f you’ve ever had a loved one trapped in an addiction, you know that unless there’s a desire to be released from the vise grip squeezing life from one’s bones, little will change. I have a friend whose history includes a long series of awful choices: poor nutrition, no exercise, erratic sleep, and repeated engagement in stressful activities. All this has slowly deteriorated her body and soul. She’s encountered a number of health scares and stern words from doctors. For a few weeks she’ll say she’s making radical adjustments. Inevitably, though, she returns to her usual ways. The fact is, she does not truly want anything different. She wants her unhealthy life more than she wants to be well. I cannot cast stones. At times I see this pattern in my own story.
The plain truth is that if we are to be well (whether health for our body or restoration in our family or renewed vigor in our life with God), then we have to want to be well. We have to nurture our cravings for God and goodness; these deep desires aren’t ancillary—they are essential. Augustine of Hippo said, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire.” Jesus had much to say about the importance of paying keen attention to the affections of our heart, stoking the flames of good hunger while squelching every false fire.
The fifth chapter of John’s Gospel recounts for us the story of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. There, the infirm hoped to receive one of the healings that reportedly transpired whenever an angel miraculously churned the waters. The name of the pool gives a hint of the encounter that was about to take place. In Aramaic, Bethesda means “house of grace” and in Hebrew, “house of mercy.” Whenever Jesus arrives, mercy and grace are sure to arrive as well.
WE OFTEN ABANDON OUR DESIRE FOR WHOLENESS BECAUSE WE ARE DEEPLY AFRAID.
A man, ill for 38 years, had long been lying beside the pool, crippled and waiting for the slim possibility that his life might change. In the first century, to be crippled meant you were unable to earn a living for your family and were often ostracized from your community. To endure chronic ailments or disabilities was not only a physical hardship, but also an impenetrable barrier to a normal life.
When Jesus arrived, He found the man and asked him the most basic question: Do you want to be well? Or as older translations put it, “Will you be made whole?” The crippled man’s response surprises me. I would expect a quick and unequivocal Yes! More than anything! Now! However, the beleaguered man’s reply gives evidence of the many years of disappointment, the decades of waiting until his optimism had been bled dry. “Sir,” he replied, “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me” (v. 7). We hear little hope in the man’s sad reply. No anticipation that Jesus might help him. Decades of pain and dashed possibilities brought him to the place where all he could see was a sealed fate, a grim future.
There are many reasons why we find it difficult, in our broken places, to stay connected with our desire for something more. To hope for (to live with the deep desire for) healing can itself be an excruciating act. It is painful to hold to our desire for friendship when the lack of it only accentuates our aching loneliness. It is painful to stay attuned to our hope to be free of anger or fear or self-righteousness when it means we must dismantle our sinful behaviors or reckon with the lies we’ve employed to manage our life.
We often abandon our desire for wholeness because we are deeply afraid. While the reality of our life may be far less than what we had expected, over time we make a certain kind of détente with our brokenness. It becomes what we know. It’s a fearful thing to surrender the security of the present (no matter how disappointing or painful it may be) for the uncertainty of the future.
Calling the Great Physician
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Mark 2:17 (NIV)
Recently I came down with an infection. After ten days of misery, I finally went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis. Feeling much better after a few days of antibiotics, I wished I had sought out a physician’s help sooner, preventing all those days of unnecessary suffering!
As I considered my stubbornness in deciding to call on a doctor, I thought about how our walk with Christ is often just like that.
For example, we have problems in our lives, but we think we are qualified to handle them ourselves. We have burdens, but we assume we can carry the weight on our own. We have questions, but don’t really trust God to supply the answers. We need help, but stubbornly refuse to ask.
Some people call God the “The Great Physician.” Although we think of this in terms of physical healing, Jesus walked the earth to provide something more: spiritual healing.
In Mark 2:13-17, the Pharisees asked Jesus why He was eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus explained that He came so we would know Him, and be healed from the inside out. You see, if the world were a righteous place, there would have been no need for a Savior. But God knew just how much we needed a Great Physician. Out of compassion for us, He sent His Son to fill that role. In order to tap into His healing power, we simply have to seek Him. And the sooner, the better.
In another recent situation, I quickly and desperately sought God’s intervention. A few days later, I happened to notice I felt a peace I could not explain. In fact, I was confused as to why I was so calm. I thought to myself, “Why am I not obsessing about that problem every second? Why am I not more distraught and worried?”
Then God quickened my heart and reminded me that I had turned that problem over to Him. He had taken the weight off of my shoulders. He had given me spiritual healing in the form of peace.
I had sought a cure from the Great Physician, and He had provided it. Not a cure for the problem, but a cure for my heart as I dealt with the problem under His care.
If you need a physician who knows your suffering, understands how you are feeling, and has the cure, make an appointment to spend time with God today.
Dear Lord, forgive me for sometimes coming to You for help only after I have exhausted all efforts to handle the problem on my own. Please fill me with a peace that surpasses all understanding in the situations I am facing. Grant me spiritual healing, and help me see You working in and through me. Thank You for always being available and on call. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
While most people today accept disease and death as “normal” parts of life, they were never God’s original intention. When the world was first created, the Bible records, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Disease and death only entered the world after Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord and allowed satanic forces to gain a foothold on humankind (Genesis 3).
When Jesus came to earth, He announced that God’s Kingdom was at hand. He healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the multitudes and raised the dead. All of this was a demonstration of the blessings God intended at His original creation.
If you or a loved one is in need of healing today, remember that Jesus is your Great Physician. When He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, He healed “ALL kinds of sickness and ALL kinds of disease” (Matthew 4:23). So no matter what kind of healing you might need, Jesus is ready to be your Healer!
Your Promises from God’s Word
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
—3 John 1:2
“Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
“The whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.”
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.”
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.”
“If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”
“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
“These signs will follow those who believe…They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”