Saturday, July 25, 2015

getting by or getting better

Can you imagine being sick for nearly 40 years even though you were within a stone's throw of the cure?

There was this man and he did that - just lay there on the ground watching others get well while he stayed sick.  When asked if he actually wanted to be healed he didn't even say 'yes' he just started making excuses about how other people and situations had gotten in his way.  When you see yourself as the victim, it's always somebody else's fault.

I know.  I've done that.

Back when I thought it was all about me.  
Back when I thought I was the one who knew what was best.
Back when there was no plan, but my plan and come hell or high-water I was going to do it my way.

There are a lot of things I still don't know about God but here's one thing I do -
   His plans always involve us getting better.
And if you are going to believe that you must believe this too.  It is a proven truth -
   Getting better is rarely easy.  
We usually have to let go of some thing or some idea or some warped way of thinking if the healing is to come.

There was a healing pool.  Year after year this man watched as others went in wounded and sick and walked out healed and whole.  But he stayed sick.

Grounded.
Sitting on the sidelines.
Life on hold.
Watching, but never participating.
Completely out of the game.

Maybe you've been there.  Maybe you are there.  If so, I say this with the greatest love -
stop it right now.
Stop it with the excuses.  Stop it with the pity party.  Stop it with the clinging so tightly to your perfectly laid plans and
just. get. well.

Several years ago I was not well on so many different levels.
I was working full-time,
had two young, needy children
and a husband who was struggling with his job
and a lot of unanswered questions about the future.
Life did not look the way I thought it would.

I got into a bad habit of drinking gallons of coffee and tea during the week.  Frequently, as a 'pick-me-up' in the afternoons I would drive through McDonald's for a large sweet tea {which was actually more the size of a keg} and guzzle it down with a side of french fries.  Healthy habit, right?  I was suffering from headaches and chest pains and sugar highs followed by crashes and a general overall lethargy.

My doctor told me that I should consider cutting back on caffeine.
No thanks.  I didn't want to.
Even though I knew it might make me better, I didn't want to do it.  I feared the detox period would be hard and on top of that - I actually liked the taste of sweet tea and considered it a reward for me on days when I was struggling.  I wanted to get well but there would need to be some sacrifices on my part.

In hindsight, letting go of caffeine is a ridiculously simple thing but at the time I thought I was so dependent upon it that I didn't want to find out what life would be like without it.  It might be too hard.  I also thought I deserved it.  Good grief.

That all seems so silly now but it wasn't then and we do it with all kinds of things besides caffeine.
We won't give up watching t.v. to spend our time on something more life-giving.
We won't give up hitting the snooze button to allow ourselves a few extra minutes to start our day off well.
We won't give up a specific dream that seemed good to make way for something better God wants to do.
We won't give up being the victim by worldly standards to make room for victory by God's standards.
We won't give up a temporary fix for lasting joy.

Not always, but sometimes, our own suffering {whether physical or emotional} is being perpetuated by us.  We may be a victim but we are also the perpetrator.

We feel awful.  Life sucks.  And we can blame anything and anyone we want but the truth is - we have to make the choice to do the difficult work of getting better, not just getting by.  And getting better usually involves letting go of something that is making us sick and grabbing onto something that will make us well.

I've learned that healing often doesn't come in the way I planned and hoped for.  The healing comes in the way I need it to, because the healing has got to go deeper than
a broken body
or a broken family
or a broken dream.
It's got to get down to my broken soul.  It's not that God doesn't care about those other things - those worldly things that are important to us, it's just that he cares about our souls more.  So he asks,

Do you want to be well?
Really?

Do we want to get by or do we want to get better?

When God sent Jesus as a Savior he didn't intend to save us by giving us everything we ever wanted right when we want it and exactly how we want it.  He saved us by giving us everything we would ever need.  God does not exist to pull holy strings that will bring you physical health or earthly treasure.  He exists to bring you himself.  And the more of him I get, the more of him I want.  It's pretty cool when wants and needs start to align.

If we really want to be well, to be whole, we can't make statements like these
  Take care of this situation, God.
  Change this person, God.
  Give me this one thing, God.
  Do it this way, God.

So instead we say -
God, I don't want my circumstances alone to change me.  I want you to change me.  I will not be led by my emotions and my childish desires, but by you.

Just like that man by the pool I make excuses.  I bet you do too.  We do it because sometimes we are so comfortable in our infirmity,
in our crisis,
in our position as a victim
that we would rather have what my friend, Tom,  calls 'predictable misery' than complete healing.  We want our situation to change but God knows that a changed situation doesn't equal a changed heart and the heart is what matters more.

Do you know what happened to that man by the pool?  He never got in.
He didn't have to get in.  With a few simple words Jesus healed him.  He does that, you know.  Healing us is easy for him, if we will let him.  But Jesus didn't stop with the man's physical healing.  After the man got up and walked away with his newly healed body Jesus went after him and this is what he said -
You look wonderful!  You are well!  
Now don't return to a sinning life or something worse might happen.

Translation: You got what wanted - a healed body.  That's great.  But what you thought you needed and what you really needed are two different things.  If your heart does not change you will have something much worse than a broken body.  You will never be well if you don't realize your own sin, your own desperate need, and find real healing in me and truth of my words.

You may think your 'infirmity', the 'thorn in your flesh', the thing that seems all wrong in your life is the absolute worst.  You are sad and grieving over it or maybe you are bitter and resentful.  You are a victim.  Your life is
unfair,
a mess,
hopeless,
worse than everyone else's
because you do not have something that you believe is essential to your survival, to your well-being and yet the truth is - there is something far worse.

If you think living with a broken body or a broken family or a broken dream is difficult, try living with a broken soul.  A soul that was cracked somewhere along the way and although healing was available you never took the step towards it - you just lay there on your mat watching others get well and making excuses about why you couldn't.
     Your infirmity became your identity.

Do we simply want what a Savior can give us - as if he were a magical genie in a bottle - or do we want the Savior himself?

What is your infirmity?  What is making your soul sick?  What is that tape that has been playing in your head so long that you believe its who you are and it has become what you live for.  
How do you answer this one question - Do you want to be well?
Do you make excuses?
Do you say yes, BUT here's how I want that to go down.  Here's how I want to find healing.  Here's what I believe will make me well.  We want to be well on our own terms but we don't even know what we need because we can't see all our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows fitting together into something bigger.

If we get exactly what we want today we may get by until tomorrow, but we will never get better.  

Do you want to get by or do you want to get better?

If this post resonates with you please check out the original inspiration for it right here - the full message from my friend Tom.