Time spent suffering can breed bitterness, and prayers that appear to go unanswered for years, can harden the heart. After thirty eight years of suffering (that’s a year longer than I’ve been alive!) the lame man Jesus healed wasn’t able to comprehend what had happened to him. So Jesus found him again and followed up his miracle with some advice for the man to ponder on his own in his own time — (John 5:14)
John 5:5-15 NLT
One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.
One evening, a few weeks ago I was walking home when I came across an old bloke who I thought I had seen once or twice in the church. He seemed to be in some pain and I felt I should ask him if he needed any help. An hour later he was still talking! As I listened, he told me that he was a Christian, an old and sick man who lived alone with no money or security to speak of. He told me his whole life had been a constant struggle and that he was tired of praying and watching the rich preachers on the God channel promising healing and financial security in the Lord, when he had nothing. No answers to his desperate prayers, no secure place to live, no certainty that there would be food on the table. His soul was longing to be healed and comforted by Jesus but his life experience had hardened his heart. When I asked him how we could find the smallest hope before I had to go home, he hung his head and said there was nothing, there was no hope. I felt completely powerless to help him. Then I asked him if he ever read the bible. He asked me what the point of it was. I found myself saying – the point of the bible is to hear from God, maybe the answers to your prayers are waiting for you in the word of the Lord sitting on the shelf in your house. Maybe they have always been there waiting for you. Maybe you won’t find the solutions to all your problems there on the first day but you might find a word of hope or a word of consolation which could soften your aching heart and start the whole process of change in your life. I left him with a packet of cigarettes (which cheered him up) and I asked him to start again with the bible and give it another try. He said he would. All I can do now is pray that if he ever does pick up the bible, the Lord will speak words of hope to his bruised and tired heart.
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21, John 5:1-23, Psalms 105:37-45, Proverbs 14:28-29