Jesus asked the paralyzed man who was lying near the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be healed?” The question seems to have an obvious answer – the man had been laying there for 38 years. Why would he not want to be healed? Brooke Foss Westcott (Former Bishop of Durham and professor at Cambridge) says, “The question was suggested by the circumstances of the man’s case. It might seem that he acquiesced in his condition, and was unwilling to make any vigorous effort to gain relief.” I think Bishop Westcott is on to something.
I have the opportunity to assist people nearly every day. Primarily they are young Soldiers who are facing one question or another that is simply beyond their current level of experience to answer themselves. Sometimes it is a matter of faith and religious practice but more often it is a matter of simple basic life concerns. I tell everyone I meet with that I have two perspectives from which I answer questions – the first is what I believe God has to say about the situation and the second is what I think my rather long time in the Army has to say about the situation (if it happens to be a relationship question I add a third perspective – that of being married to the same wonderful wife for all the years from 1989 until now.) Assuming that is the point of view the Soldier wants his or her guidance coming from we proceed. Problems are not always solved but I truly believe most of those that come in walk away in a better spot than when they arrived – but not all.
There is a minority (but a considerable number) of the total that come in, ask for help, describe their situation, listen to my response, and then tell me I do not understand their situation or declare that the guidance given will never work or tell me that I am not really interested in helping them and refuse to acknowledge the advice given.
Sometimes it is something simple like me saying, “Your wife wants you to do this. I know because she told me to tell you.” and hearing the response, “I am not going to do that.” Sometimes it is much more complex as Soldiers and family members presents problems, hurts, and spiritual/emotional damage. Sometimes it is due to Combat Stress, sometimes the abuse sustained in a family of origin, and sometimes damage done within their immediate family (which is sometimes fueled by the other two). Sometimes there is unresolved grief over loss, sometimes there is anger with God for a whole host of reasons real or perceived, and sometimes there is no apparent reason but none-the-less there is trouble.
When it is one of these complex situations, I listen, I assess, I compare what they have said to what I know in the Bible, and life experience, I formulate a direction I would like the person to try and share it with him or her. Usually this will put the person on the road to improvement. Occasionally the person will then share previously undisclosed facts and the guidance will be modified. But sometimes it is just rejected. I hear refusals such as: That won’t work (without sharing why not); You do not understand (without providing additional information); That is not the answer/plan/idea that I want – I want another one; You do not want to help me (after I have listened for over an hour and given three or more potential courses of action to try).
Occasionally there is the more finessed refusals to accept any direction – the Soldier leaves, comes back a few days later, tells the same tale of woe, and asks for help. “How did the last idea work out” I ask. “It did not work” comes the reply. “What went wrong” I ask. Then there is the hemming and hawing around the question is an attempt not to admit that no attempt was made. Even so, they are back with the exact same complaint and once again asking how to improve.
I have come to realize that those who do this simply do not want to get well – or as Jesus phrased it, “be healed.” As long as there is a problem there is something to complain about. As long as there is a problem there is an excuse not to excel. As long as there is a problem people expect less from them. As long as there is a problem they can just float along with minimal expectations and getting away with doing the minimum. As long as there is a problem they can pout and whine to whomever will listen, “It is just not fair.”
Bishop NT Wright (also a former Bishop of Durham and Cambridge professor) remarks about the scene between Jesus and the paralyzed man: “Clearly, the man Jesus found lying there had made a way of life out of his long wait for healing. Jesus’ question to him is, perhaps, quite pointed: do you really want to get better, or are you now quite happy to eke out your days lounging around here with the feeble excuse that someone else always gets in first?”
I have now begun asking those who come into my office – Do you want to be healed?
I can help you. I will help you. I want to help you. My purpose in being here is to help you. Do you want to be healed?
Maybe you are reading this and you are facing an issue/problem/etc. Resources to help are everywhere around you. What is your response to the help you can have?
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?” ~John 5:6~