In John 5, Jesus finds a lame man lying near a pool outside Jerusalem. The man is waiting for a miraculous stirring of the pool water, at which point he has a hope of being healed.
When Jesus finds him, he asks the man, “Do you want to get well?”
This sounds like a dumb question. This man is sitting at a pool known for healing. Why would he not want to get well?
We don’t really know why Jesus asked this question (It wasn’t a dumb question!), but a common thought is that a miraculous healing for this man will change his life. No longer will he be a beggar. He’ll suddenly change status. He’ll have to work. Maybe his family needs his begging income. We don’t know the specifics, but to a person used to life one way, having to change that way can be difficult, even if the change is good. Jesus wanted the man to think through the consequences of being healed.
The man ends up healed. Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and go, something he’d not been able to do for 38 years. He does it. And wow, does it cause him a lot of trouble. The Pharisees accuse him of carrying a mat on the Sabbath, and Jesus has to come find him and encourage him to live a changed life. Not only did his physical life change, but Jesus warns him that his spiritual life must change, too.
Clearly being healed isn’t as easy as we think. Healing, in all its forms, changes us. Jesus doesn’t change us for no reason. Sure, He does it in love. In His compassion, He wants to see us live out our best lives. And our best lives happen when we are able to fulfill God’s desires and plans for us.
Works prepared for me
Now flip to Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You have a purpose. However, if you change, your purpose might change. As an introvert who struggles with anxiety, I do a lot from my computer. It feels safe here in my little world where I never see anyone. I write Christian fiction, blog about Christian themes, and can safely say I want to do the good works God has for me. I live within my limits, just like most of us live within our limits.
Not long ago I finished a bout of anxiety, and with the addition of some depleted supplements in my diet, I feel much better. So much better that certain excuses and limits are no long relevant in my life, so I’ve changed some things.
For instance, I’m now in a few writer’s groups. I’m actually leading one. They’re still on the internet, but they are far, far from what I was doing when I didn’t feel good. And they require me to flex a few atrophied muscles and take some risks.
Then I was asked to speak at a small Good Friday service, to write and then present a reflection on some words Jesus spoke from the cross. The writing part wasn’t rough. But reading it… I almost said no. I thought No, this isn’t me. I live within my sphere, and I have certain weaknesses.
Except that is now a lie. Sure, I got nervous. But this was normal human nervousness, not life-altering, pass-out-on-the-floor nervousness. With my excuse gone, I said yes.
Picking up the mat
I’m glad I said yes. The feedback I got said I didn’t flub the whole thing. More importantly, I did it at all. Actually walking up to the podium and speaking words, when four months ago I literally couldn’t leave my house… How well I did it didn’t matter. I DID IT.
So, new directions for old gifts. Why? Because I said YES when Jesus asked if I wanted to get well. And when he told me to pick up the mat, I picked up the mat. I could have said no. I could have remained where I was, because what I was doing wasn’t bad. Doing what God wanted with the abilities I had at the moment, I could have stayed there forever. But when given the opportunity to heal physically, I had to decide if I would live into my new limits or continue to hang out in the old.
I accepted that when God changes me, what He asks of me might change, too. God prepared good works for me–for ME!–and I need to accomplish them. Chances are, as I grow in my life and faith, those works might get a little more challenging.
Be ready. Get excited
If you struggle with anxiety or depression or other limits, be they physical or emotional or mental, it’s great to ask God for healing, for change, for improvement. He loves to care for his children. He loves you, broken or whole, and wants to see you move closer to wholeness every day.
But keep in mind, when you say yes to healing, you open new possibilities to serve. Be ready. Get excited. Don’t think you’re still who you were and get caught in limits that have expired. I am here to say you can pick up that new mat and walk. Sure, it might get you in trouble in new ways, but that’s part of the plan, too. Or it might open your eyes to see who God wants you to become. You are growing into someone capable of doing more and more for God as you allow Him in to heal all your wounds and weaknesses and hang-ups.
Be ready to say yes to Jesus’ question Do you want to get well? which is really a question of Are you ready for a change? If he says to pick up that mat and walk, even if you’ve never picked up a mat and walked in your life, grab it up and proudly face the world.
And let the adventures begin.
What mat has Jesus asked you to pick up lately? Where have you seen healing and found yourself facing new, amazing (even scary!) means to serve because of it? Feel free to share your story in the comments.