The Gospel of John, chapter 5, tells the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, at the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda was built on a spring, where the waters occasionally stirred, as natural springs do. People believed the first person to touch the waters, when stirred, would be healed. Thus, the pool was always surrounded by sick people, clamoring to be first in the water, when the moment was right.
This particular man had been paralyzed for 38 years. Apparently, he’d come to Bethesda for many, many years. He was obviously there to be healed. But, when Jesus asked if he wanted to be well, he replied, “I can’t, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Imagine that! Someone took him TO the pool, but no one helped him get IN the pool! What good did that do? Every time he tried, someone pushed him aside.
And, can you hear his complacency? Can you hear the defeat in his words?
He’d completely accepted his plight, his condition. He’d given in to his helplessness; content to accept his malady, even with the possibility of healing a few feet away.
It’s a heartbreaking story… until Jesus did what Jesus does!
Jesus said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” And, he did.
I’ll confess, I feel helpless, sometimes. I’ve felt especially helpless in these recent weeks. Beyond social distancing and washing my hands thoroughly, I feel helpless in the face of the spread of coronavirus. As a pastor, I feel VERY helpless: wishing I could do more, worrying that I’m not doing enough, and unsure what to do about the future.
And, sometimes, that feeling of helplessness can be crippling – paralyzing.
What makes you feel helpless?
As I read this story, I felt like Jesus spoke directly to me, “Stand up, Vance, and walk! Get up, and do what you can today. Tomorrow, do the same. And, the day after, and the day after.” I can’t do what I normally do. I may not think of doing all of the things I should. I can only guess what the future will bring. But, as helpless as this moment feels, I can get up, walk, and do what I can for today.
So can you.
We can all do our part. We can be responsible in our social distancing. We can pray. We can make phone calls, or send emails, or write notes. We can find tasks around our homes to keep us busy. We can take care of our families. We can take walks. We can be creative. We can do something.
Helplessness is a terrible feeling. But, it’s really only that – a feeling. Few of us are actually as helpless as the paralyzed man in this story. Though we may feel helpless, we can all do more in this terrible situation than we probably realize.
It’s the fear that’s paralyzing. To which the Bible says, over and over, “Take courage. Fear not. Trust God. Have faith. I am with you.”
Jesus says, to all of us, “Get up, and walk.” Put one foot in front of the other, as best you can. Do what you can. Do what must be done. And, tomorrow, do it again.
That’s how we’ll get through this – one step at a time.