I was a part of a conference (actually, one of the hosts of the event). It was on pastoral diagnosis and pastoral care. One person asked an interesting question for the main speaker to answer. The specific malady was depression, but it could have been a whole host of different concerns. The questioner asked which is better: to receive fast healing from a called, anointed man or woman of God, or slow treatment as is usually prescribed by pastoral care (or psychotherapy).
The wording of the question made me think that the questioner placed a high value on a more miraculous or instant healing rather than a slower process. Frankly, however, the question is not really that simple. Having gone through a period of considerable distress/depression in my younger years, the context of the specific question is pretty relevant to me. But if the problem was something else– addiction for example– the same thought process would apply.
- Fast. When I was in the middle of my depressive state (I was never formally diagnosed with clinical depression), there is no doubt what my choice would be… I want to get better FAST. The sooner the better. And in most undesirable circumstances the same answer would be given… from obesity, the panic attacks, to cancer. We want a quick fix.
- Slow. However, when I am out of the crisis, upon reflection, I want a slow fix. Quick fixes tend to create relapse. Poverty that is cured by a lottery win tends to return to poverty because the winner did not learn the skills of handling money that comes with a slow acquisition of sound financial habits. Rapid weight loss tends not to last, because there was no associated discipline and change of lifestyle. The mental discipline of “riding out the depressive storm” has helped me never go as deep as I did back then. In many many situations slow healing is better.
But what does God prefer… FAST or SLOW? Again this is not an easy answer.
- Fast. Sometimes God seems to want to act fast. Jesus was compelled by compassion to provide miraculous healing at times. The term compassion does here seem to be key. Compassion suggests feeling the same pain as the helpseeker. Feeling the pain the helpseeker has would certain motivate the caregiver to want to help in a fast way, if he or she has that ability. Additionally, sometimes God works in a fast way as a sign, pointing to some truth the helpseeker, or the community in which the helpseeker resides, needs to learn.
- Slow. It seems, however, that a great majority of times God prefers the slow route. Education appears to be a slow process. The Shema points to a regular slow process for training up children. Spiritual growth, even for adults appears to be a slow process. The metaphor of Psalm 1 of a mature believer as a tree is related to a slow process of obedience and meditation on God’s Word. The illustrations of soldier, athlete, and farmer in II Timothy 2 point towards hard work and endurance as a Christian living out their salvation. Even though Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would tell His disciples what to say when needed, this came only after three years of formal and informal instruction/mentoring. God prefers the slow process for wisdom it seems. Even though Solomon was theoretically granted instantaneous wisdom… the lack of discipline still appeared to create chaos in some of his later decisions. Generally, God seems to prefer slow… usually.
Jesus grew slowly. Luke 2:52 states,
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
The term “grew” is not a bad term, but the Greek “proekopten” suggests moving forward or advancing. I might like the term “journeyed.” Jesus grew or advanced:
- Psychoemotionally… in discernment… in judgment
- Physically… in size… in relation to the world around Him
- Spiritually… in disciplined relationship to the Father
- Socially… in relationship to His family, community, and other people.
The period covers by this verse covers Jesus entire growing process, and is the only verse that covers the period from age 12 to 30. That is fairly slow.
In Jesus’ case, there are moments when FAST happens— the resurrection occurred in a 3-day period. But His incarnation and preparation to be the Suffering Servant, was SLOW.
For me, when in moments of turmoil, I certainly may be prone to seek to be healed, fixed, or changed FAST. But at other times, I must remind myself that God’s best usually comes SLOW.