritual disorders.
We see that three facets of Jesus kingdom
work (evangelism, deliverance, and healing)
were all aspects of a singular ministry. He did
not charge four of the Twelve, You heal, and
another four, You cast out evil spirits, and the
final four, you preach. Thus, followers of Jesus
naturally fulfill every aspect of his messianic
work of redeeming a people for God. Both testaments depict God as restoring all of creation by
reversing the curse.
The Primacy of Spiritual Healing
When we look at the entirety of Gods healing
activities in the bible we see an eschatological
emphasis. Gods healing of physical disease
points to his power to restore a relationship with
his people. Spiritual healing is commonly depicted as sound hearts and minds, as turning away
from sin and idols, as receiving Gods forgiveness and mercy. The OT uses the analogy of

physical disease in need of healing to depict

spiritual disease and the need for forgiveness
healing (e.g., Isaiah 1:5-6). Spiritual failings are
noted to be more devastating than physical illness (Brown, 1995).
The NT continues this theme as seen in that
the man born blind (John 9) and the paralytic
(Matthew 9) are both healed for the clear purpose of pointing to a need for spiritual healing.
Thus we see in both testaments that forgiveness
and spiritual healing are of great importance to
the story of Gods salvific work. Any theology of
healing should not so underline physical healing
as to miss the healing of injurious unbelief.
The Search for Physical or Inner Healing
The bible nowhere condemns the desire for
physical or inner healing. In one case, King Asa
is condemned for seeking healing apart from
God (2 Chronicles 16:12). It seems that it was
not because he sought out treatment from physicians, but that he avoided seeking the Lord as
Hezekiah had done (2 Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38:21).
The NT gives clear instructions for the sick
(James 5). We are to seek out elders, pray and
be prayed for, be anointed with oil,2 confess sin
and wait expectantly in faith. In sum, it appears
we are to faithfully seek healing from God even
when we pursue natural means.
Limitations to Gods Healing Work
It is impossible to ignore the relationship
between Gods healing work and the faith of
those being healed (e.g., Israels looking to the
bronze serpent, the Centurion, etc.). It appears
God sometimes denies inner healing if the
request for help is not authentic (e.g., Hosea
6:1f). And yet God declares himself faithful and
the one who brings about restoration (e.g.,
Zechariah 8:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:13) even when no
faith can be found in his people.
Healer is but one of Gods many identities. He
is also creator (Genesis 1), sustainer (Isaiah
46:4), and Judge (1 Samuel 2:10) among other
things. There are times when God seems to
allow illness (e.g., John 9) or refuse healing
(e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:7) for the benefit of the
sufferer. To suggest that God always wants us
well is to reject clear examples to the contrary in
the Biblical text. Thus counselors do well to
avoid the western cultural maxim that health is
everything, that God is not present in suffering,
or its oppositethat suffering itself is some
greater plain of spiritual connection to God. It is
clear that God uses both sickness and healing to

accomplish the goal of drawing his children to
himself. We are not privy to Gods sense of timing and so are free from the impossible task of
explaining why he chooses to heal some and not
others. Rather we groan in eager anticipation of
the time when the Kingdom reaches its fullness.
Human Roles in Healing
Throughout the biblical record, God uses
human activity in bringing about both physical
and spiritual healing. The prophets perform miracles. The disciples restore health. Second
Corinthians 5:16f clearly depicts the work of
believers as functioning as Gods ambassadors to
bring reconciliation to those still outside the
Kingdom. Clearly, God uses people to deliver his
healing power to heal, restore, and proclaim the
kingdom of God.
Does Satan Heal?
Though not the direct purview of this study,
this fundamental question should be part of any
theology of healing. If Satan has healing power,
then one would need to be wary of confusing
his healing with Gods. Biblically speaking, there
are a few brief passages that might shed some
light. Pharaohs group of sorcerers and magicians
seemed to be able to perform some miracles.
Simon, the sorcerer (Acts 8) performed magical
events that astonished people. The young fortune-telling girl followed Paul and prophesied. It
seems clear that Satan does have power to do
some miracles but they pale in comparison to
Gods immeasurable power. A more important
question for counselors may be whether Satan
can use desires for healing to distract attention
from the one who can heal? When clients seek
relief at any cost, do they maybe become vulnerable to therapists who counsel, Peace, peace,
when there is no peace (Jeremiah 8:11)?
Questions for Counselors Interested in
Developing a Practical Theology of Healing
Theological exploration of Gods healing activities should lead to praxis questions for the
Christian therapist. The following questions are
asked to stimulate the clinicians thinking.
Answers are not provided since they go beyond
the scope of this articles exploration of the
frame for a biblical theology.
What is my personal and professional stance
toward Gods healing activities?
If God heals today, how does my clinical activity reflect that reality? Do I emphasize or minimize




either the dramatic illustrations of healing or the

lifelong healing forms (e.g., daily saying no to
addictive temptations)? Would observers of my
work recognize that I see God as the divine healer? Does my work over or under-emphasize the
prospects for spiritual, emotional, or physical
healing today? Do I rely on tools for healing in
a manner that suggests the power lies in a particular methodology? How do I respond to clients
who, in the words of Bouma, Diekema, Langerak, Rottman, and Verhey (1989, pp. 4-5), are, in
danger of making the bodyand its health and
vigorsome kind of idol, something worshiped
[sic], an object of ultimate concern?
When clients describe their need for healing
(e.g., Im not sure why I struggle with resentment I just cant seem to forgive him? I just
wish God would heal me.), how do we
respond? How do we respond when clients seem
to seek dramatic forms of healing or appear passively waiting for something to change their
heart? How do we avoid an all/nothing approach
to healing that minimizes the day-by-day restoration and the human activity of faith and repentance without implying a promise of full
deliverance from various sufferings?
How do I describe the human portion of the
healing process? Do I see myself, my relational
skills as healing another or providing treatment
while waiting for Gods healing activity (Allen,
How do I respond to Client questions about
the causes of sickness?
Do I encourage or discourage those seeking to
understand the causes of spiritual, emotional, or
physical ailments? Do I imply that we can know
what message God might be sending through
inner turmoil (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.)? Do
I foreclose others efforts to explore personal sin
in light of their dysfunctions? How might I
respond to Powlisons (1995) encouragement to
help clients reflect on and confess sins exposed
by illness?
[Sickness] frequently bring varied
sins to the surface. Sickness may be
a judgment on sin, either as natural
consequence or a specific punishment. Or it may occasion temptations to sin: fears, despair, self-pity,
selfishness, anger, escapism, regret,
grumbling, trusting medicine, trust
faith healers, denying reality, and so
forth. Or sickness may prompt self-





examination that brings awareness of

previously unseen sins. Sickness creates tremendous counseling opportunities to minister the grace of Christ
and to help people grow in faith and
obedience. (p. 90)
Should I separate physical, emotional, and
spiritual healing?
At minimum, the Scriptures depict Gods physical and spiritual healing activity as part of a
unified plan for restoration. But where do we
place emotional healing such as eliminating
panic, depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,
etc.? At the start of the article we defined inner
healing as, a divine work bringing growth or
positive spiritual change to painful or distorted
perceptions, experiences, habits, or emotions of a
person. The clinician astutely notices that such a
definition rather vaguely speaks of positive spiritual change. Does this mean that a person
might find positive spiritual growth while continuing to be flooded with fears of abandonmentand call that healing? Might they call
healing the ability to not give in to compulsive
activities despite intrusive thoughts of having
struck someone on the way to work? Ought
counselors to encourage clients to separate
inner (spiritual and emotional) from (e.g., neurological, behavioral) aspects of healing?
Am I comfortable with the healing work found
in repentance, faith, and forgiveness? Am I comfortable talking about sin and guilt with my
clients (McMinn, 2008)? Do I see my work as
helping some find forgiveness and repentance
and experience restored connections to God?
Am I inclined to reduce feelings of guilt without
exploring the possibility of the need for healing
through repentance?
How am I utilizing prayer as part of
healing work?
It is easy to fall into the trap of fatalism and
deismthat God is distant, setting the world in
motion, but does not act to sustain or heal. The
biblical text contains constant dialog between
God and his people. Jesus ordains that we pray
for our daily needs and for forgiveness (Luke
11). Do we pray for healing? Do we pray for
healing with our clients? Does our work show
that we value prayer as much as developing
creative homework or treatment planning? Is
prayer a first-order intervention or a last-resort
cry for help?

Despite these many pages, we have only
brushed the surface in attempting to form a tentative but full-orbed biblical theology of inner healing. God and human activity in healing is a
complex issue with many convoluted human
interpretations. In an effort to provide a clearer
picture of Gods healing presence in the world, in
general, and in counseling, in specific, we have
attempted to develop a broader understanding of
the biblical data regarding Gods character and his
activity in healing a broken and fallen creation. If
one believes the Bible reveals God himself then
we can say with confidence that he is a healing
God and that he chooses to break into our lives
despite our lack of faith and knowledge of his
character. Christian counselors participate with
Gods healing activity when they point the broken
to the one who is and will continue to restore his
creation. While therapeutic work often explores
past and present, the Christian counselor pays
attention to the eschatological aspects of Gods
healing activities and the already/not yet features of the kingdomthat God actively heals by
restoring right relationship with his people.
1. All authors write from a particular point of view.
We freely admit that we both work from a Reformed
theological understanding of Gods sovereignty over all
things. Within the Reformed community of believers
some assert that the charismatic gifts of healing and
prophecy were given to the Apostles but cease to be
gifts available to believers today. Others believe that
these gifts are indeed given to us today. This debate
need not interfere with our consideration of inner healing as both groups of believers believe God does heal
today even if some do not believe we should seek the
extraordinary gifts (e.g., Gaffin, 1996).
2. There is some debate about the meaning of the
text here, whether anointing with oil refers to common
medical practices or a ceremonial rite to invite Gods
healing. If, as many think, that it refers to a medical
practice, then it appears that we are to use medical
technology but place our faith squarely upon God.

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Philip G. Monroe, Psy.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology and director of the Masters of Counseling program at Biblical Seminary, Hatfield, PA. His
clinical work focuses on individuals with trauma and
addictions issues as well as those in full-time ministry. His
research interests include the use of scripture in clinical
settings, pastor stress responses, and counseling pedagogy.
George M. Schwab, Sr., Ph.D. is Professor of Old Testament at Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, SC. He
has prior training and practice in pastoral counseling.
His current research interests focus on Old Testament
wisdom literature. Recent commentary publications
include works on the Song of Songs, Proverbs, Daniel
and a forthcoming work on Judges.