I recently listened to a sermon on John 5:1-18. This is the story of the lame man that has been lying by the pool of Bethesda with numerous other sick people-blind, crippled, paralyzed, etc.-all waiting for the pool to bubble up so that they could get into the waters and potentially be healed. In the story, Jesus approaches a man who had been lying by this pool for 38 years. Upon seeing him, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” The invalid man responded, “Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool, but while I am trying to come myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus then heals the man and tells him to pick up his mat and walk.
I’ve read this story numerous times and have heard many sermons on it focusing on different aspects of this story. But when I was listening to the verses this past weekend, I heard God ask ME: “Do YOU want to be healed?”
My immediate response was: Me? Healed? Healed from what God? My Chrons? Sure…but, God, I want CHRIS to be healed, not me.
That’s when I realized something I hadn’t before. We all carry our own ailments; they’re just not always seen outwardly with our physical eyes. Right now, my ailments are rooted in fear, hurt, pride, unforgiveness, anger, selfishness.
I have read this story for years and have always wondered how this man could lie SO CLOSE to his healing, yet for 38 YEARS NEVER do WHATEVER it took to be healed. Then I realized I was no different. How many years have I had access to the ultimate healer and had the fruit of the Holy Spirit living IN ME which is POWERFUL enough to heal me of ALL of my ailments, yet, I’ve held onto them; always blaming someone or something else for the reason why I can’t let go and be ‘healed.’
My conversations became, “God, it’s not my fault. I tried to be forgiving or kind, but then…” “God, it’s not my fault. I tried to trust, but then…” “God, it’s not my fault. I tried to be generous, but then….” Time and time again, I tell God why I’m the victim. Why I can’t help the fact that I still carry my heart sicknesses when I’m so close to the One who can cure and restore me fully. It was in this moment that when God asked me if I wanted to be healed; I realized I hadn’t.
Sure, I knew I SHOULD want to forgive; to be more trusting of God; more selfless; more loving, but, there was a benefit to me staying the ‘victim’. If I was a victim, I had a reason for not stepping out in faith. If I was a victim, I had a reason for not doing the hard work of being kind and loving to someone who hurt me. If I was the victim, I could rationalize my lack of progress in doing the hard work God called me to do. It simply was not my fault.
When I stepped back and examined my heart and my choices, I realized that I had allowed the enemy to deceive me to keep me trapped in a victim-mentality, hamster wheel. As long as I stayed the victim, I would never be able to fully step into the faith-filled life God is calling me into. I would not only miss countless blessings, but I would miss the opportunities to minister to countless others. Not only did I need to choose the hard work of allowing God to heal me for me, but I needed to do it for the people God has planned for me to reach as part of His kingdom work.
My remaining to stay ‘sick’ was costing me and them. Maybe you, like me, have read this story countless times and always mistakenly thought, as I did, that if it had been you, you would’ve inched your way into the pool in 38 years. BUT, between us, if we’re being honest, is there an unseen ailment that you have been carrying around for a long time, too? Something you’d like healing from, but for some reason, haven’t wanted to be healed from it? If so, will you join with me in praying about it? Name it and ask God to heal you from it. Ask God to show you how you can let it go and lay the ailment down in your ‘pool of Bethesda’ and carry it no more. And when God DOES heal you, share about it with others and encourage them to be healed too.
Ultimately, our God is a loving God who only wants the very best for us. Carrying our sicknesses around is hurting us more than we realize. Let them go. Lay them down and allow the One who loves you to heal you as he did the invalid man. And once healed, pick up your mat and clean up the mess your sickness has created in your life, too.
If doing this were easy, you would’ve chosen healing a long time ago. But, God also would not be offering to heal you (and me) and tell us to ‘take up our mat’ if it couldn’t be done. The choice is ours. Do YOU want to be healed?