Jesus asked the strangest question to the man who’d had an infirmity for 38 years. The answer seemed like a no-brainer, yet Jesus asked anyway. It was this:
“Do you want to be made well?”
Seriously, Jesus? The guy’s been coming to this “clinic” every day, hoping that today will be different; that the odds will be in his favor and he will be healed. Why on earth wouldn’t he want to be made well?
After I thought about the question for a while, and wondered why Jesus would ask the man to state the obvious, it suddenly became clear that the answer is not as straightforward as one might suppose.
Consider this: for 38 years, this man was released from responsibility. He was unable to carry on a normal life, and had a good reason why. After all, he was infirm. Others had to financially support him. He got attention and pity from those around him.
We are not told the exact nature of his illness, which is good. If we knew what ailed him, we might assume that this is true only for people with his particular problem. Instead it’s left open-ended, giving it greater application. (God is so smart – I am continually amazed!)
This is not as foolish a question as we might think, though. Here are some examples:
One day we had a gathering of people at our home. During the course of the day, one of the people in attendance dislocated his hip. He was in excruciating pain. It was not a new injury, but rather something that happened as a result of an ongoing problem.
Also in attendance were two well-meaning students of the “all power has been given to us” persuasion. You could sense them telegraphing to one another, Here’s our chance! I shuddered at what was coming next.
They did not ask the question Jesus asked.
I knew this particular person, and knew that while he lived in continual pain and would like to be rid of it, he also liked his current lifestyle – no job, no responsibilities, lots of drugs to make him feel better – and an excuse to abuse alcohol to help him “cope.” His honest answer to the question would have been, “No.”
Armed with the authority of Jesus, the two went to this fellow, asked if they could pray for him, then took him by his arms and yanked him to his feet – commanding him to stand “in Jesus’ name.” (I’ve been healed several times from various injuries and illness, by the way. I believe – and have experienced – physical healing. That is not my point!)
He cried out in pain and wilted back to the floor. The two would-be “healers” retired to another room, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
You didn’t ask the question.
It’s important to know the answer.
This was a very good lesson to me. At the time I was asking Jesus for inner healing.
I began to question the Lord as to why He had refused to act on my request. His response was very candid, “You don’t really want Me to heal this for you.”
“Are you kidding, Lord? Of course I want to be made well.”
He began to show me the things that would be affected if I allowed Him to heal me:
The migraines I suffered from would disappear (That would be good!) – along with the “right” to shut myself away from everyone while I recovered. Oh! Hmm.
I would no longer have an excuse for my bad behavior.
I would have to take responsibility for my actions.
I would not have others’ tender care, attention, and pity for my sorry state.
Relief from Tormentors:
He went on to show me why he hadn’t answered my request to “straighten out” certain of my family members either, and showed me that I secretly enjoyed the “perks” of their bad behavior:
I had a good excuse for my depression and rage. Look what they are doing to me!
I had a “right” – no the responsibility – to expose their bad behavior to others – Please pray for so-and-so. This is what they are doing (lots of unnecessary details given). I was horrified when I discovered that God calls this “gossip”…and hates it. (While I know there is nothing wrong with a prayer partner – the whole world is not my prayer partner!)
I got pity and compassion from others – a lot of attention. Oh, you poor thing. I don’t know how you are able to stand all you go through. You’re such a godly woman. God must keep you so close to His heart for you to be able to bear up under this their ill treatment of you. You’re amazing.
By comparison, they made me look good!
It wasn’t difficult for people to see me as the saint! The other person’s sin was hanging out there where everyone could see it. Mine was not so obvious. I could control my tongue in public. No one was privy to the criticism, judgment, and condemnation I heaped on my “tormentors.” My manipulative skills were so finely honed that few were aware they were being coerced into doing what I wanted. My requests for “prayer” seemed so sincere.
The Lord said, “If I ‘fixed’ them, your own bad behavior would stick out like a sore thumb. Others would see that your family members are only a tiny bit of the problem. The greater issue is your own sinfulness. You have a divided heart. Part of you wants to be released from what hurts, the other part likes having the ‘right’ to sin.”
Well! That was certainly more information than I’d bargained for!
But it was true.
At that point, I had to ask myself some questions. Did I really want healing for myself and for my family? Was I willing to change – to take responsibility for my own life? To become a victor instead of a victim?
Things got bad enough, and my coping mechanisms ceased to be effective. The choice was simple: change or die.
But…God made it clear that to take my own life was not an option. “There is a time appointed for you to come home. I will bring you when that day arrives; you will not get here a moment before. Now, what kind of shape you’ll be in until then…well, I’ll leave that up to you.” (Visions of sitting in a wheelchair with spittle running down my chin came to mind. Oh! I’d never considered that a suicide attempt might fail.) That door closed permanently, never to become an option again!
I counted the cost involved. I would have to give up the “perks.” Could I do this? I realized that no matter what, I had to change. I knew that the Lord had a great deal of work to do in me; and I surrendered my heart to Him.
I’m so glad I did, for that day I became His workmanship. The Greek word is “poema.” Since most of us are word crafters, we can appreciate what that means…every word carefully selected to express what He wants to say to others through our lives. Mmm. Beautiful!
It was a process, and not without accompanying agony, I won’t lie.
But the healing Jesus continues to bring, although painful for the moment, is being completed. He cut me to the quick in some areas – but it’s also the last time I felt misery in the broken places. Some horrible memories were revisited, the anguish intense – and then extinguished forever.
Jesus began to transform me…long before He began work on my “problem” people.
It turns out that they were not the problem. I was.
What about you? Do you really want to be made well? For some it is instantaneous; for others (like me) it is a process that takes time. Few of us arrived at the state we’re currently in overnight. Thought patterns will have to change, relationships will change. Life will never be the same. Peace, love, joy, these can be yours to enjoy…the real deal, nothing out of a bottle of any kind!
With all your heart do you want to be made well?
Reposted 8/16/13 on Wordcasters