Do You Want to be Made Well? Probably Not

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“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.”

10 thoughts on “Do You Want to be Made Well? Probably Not

  1. Thanks, Ed – this resonates with where I am right now. I want God to provide instant answers, but I’m learning that I need to be more persistent in my attempts at surrender.

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  2. Ed, this is so true! I’ve had to be honest and ask myself “Do I want to be healed and do the hard work? Or some other questions bear the asking that I’ve grappled with, Do I trust God as my Father is faithful? What is going on that I’ve been getting complacent? What do I fear uncovering now?

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  3. While I agree with a lot of what you are saying, I disagree that God can’t work through medicine, sometimes that _is_ God’s solution for us. Not just as a crutch, sure, but it can certainly help. God gave us good brains to figure medicine out, to use it wisely, so please don’t discount it. There is enough stigma around for Christians on anti-depressants, painkillers, etc. etc., that they “just don’t trust God enough to heal them, to go without medications”, we don’t need more. Without medication I don’t know if I’d still be sane enough to be chasing God some days, pain whips my butt, clouds my vision. Yes, I’m trying to use it to turn me towards God, to surrender to God and not pain and anxiety, but I also praise God for the medications that help me continue to live a slightly normal life. The answer can be both.
    Check out Jamie’s blog here: http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2013/01/jesus-or-zoloft.html for some thoughts on anti-depressants.

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    1. Just to be clear, I would never, ever say that it is sinful to use prescribed medicine that you need in order to treat anxiety, mental illness, etc. I was referring to either “medicating” through things like alcohol or abusing prescription drugs like sleeping pills that one may not need but seeks out rather than dealing with deeper issues.

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      1. cool, thanks for clarifying Ed, I didn’t think that seemed like you, but if wasn’t quite clear on first read that it was the ‘self-medicating unnecessarily’ version. I find the two often get blurred in Christian circles.

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  4. Ed, great, honest post that typifies, IMO, the American church-goer/believer. Perhaps we are so into “self” we can’t feature the idea of surrender.
    It’s been a while since I’ve taught or preached on this, but you got the sense of it very well. It is a daily choice & commitment to surrender our self to the Lord.
    Thanks for the reminder Ed!

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  5. SUCH a good post, Ed. Yes–healing, for me, has always followed on the heels of sheer desperation, where I can no longer keep lying to myself that I can go on as usual.
    One quibble (and this may be more about semantics than substance): “grasping the amount of effort and will power it takes to daily surrender to the love and power of God.”
    See, I almost had to realize the opposite to find healing in my life. That the trying-harder approach I’d perfected since childhood was bankrupt, and that instead of more willpower, I needed to give in and feel everything–grief, anger, fear. Give myself over to desperation and release into God’s hands. Yes, there were specific things I had to do, like initiate hard conversations, but for me healing involved less trying and more cosmic letting-go.
    Maybe it’s this: it’s a combination. Surrender AND picking up our cross. Free-fall AND laser focus on seeking God’s will. Trust AND canny wisdom.
    Or maybe it’s trusting God enough that we’re willing to launch ourselves off any cliff, knowing it’s far better than staying trembling on the edge.

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    1. I think I would agree with all of that, and it’s the “cosmic letting go” that has been hard “work” for me. 🙂 I do find it hard to communicate that it takes effort to trust God fully, that I’m not trying harder myself but trying harder to submit to God and to make space for God to work. Or something like that…

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