In John chapter 5, we read about the man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He waited by the pool at Bethesda, along with multitudes of other sick people, until the day Jesus arrived and asked him a stunning question.
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters.
4 From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.
5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
What kind of question is that? "Do you want to get well?" What was Jesus thinking! That the man wanted to be an invalid? That he liked sitting around having others wait on him day in and day out?
Perhaps the man paused to think about it. Hmm, do I really want to get well? I'd have to give up my handicap-parking permit...I'd probably have to get a job; no more unemployment checks...I wouldn't have all my friends and family at my constant beck and call...Strangers would stop giving me money and food and making sure I'm all right. I wouldn't get all those nice "get well" cards anymore. I couldn't call that prayer line and talk about my problem all the time...No more therapy. No more fingers to point or legs to blame. Who would I be? This has been my identity my entire life. It's what has always made me "special."
Jesus never asks silly questions. There is a reason for each one. And this particular question may be one that we need to answer in our own life.
We've all known people who wear their problem like a badge of honor. In his book If Christ Were Your Counselor, Dr. Chris Thurman reveals why this is and why people sometimes don't want to get well. He says, "To avoid the painful, often thankless, difficult task of getting better, we tend to adjust to the pain of staying ill. Not only do we often grow comfortable with our problems and the pain they create, we often want to hang on to our problems for all the benefits that come with them."
Before you think he's crazy for talking about the "benefits of our problems," think about it for a minute. Often, the only time I get to sleep as long as I want is when I'm sick. Often, being sick affords me a break from the usual demands (work, child-rearing, meal-making, etc.) as someone lovingly takes care of me and the tasks I'm able to avoid. Thurman explains the benefits this way:
With few exceptions, all personal problems involve payoffs of one kind or another. We psychologists call these secondary gains. Sure, personal problems are painful, but there's an up side; we like the attention from others they bring into our lives, and we like to use our problems as an excuse to quit trying.
Jesus made a way for us to be healed and set free from whatever has us bound. But we must follow His plan for our life if we want our life to turn out the way He's intended. Sometimes that plan requires more than we're willing to give. But total health and well being is available to anyone who truly wants it. Jesus stands ready to meet our deepest needs--to mend our heart, heal our body, or soothe our soul.
Now we must answer the question. Do we really want to get well?