The message for ladies struggling with drug and alcohol addiction rested quietly in my notebook. My outline on grace was simple – one I thought would resonate with ladies who humbly admitted their unhealthy choices. I prayed that my newfound passion would be evident, and that it would entice others to want the Jesus I had finally found. I asked the Holy Spirit to lead the way.
For the past few months, I had tried to dissect my Jesus-is-enough journey so that I might breadcrumb a path for others. Bookshelves at my house overflow with books from authors who have tried to do the same thing. All of them talk about accepting grace for ourselves and others, the Holy Spirit’s power, our need to realize the love God has for us, taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Jesus, putting the past behind us once and for all, improving our self-talk, thinking positively, forgiveness, etc., etc., etc.
The pandemic pressed the pause button on our time at the rehab center. No longer could our little tribe of “church ladies” receive the blessing of witnessing their transformation from fearful to faithful. Hidden were our stark, once-a-month reminders of God’s redeeming love. We sorely missed experiencing the Holy Spirit as He moved powerfully through that room. Then finally, with the coming of May, restrictions were lifted, the play button was pressed, and we were in fast-forward mode.
However! The day before I was to share my message on grace, the Holy Spirit said, “Not so fast!” He kept leading me back to one of my favorite familiar stories in the gospel of John. I read it and reread it until I saw what He wanted me to share. I believe He wants me to share it with you as well.
You most likely know the story. A paralyzed man is sitting inside the city of Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate next to a pool that supposedly possesses healing powers. He’s been an invalid for 38 years. Perhaps, for as many years, friends have taken him to the pool and left him there for the day. His only job is to wait for the “healing” waters to stir and then be the first one into the pool to receive healing. There are many other sick people wanting the same thing. Of course, it’s hard for a paralyzed man to move quickly, so he never makes it. Someone else always gets there first. Yet, he sits there day after day.
Jesus shows up on the scene and singles out this man. He doesn’t begin with a process for healing; He begins with a single question. It’s the question that I and all those authors on my shelf seemed to skip past. It’s a question that captivated the attention of the ladies in rehab. To them, to the paralyzed man, to you, and to me, Jesus is asking one simple question: “Do you want to get well?”
There were ladies in the rehab center who were only there because someone else wanted them there. Parents. Children. Husbands. Boyfriends. Their goal was not to get to the root of their issues and find healing for their addiction; their goal was to pacify the people they love.
It takes great courage and faith to believe God can heal you from something that’s been with you for years. It’s so much easier to just sit on the sidelines than to muster the energy to actually move. The sidelines keep us out of the spotlight of expectation. If we hide behind our sickness or weakness, then nothing is expected of us. We find comfort sitting right where we’ve always been. We may ask ourselves, “If I get well, what will I have to change? If I get stronger, what will I be asked to do?” A better question might be, “If I stay just like I am, what will I miss?”
As far as we know, the paralyzed man never answered the question out loud. He immediately blamed his lack of healing on those who got in his way or on those who never offered to help him into the pool. Some of us might be guilty of the same thing. It’s so much easier to blame our circumstances and/or the people who’ve hurt us rather than courageously entering into the healing process. It’s easier to complain than to do. Counselors may offer us wise counseling, but until we want to get well we’ll never take the first step.
I can’t help but believe that the paralyzed man saw in the eyes of Jesus a glimmer of himself totally healed. There’s something about the presence of Jesus that changes the way we see ourselves. Can you see yourself as healed from pride, worry, doubt, depression, anger, bitterness, or any other thing you might be addicted to? (Yes, we’re all addicted to something.) Can you picture yourself as abundantly joyful, totally content, and enormously thankful?
Jesus told the paralyzed man to do only three things: Get up, pick up your mat, and walk. When we become serious about following Jesus we will confidently take that first step and jump to our feet. We’ll put away our old comforts, habits, and hurts. Then, we will run to tell others what Jesus has done for us. We can’t make someone else want to be healed, but we can show them what healed looks like!
Do you want to get well?
“A short time later, Jesus found the man at the temple and said to him, ‘Look at you now! You’re healed! Walk away from your sin so that nothing worse will happen to you.’ Then the man went to the Jewish leaders to inform them, ‘It was Jesus who healed me!’” (John 5:14-15, TPT)