“Do you want to be made well?”
– John 5:6
That’s the question Jesus asked a blind and paralyzed man. The man was so focused on his own plans and solutions to his hopeless problems that he never even answered Jesus’ question. Perhaps that non-answer was answer enough.
It’s a good thing that Jesus wasn’t picky about his answer. I can relate to this man. Who hasn’t been so fixated on the solutions that work for everyone else? Who hasn’t looked at his own faltering plans and doubled down, trying to make them work?
There’s an even deeper issue at play, at least for me:
Honestly, I don’t want to be made well. Too often I choose to limp along or to stick with my comfortable half measures that make life tolerable. Actually moving into a place where I could thrive and experience renewal takes sacrifices, discipline, and, most importantly, hope.
Do I believe that God can make me well?
Do I believe that God offers something better than what I already have?
Do I believe that reaching out to God will change anything?
Who wants to make time for God if there isn’t a guarantee that prayer will “work” or that God can offer something better than what I already have?
Here is what I’m learning: I settle for far too little, far too quickly, far too often.
The first step you take is often the hardest because you don’t have hope or experience to fall back on. Beginning with prayer is the great unknown. Where is this going? Who knows?
I have learned that Jesus promises “Seek and you shall find,” but he doesn’t offer a lot of details about what exactly we’ll find. We’re seeking the treasure of the Kingdom, but we only have this guarantee: “You’ll know it when you find it.”
Who knows when you’ll find it.
Do you want to be made well?
Yes and no.
I want to be made well, but only if it’s easy and doesn’t cost much. I want to be made well if I can understand and, ideally, control the process. I want to be made well only if I’ve seen the solution work for other people so that I can imitate them.
The hardest thing about spirituality for me, and I suspect many Protestants, is grasping the amount of effort and will power it takes to daily surrender to the love and power of God. The life-change and healing we seek is 100% from God, but it takes everything we’ve got just to surrender and to trust completely. It takes so much effort to bring ourselves to the place where only God can work to heal us.
Healing will never come from our own plans, methods, and “medications.” We can choose to limp along with sleeping pills, wine, recreational drugs, consumerism, or sexual indulgences. We can choose to run from the pain of the past, the anxiety of the present, and the terror of the future. There’s no escape that we can engineer on our own. There’s no way to medicate this pain long enough. There’s no healing that we can engineer on our own that replaces the healing power of God’s loving presence.
As a new struggle, source of pain, or wound emerges in my life, I ask God yet again, “This too, Lord? Must I bring this to you, completely out in the open with a blind faith that you can heal this?”
Surrender is a life-long and daily struggle.
There’s no guarantee about what follows after the surrender, what the healing will be, or how long it will take. There’s no guarantee for anything other than the hope I can gather from past experiences and the experiences of others (including the stories of scripture).
Each time I bring my wounds and limps to the Lord, I find that it’s only through this bracing vulnerability and faith that I can find healing. It’s only through doggedly fighting to make space in my mind and in my day for God that I can expect to be made well.
Do I want to be made well?
Do I want to make time to be made well?
Do I want to make time to hear the voice of God?
Do I want to make space in my life for God’s presence?
Or do I want to keep limping along, hiding my pain and medicating it with the imperfect medications on hand?
You can be made well. I can be made well. I suspect that we can’t even imagine what God has in store for us. That may be the greatest challenge we face when it comes to answering Jesus’ question. Only Jesus himself knows how badly we need to be healed, and that’s why he isn’t picky about how we answer his question.
Whether we struggle with vulnerability or surrender, God’s mercy is more than enough to meet our great needs and weaknesses, even when we can’t manage to say one simple word: “Help.”