IF right now, someone told you they could make whatever illness or struggle you are facing go away, would you accept the offer?
Now before you answer what you may think is the obvious response, I want to draw your attention to a story in John, chapter 5.
In this story there is a pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda which was known for its healing properties. Many people with physical limitations and disabilities would come to this pool in the hopes of being healed when the water was stirred.
The passage focuses in on one particular man. He is lying by the side of this magical healing pool and has been an invalid for 38 years. Thirty-eight years!
Enter Jesus. He sees the man and knowing how long he’d been in this condition, asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”
Let me repeat that. “Do you want to be healed?”
Now pause there, because I want you to honestly think about this question. Think about whatever it is you may struggle with. Whether it is mental health related or otherwise? If Jesus asked you that question would you immediately say yes?
Because for me, yes hasn’t always been the immediate answer. As many times as I have begged God to take away my eating disorder, there have been so many times I didn’t know if I really wanted to recover. Why? Because my food intake is something I can control when fear and insecurities overwhelm me. It is something that I know and understand. To release that is, quite frankly, terrifying. It may be stepping into freedom, but it is also stepping into the unfamiliar - the unknown.
So you have to think about what saying yes meant for this man. He has been living like this for almost four decades. It’s all he’s known. It’s been his entire life.
Once he is healed - hallelujah! He can walk! There’s probably some rejoicing for a little while. But then he has to face what that means.
He will no longer be sitting by the side of the pool in waiting. He will have this whole new life he has to figure out full of insecurities and new fears, temptations, and possibilities. He will literally have to learn how to navigate a new world.
I imagine this man had long given up his childhood prayers of being able to walk again. Nearly four decades of silence will do that to you. “Do you want to be healed?” The question itself is almost rude. You wouldn’t go up to a stranger in a wheelchair today and ask them if they want to walk again.
I imagine the guy thinking, What kind of a question is that? Doesn’t this guy know if I could be healed I would have done that a long time ago?
And so he answers Jesus, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. Wile I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
In simpler words, “I can't” This man had become so accustomed to his life that I think he may have forgotten how to dream that things could be different. Maybe Jesus was asking him this question to remind him to dream.
Have we forgotten our dreams? Or maybe we haven't forgotten, but how many times have we explained to God why (fill in the blank) is just not possible? Cause let’s be real, 2020 has crushed a lot of our hopes and plans. Life can be scary and overwhelming. Rejection and shame can be a heavy burden to carry, especially if you've been holding onto it for years.
Sometimes, it’s easier to shut down and numb out in whatever capacity that might look like. Whether it’s restricting food, drinking, drug abuse, self-harm, binge-watching Netflix, repeatedly sleeping all day, pornography, casual sex, you name your poison. These things can keep us trapped, but they also provide a false facade of safety from our greatest fears by taking up brain space so we no longer have to deal with the real issues of our lives. And I think it’s a way of the enemy to keep us from dreaming.
In treatment one counselor told me this, “You have three options: you can continue to live in this misery for the rest of you life, you can fight the uphill battle to recovery, or you will die.” Blunt, but true. And though I've wrestled with it, I know the only answer worth pursuing is to fight the uphill battle.
So I ask you, do you want to be healed? Do you want to be whole? Do you want to live the life that God has opened for you? Are you willing to fight the battle towards that freedom?
We have to be willing to trust that God will be with us in the chaos as we let go of our strongholds and step out in faith. The man in this story was healed instantaneously, and while God can indeed heal in a moment, I believe healing is more often a process where God tenderly whispers into our soul how much he loves us and helps us navigate the uncharted waters until we arrive at calm seas again.
I want a chance at sailing on those calm, peaceful seas. I want to live in that freedom. The promise from God is that we will arrive, if not in this life, then in Heaven. We will be made whole.
I've had Jesus come knocking at the door of my heart many times asking, "Do you want to be healed?" Sometimes I've said yes, and other times no. But God continues to pursue me even when I'm not leaning into that freedom. He's pursuing you too, and he will keep pursuing you because He never gives up on his children. So now, I'm saying yes to that question and trusting in the process that healing takes, with all the crashes and waves. I'm keeping my eyes set on God’s promise of healing and of freedom. What will your answer be?