Let me tell you a story.
There once was a man who could not walk. For 38 years, he lay by a pool thought to have healing powers. The idea was that occasionally, the waters would stir and whoever could get into the pool would be healed. For 38 years, this man watched the sick move into the water. And for 38 years, he could not reach it.
One day, Jesus passed by this man and noticed him. When he heard how long the man had been there, he walked over to him and asked, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:1-6)
At first, the question amazes me. How could Jesus ask that? Isn’t it obvious?
In what seems like a humorous childhood memory, I recall the young girl who hoped her sore throat would still be there in the morning so she could spend one more day watching movies instead of going to school. I laugh and think, “I guess I get it.”
But then I remember myself at twenty-two. I remember sitting in a therapist’s office and talking about my eating disorder; and I remember the subtle sense of satisfaction I felt. I remember how much I hated the thought of it actually being gone one day.
I remember a hurt and angry wife; staring at her husband with tears in her eyes and knowing that no matter what he said, anger seemed to taste better than forgiveness. I remember understanding the change and sacrifice required to heal - and wishing I could just stay mad instead.
Yeah, I definitely get Jesus’ question.
We may talk a big talk, but at some point, many of us have to admit that we don’t truly want to be healed. At least not everywhere. It’s easier to be sick. It’s easier to feel like the victim. It’s easier to list the problems over the solutions.
Healing takes work. Whether it’s mental/emotional health, relationships, lifestyle choices or spiritual emptiness, it takes less energy to stay ill than it does to get well. Getting well requires sacrifice – time, money, attitudes, habits, pride, victimhood – we typically are asked to lay something down in order to become healthy.
And so, we resist. Excuses form. We claim that we cannot get well for a reason outside ourselves; when truthfully, we are looking for a reason to stay outside the pool.
Anxiety, depression, over-eating, under-eating, unhealthy lifestyles, dangerous relationships, painful seasons of marriage, habits we keep in secret…or in public…and any other unhealthy aspect of our lives – whatever it is, we must answer the question. Do we want to get well?
As you determine where you are on that road, consider the following:
How do I respond to advice or suggested solutions? When someone offers a possible step in resolving the problem, do you immediately respond with a reason that it won’t work? Or do you listen and consider?
We often say, “I can’t”, when what we really mean is, “I won’t,” or, “I don’t want to.” One of the biggest problems with this is that we end up believing it’s true; when the truth is that God has offered us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Whether or not we take Him up on it, well that’s up to us.
What do I like about this place? Am I reluctant to give that up? Be really honest with this one. Is there something satisfying about staying angry with your husband? Do you like knowing people are worried about you? What do you like about this place and can you let it go?
Those things we hold onto that keep us from healing, perhaps they are bit like the riches the young man would not let go of in order to follow Jesus. We have to leave them behind if we are going to move forward, but somehow we begin to believe that they are worth staying behind for. They aren’t. And when we are on the other side, healthy and renewed, we won’t look back and wish we still had that resentment, control, victim-role, etc. We will simply rest in great freedom.
Am I willing to do the work? To “get well” implies that this is an active process. The man at the pool had to respond to Jesus and “stand up” and walk. Likewise, we have to submit ourselves to whatever process is before us. I believe that God heals us through that process because it is in the process that we change. It is in the process that we find Him.
Going to counseling, hashing out the messiness in tough conversations, changing spending habits, committing to a routine that reflects where you want to go, allowing yourself to be accountable to another person, reading books instead of watching television, eating food that nourishes our bodies, getting up early to exercise…these things are hard. Are you ready and willing to “stand up” and walk?
Am I praying about it? Personally, this is one of the most challenging questions I have to ask. Am I praying for healing? There is a brokenness that occurs when we begin to sincerely pray for restoration. While complete healing takes time (and we need to be ready to commit to that time), something begins the minute we start praying. And maybe we know that. Maybe that’s the reason we’re so resistant to start.
Growth isn’t easy. Healing often requires at least a few painful steps along the way. The first step is determining if we really want it. After that, it’s about staying committed, remembering why we want it, and never forgetting that a life of freedom is what Christ offers…and whatever sacrifices we might perceive along the way, they are small and can’t even come close to the beauty and power on the other side.
Cara Joyner is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and begin tackling grad school. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. In addition to iBelieve, Cara is a contributing writer at RELEVANT and Today's Christian Woman. She writes about faith, marriage, motherhood and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.