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Finding God in the Story of Your Life

Spiritual healing

Do you want to be well? Do you live as if you do? Because we do not drift into wellness–physical, spiritual or otherwise.

The fifth chapter of John’s gospel opens with a jarring story. Jesus encounters a man lying beside a pool that, according to superstition, held healing powers–the pool of Bethesda. The word Bethesda means House of Mercy.

He learns just a fragment of the man’s story (although you could argue that Jesus, being Divine, knew the man’s story before he even met him). That fragment was this: he had been lying there by the pool for 38 years. Nearly four decades!

Still, Jesus’ question doesn’t seem overly compassionate. He asks him, “Do you want to get well?” An odd question to pose to someone who’s been crippled most of his life. Or is it?

Now, the printed page does not provide clues on tone of voice. The writer adds no adverb to clue us in (such as “sarcastically”). We don’t know the subtext: whether it was “you poor thing” or “come on, what’s your problem?”

But the man’s answer does offer us insight. Instead of saying “yes, I want to get well,” he launches a litany of excuses that dance dangerously close to whining. It’s not his fault, it’s everyone else’s fault. But I do not imagine Jesus being sarcastic or impatient. Yet he refuses to coddle. He simply wants to know: do you want to get well?

In many ways, this is the question we must answer with our lives every day. Do we want to get well? Because we will not drift into wellness. We must decide that is where we want to go. Even if we are not lying crippled by a pool, we are either getting better daily, or we are not. We are expecting miracles, or not?

I think Jesus’ question to this crippled man actually began the process of healing. But as it does for many of us, this process took some time. It is a question that can begin our healing: do you want to get well? Do we dare to say yes, and embrace the challenges that living a spiritually and emotionally healed life will bring?

Jesus questions him, he makes excuses. Jesus heals him (physically), he walks away. But then religious leaders question him–who healed you on the Sabbath? He again makes excuses. “It’s not my fault, it was that man who healed me.” In many ways, his answer shows that he was not fully healed, from an emotional or spiritual standpoint. He was still blaming others, still making excuses. He was still, in ways that truly matter, not well, despite the fact that his legs were functional again. His soul was still in need of deeper healing.

A little while later, Jesus finds him and again, refuses to take the route of enabling. “Stop sinning,” he says, in no uncertain terms. In other words, “snap out of it. Embrace the truth: you’re healed. Life like that’s true.” He takes the healing to the next level–the soul level.

The man’s own issues, his tendency to blame others for his problems, get in the way of his complete healing. Yes, he can walk. But is he truly free? Only when he decides that he will be.

How much is blaming others getting in the way of your healing–whether spiritual, emotional or physical? How many excuses keep you from moving forward?

 

10 Comments

  1. Asking questions seems to be where God often starts with his people, and making excuses seems to be a common response to those questions. Sometimes God does it through his prophets (I think of Moses coming down from the mountain and questioning Aaron about the golden calf, or Samuel questioning Saul about why he did not totally destroy the enemy), and sometimes God engages someone directly as Jesus did here or as Job found out when God asked, “Who is this that darkens my counsel?” One thing about Job, though, is that the only excuse he made was that he realized he didn’t know what he was talking about. That seems like a good answer to me.

    Thanks for helping me think through these things today, Keri. Hope the rest of your weekend goes well. (Mine is a long one with a holiday tomorrow!)

    Tim

    • Thanks, Tim.
      thanks for your insights, as always. A friend and I were talking about healing, and I am on a journey myself these days of change–which seems to be positive, altho it’s sometimes hard to tell at first… Just thinking about these things. And it’s a holiday here in Illinois, too, which means my son is off school, there’s no mail delivery–but most people are working, including me!

  2. “Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.”
    - Wendell Berry

  3. Thanks, Jen! what a great quote. And that’s the issue today, isn’t it? Despite how connected we are electronically, we often wrestle with a deep soul loneliness.

  4. Keri

    I have a frined who I mentor who was severely wounded by abuse in her childhood.
    your book sounds like something she might use to connect with God’s love.
    This is her deepest need and her deepest problem — trusting God, and letting Him love her.
    My funds are small as a 70-year old retiree. Even to consider buying your wonderful book that sounds just PERFECT for Carol, I don’t know that I can do so.
    I am not going to be able to be with Carol this winter and want to know there is someone or something that can connect her with her Savior while we are apart. We will do email and phone calls, but she is not as open in those circumstances as when face to face.
    To win this contest and have the book to give Carol would mean much to me and, hopefully, a great deal to Carol.
    I thank God for your work and pray He will continue to pour into your life those anointed words that He has faithfully delivered to you over the years. We are blessed in this country to have women of faith like you to bring God’s words of comfort and strength in this challenging hour.
    So, no matte who wins, I rejoice that I found your facebook page today and then your website, and then the opportunity to leave some “treasure” for my spiritual daughter, Carol.
    thank you
    Audrey

    • Audrey, I tried to email you to let you know that you’ve won a copy of Cultivating Character, but the email bounced back. Please let us know how to reach you by email.

    • Audrey, please let me know your email address so that we can correspond, I want to send you a copy of the book mentioned this week!

  5. Audrey, so glad that you found us today. Thanks for joining the conversation. We’ll enter you in today’s drawing.
    And how wonderful that you have adopted Carol as a “spiritual daughter” and seek to help her find healing. I hope you’ll invite her to read this blog–she may find encouragement here as well!

  6. Good article – great observations. I love your point about having to deal with the consequences of being healed.

    I ran into your post looking for an image for my blog on the same thing. I borrowed your image. if you would rather I didn’t i will find another.

    Thanks

    Ben

    • Nice to meet you Ben. And I like your take on the passage about the man at the pool of Bethesda. And thanks for linking to my blog.

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