I don’t deny that this piece needs careful balancing but it’s not to be so watered down that the offer and power of Jesus is to be dismissed because some of us are too weary to let him in to do his work.
We’ve all seen sickness that filled us with sorrow and we found in our sadness that we were still human. But have the hospital wards with all their sorrows ever shown us anything entirely more pitiable than the spectacle of a human will crawling around on all fours or hobbling about on crutches? The loss of physical or mental health is lamentable but the paralysis of the will and the death of wanting is profoundly tragic.
Calvin Miller in The Singer [a riveting and first and best volume in a trilogy] has a character that has crushed his arm and is now badly crippled. When the Singer (the Christ figure) comes to him the cripple immediately begins to lament the loss of his arm. “Would you like it to be healed?” the Singer asked.
“Yes, but it’s too bad that it is so bad that there’s no healing for it,” the cripple whimpered.
“I saw a man healed the other day and he had two crippled legs,” the Singer said to him.
“Ah, but he didn’t have a crippled arm, like mine,” the cripple whimpered as he looked sadly at it.
“Well, I did see a man with a crippled arm healed,” the Singer offered.
“Ah, yes, but was his arm as crippled as mine?” the pathetic man with the crippled mind wanted to know, absorbed with his loss and nursing his injury.
When he lifted his eyes the Singer was leaving. “You see?” the cripple protested to several people that were standing around, “he has no sympathy for me.”
“You have more than enough sympathy for yourself,” said the Singer as he moved away, looking for someone who wanted to begin anew rather than wallow in self-pity and remain a cripple.
What is it about us that we sometimes almost rejoice in our disabled state? Is it that we think we won’t be held responsible for anything if we’re disabled? Is it that we get a lot of attention if we’re a poor pathetic figure?
And so it is that we sometimes nurse the diseases of the heart and mind. We disable ourselves or find ourselves disabled by evil habits and a killing environment and when the Singer comes we tell him that we’re crippled and beat. He says we can be healed if we want to be healed. Surely not, we tell him, because we have tried and others have tried to heal us and failed. He keeps offering and we continue to whimper, ignoring him and his offer. He continues to assure us and we insist on doubting him.
Many streams and sources feed our doubts. They’re fed by the fact that we have struggled for so long and tried all “the cures”—the assured cures—with no success! These are the kinds of things that turn our eyes in on ourselves with a whimper. Is this so hard to understand? Probably not! We might shake our heads in sadness and move on saying to such people, “You’re right! You have the perfect excuse for your whimpering and closing the door against hope and a hunger for healing. You’ve endured so much for so long. Anyone would give up the way you have given up.”
We might do that if it weren’t for those stubborn little people that we don’t notice in the crowd until Jesus brings them out into the open for us to marvel at. There was that woman who was bent double with a spinal deformity for sixteen long years and where do we find her? At the Bible study in the synagogue! Then there was that poor soul who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, spent all her money on quacks and charlatans and was worse than when she started. And where do we meet her? She is pushing her way through a heaving crowd telling herself that if she can only touch Jesus’ clothing he would heal her. You might remember that leprous man Jesus met, wandering around in isolation and loneliness. “Do you think I can heal you?” he asked him and the man said [almost said], “Absolutely!”
We might be tempted to justify our own whimpering and might be tempted even more to justify the whimpering of others [“Sad case, don’t you think?”] but it’s these others who make us wonder if that’s the right thing to do. Jesus is in the neighborhood and they shake themselves out of their misery and respond to his offer.
“Yes, but you’re not in my sad situation; if you were you…”
I feel the power of that sad protest but somewhere down in our hearts we must allow that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to him [Hebrews 7:25] and the people we see around us, like the people I mentioned above, urge us out of self-pitying paralysis to take Jesus’ offer of healing.
“Do you really want to be healed?” He wants to know.
And are you who feel no need for cure—are you willing to wait with love and patience until the Lord Jesus heals these others?