“2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
Just let your mind wrap around how much time that is! I’m 41 years old, so that is almost my entire lifetime. It’s just hard for me to fathom being in a condition of quiet desperation for 38 years. Or is it?
As odd as it may sound, we sometimes get so comfortable in our weakened state that we do nothing about it. Why? Like the man lying by the pool in the passage above, maybe we give up. Maybe we lose hope of ever being healed of our “illness.” Maybe we resign ourselves to a state of brokenness and lose faith in ever being whole again. Maybe it’s the fear of change, or possibly we’re in denial. Could it be that we’re ashamed or embarrassed of who we are or where we’ve been? For whatever reason, many people live lives of quiet desperation and feel like things will never change.
What’s interesting about this loss of hope is how it affects our thoughts and decisions. A lot of people may think they want help. They may even swallow their pride and eventually ask for it, but most times they don’t really want help. You see, for some, settling for mediocrity is an easier path to take than a path filled with the hard work required to rise above it. In the above passage, Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to be healed?” God knows full well that sometimes we really don’t want to be made well. At least our behavior speaks that way at times. To be made well in the eyes of God requires work. Not work in the sense that we must earn his grace, but a working faith and obedience on our part.
For the man by the pool, faith was required for healing to begin. Ironically, the man just provides excuses. On the surface, they were valid excuses. He really didn’t have anyone to put him into the water. And we’re good at making excuses too. We can spend every day surrounded by our hurt and become so familiar with our excuses that they become our life story. The space between reality and excuse gets blurred and we become accustomed to the lies that we’ve fed ourselves.
Another interesting point is that sometimes other people can hold us down as well. Like the Pharisees who questioned the healed man about carrying his mat on the Sabbath (John 5:9-11), we can sometimes have people in our lives who refuse to allow us to rise above our negative circumstances. They are mired in their own unhappiness, so much so, that they can bring us down with them. The old adage, “misery loves company,” is true, and it’s almost always evident in the lives of those who live in quiet desperation. Just one more reason why we must surround ourselves with God’s truth and not fall into the trap of lies that others offer us from time to time.
Finally, shame and embarrassment can keep us from rising above desperate times and into the blessing-filled life that God has in store for us. It’s easy to feel embarrassment when we are judged by the opinions of others. It’s common to suffer shame due to circumstances both self-induced and those out of our control. What we need to do is continue to meditate on God’s word and the promises he’s made to his children (read “You Are…”). Only through his love can we overcome the lies Satan tries to feed us through shameful and embarrassing situations.
There’s no need to live quiet lives of desperation when we have so much to be thankful for through Jesus Christ. We just have to live with a faith that believes God always wants the best for us. Will our earthly life always be easy? Of course not! But we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), knowing he has already suffered desperation and shame in our stead and came out victorious.