The Middle : Sickness & Pain
(note: this post is a little personal)
Interruptions: It’s never about if you’ll be interrupted, but when, and then, will you let God use that interruption to make you better, to stretch you, to teach you?
Remember, Interruptions can give you or teach you about…Rest (forced to be bored), Perspective (emergency), Truth (wake up call), Opportunity, and Jesus (like Paul in Acts 9)
Interruptions often include…Messiness, Mystery, Surprises, sometimes fun, sometimes not fun, but always Lots and Lots of LEARNING.
God is in the middle of our interruptions…at least he can be, if we let him.
Here’s the crazy thing. When I spoke about this 2 weeks ago (posted here), it was also the weekend we found out about my wife’s cancer.
Even though we’d been fearing it, hoping for different news, in limbo about how she was feeling – when we heard the words CANCER, it was a shock. It was, and is, and will be, for this season, an interruption like we’ve never faced.
Here’s what we know:
- It’s stage 4
- There’s a hard road ahead
- My wife will have to fight for her life, and we will fight with her
- We will be stretched beyond what we think we are capable of
- GOD IS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT
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What happens when sickness and pain creep into your life?
What happens when the thing you don’t wish on anyone, comes into your life?
What do you pray for? How do you manage? How do you live through that?
Let’s start with, and also end with, these words…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’d like us to talk about sickness and healing, but before we talk about healing, we have to understand that all sickness, all pain, doesn’t find a ‘good’ conclusion in this life, and if that’s true, which it is, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12 (above) must ring true in our lives, no matter what.
“There is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.” (Rachel Held Evans)
If you know about Rachel Held Evans, you know that she is inspiring, intelligent, passionate about Jesus and the church, and, unfortunately, also, recently passed away with a very unique and fast acting virus. She was only 37 years of age. She wrote the words we just read only a couple of years ago. Wow.
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Even though we know full well that not all sick people get better, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be better when we’re not well. This is a normal human desire. We want to be fixed – asap – right now, so that we don’t suffer. So what do we do?
2 things: We seek out Medicine, and more importantly, ask God for help.
Know this, as we said in the first part of this series, that it’s ok to be angry at a situation or season or a sickness. God is ok with your emotions, and God is in the middle of it no matter what. But the Scriptures also show us, time and again, that God heals. God makes broken things well. At least we know that he can. Which means we can ask for God to make us well.
Story after story after story: people came to Jesus to be made well. We don’t use these stories as formulas, but we can use them as encouragement to ask Jesus for the same thing: Healing.
Mark 2 is one of my favourite of these stories in the gospels. Let’s read it, and see where we land…
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
- This is probably the closest to a ‘home’ that Jesus had…
- Imagine coming home to this? Or being home and a crowd envelops your home. Not fun for introverts, that’s for sure.
- Jesus wasn’t holding some kind of healing service, he was simply teaching the word to them
- The word? Kingdom of God. Connecting the spiritual dots in their lives.
Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
- In our Easter text (Mark 8:22-25) we saw a similar thing: ‘some people’ brought a blind man to Jesus.
- Here, some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus.
- We can’t get away from this: Some People are very important to our stories. We are important to other people’s stories.
- Not everybody can get them selves to Jesus…and sometimes we can’t get ourselves to Jesus. God uses ‘some people’ to get us there. God uses us to get people to him.
- ROOF = Obstacles
- Beams, thatch, compact mud, messy (a basic 1st century roof)
- They did what they could to bring their friend to the one who could heal him.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
- How do you think the man felt when he hears Jesus’ first statement about forgiveness?
- Hey Jesus, I came for healing, not forgiveness!!!
- This starts a bit of a spat between Jesus and the religious leaders…
- Who does Jesus think he is?
- Forgive sins???
- Only God can do that? (exactly)
- Why does Jesus throw in forgiveness, when the man is clearly there for healing???
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
- You gotta love this question: What’s harder? Forgiveness or Healing?
- Forgiveness (inside/spiritual)
- Healing (outside/physical)
- “I, the son of man, have authority to forgive sins”
- The reason I can heal, Jesus says, is because I can forgive
- Healing is a sign that points to forgiveness
- Healing always points to something greater
- Physical Healing (now) is never the ultimate miracle. Forgiveness is.
- This man gets a two for one special…
- Jesus, even though he heals this man, wants us all to know that forgiveness is the healing we should long for, while still praying for and asking for healing.
- When we know we are forgiven, we know that God is with us in our sickness & pain.
He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
- our authentic desire when we ask for healing is twofold…
- that we are well
- that people are amazed with what God can do
When my dad wasn’t well, I asked him what he would do first, if God healed him. He said he’d go to work. Then he said, wait a minute, nope, I’d go tell my old friends what Jesus did to me and for me.
Know that I want nothing more than for my wife to be healed. I’m going to pray for that until it happens. But it can’t just be so that we get back to normal (though I so want to get back to normal, normal would be so good right now), but that the lives of others change because of her healing!!! (May it be so)
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A few take homes from this story…
* We need some people in our lives to break the roof down and do what ever it takes to get us to Jesus.
Healing is a community thing
* Can we be those ‘people’ for others?
* Healing always points to something even bigger!
Forgiveness. Kingdom. God’s redemption. Our Salvation. Reconciliation. Justice.
Let it be a sign that reminds you how powerful God is.
* When physical healing doesn’t come?
1 Corinthians 12:9 ‘His grace is sufficient for me’
Be reminded that God is with you, in the middle of your sickness, in the middle of your pain and confusion, in the middle of your interruption.
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