Matthew 6:25 - 27

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making your bed and lying in it ... or CARRYING IT?

Has anyone ever told you "you've made your bed, now you can lay in it"?  How about this one (or some version of it): "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "get over it"? Maybe, even if no one has said any of those things to you directly, the thoughts play over and over in your mind, alternately defending and accusing you (Romans 2:15). It's one thing when your painful circumstances are a direct result of choices you know you made - then, guilt and shame and remorse scream these things at you keeping you mired in the mess and unable to move forward. But what about those circumstances that seem to have come out of "nowhere" ... weren't your choice or any consequence of choices you made, were unwanted and unchangeable? Most of us, at some point in life, have been handed painful circumstances of life that were much like the latter - unasked for, unwanted, and unchangeable. Our only real choice is what we will do about it. Maybe we find something that will just "dull the pain" or keep us too busy to notice the pain so that we can just "live with it", because in reality, we've lived with it for so long that we have become comfortable with it ... accepted it as our "identity" and don't have a clue who we would be without it. Some of us lay on our bed of affliction for a long time, waiting for someone to come by and do something or say something or give us something that will deliver us from the pain. After all, if there is truly nothing I can do about my pain myself, the answer must lie in the help of another, right? 

Jesus came upon such a person one day while in Jerusalem for a festival. At the pool near the Sheep Gate (Bethesda), he saw a man lying on a mat who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. He asked the man a very important question, "Do you want to get well?" At first glance that seems like a "Duh!" kind of a question ... why else would he lay beside a pool in which he could become well if he were able to get into the water when it was "stirred"?  But Jesus was really asking him if he was willing to take responsibility for his own healing. 

His response was one of excuses, "Sir", the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." He didn't answer the question! He made an excuse why it was impossible for him to be healed. It seems to be a genuinely honest response, doesn't it? And it seems harsh to call it any excuse, right?  

I've been thinking about this incident today. Many others were, apparently, being healed by stepping into the water. Undoubtedly, there were others who required help to get into the water and had people come along side them and help them. But this man was alone. We are not told what caused his disabilities, nor are we told why he is alone, but we can be sure that those things were not hidden from God or from Jesus' understanding. So, we must be as surprised as this man was when Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!"  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (See John 5:1-9)

This morning, while engaged in some mindless, routine activity, I heard the still, small voice of my Healer say to me "pick up your bed and walk". It was one of those odd thoughts that seemed to come out of nowhere, but it had the impact of the Word of God in my spirit. I instantly felt my weakness and apathy solidify into strength, motivation and direction. Like many others, I've wanted someone else to do SOMETHING ... ANYTHING ... to take away this painful circumstance and enable me to walk a new life with strength and purpose. I've wanted my healing to come in the same way I've seen others healed - by the efforts of others who come alongside and help me. But my reality has been that I am alone and unable to move myself to a place of healing. Today, I realized that what I've been "sensing" for myself is, in fact, God's will and word to me ... I have to accept that this "bed of affliction" is mine to carry with me, and in order to walk forward, I have to pick it up, and step forward. Jesus said it another way in Matthew 16:24, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  This seems like such a hard word; and it is. But it is Truth. And Jesus said, "you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" John 8:32. And, I had asked to know the truth!

I just want to make it clear to those who read this who also may be questioning what they are to do with the painful circumstances that they have been "dealt" that Jesus did NOT shout this out to every person laying around the pool of Bethesda. He spoke it to one man because that was what that one man needed to hear to be healed. God did NOT tell me to preach that this is the answer for your healing! He DID speak this word to ME because it is what I needed to hear! 

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