At the pool of Bethesda

By Amanda Turek Ryan
Special to The SUN

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him,‘Do you want to be made well?’”  (John 5:6, NKJV)

I once heard a whole sermon on this very subject. It resonates for me in an acute, personal way.

I struggle against being healed, because I am used to being in my own broken condition. I pray for salvation from my brokenness, and though I know God hears me, he also hears the clamor of fear of losing what I have, what I know, what I’ve even grown to love.

Is that repentance?

Is it honest?

Do I really want to be healed?

The man at Bethesda had been lying beside the pool for 38 years, waiting for someone to help him into its stirred and healing waters. After he answered Jesus in the affirmative, Jesus said to him, “Take up your mat and walk.” And he did, joyfully.

I have been conscious of my mental illness for a long time. I allowed it to define me, “absolve” me of responsibility for my actions, disable me. I made my walking wounded condition precious. As much as I hate it, I’ve used it to justify harboring bitterness toward others and toward God. I have even defended my own sins with it. I allowed it to create a rift between me and God.

There comes an inevitable time of self-examination: Have I asked in faith to be healed of the disease itself, or just from allowing it to define and explain my self-destructive actions?

I must accept responsibility, choices and their consequences. I need to accept God’s answer, either: “Yes, your disease is gone,” or “No, you will not be cured of the disease, but you are forgiven of the sin of using it to excuse you.”

Either way He would say, “You are accountable to Me. Go and sin no more.”

The words of the apostle Paul are particularly convicting: “But indeed O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him that formed it,‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Rom. 9:20)

Well, apparently I have.

But I do not feel alone in this bind.

You do not have to have a diagnosis of mental illness to be caught up in an inner turmoil or a conflict of character that ends up as separation from God. You do not have to be disabled in order to have those moments of, “Why me?,” no matter how bravely the challenge is met.

One does not have to be wounded in order to have weakness.

Human nature itself causes us to slip and fall short of God’s perfect will, even if we’re trying to obey God.

Paul says in Romans that “… what I am doing I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate I do … Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Rom. 7:15-20)

How grateful I am that God has redeemed me from the sin that dwells within through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Will alone cannot stop sin, but Jesus forgives, and offers healing and help against the sin nature for those who have accepted Him in their heart.

I don’t know yet what God’s answer to my plea for deliverance from my illness will be, but I take comfort in my faith that He will heal me in spirit. I will accept the outcome, one way or another.

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Knowing this, I can take up my bed and walk.

This story was posted on June 13, 2013.