Stubborn Hope

“One of the most poisonous of all Satan’s whispers is simply, ‘Things will never change.’” – John Eldridge, The Sacred Romance

You see, it’s so hard for these creatures to persevere.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Driving around with two young boys involves a fair amount of listening to children’s music.  For someone who has a strong tendency to get songs stuck in his head, this can be rather precarious. This week setting up rent free in my head was Slugs and Bugs Sing The Bible. Volume 3. One of the songs retells the story of the healing Jesus did by a pool in Jerusalem. John chapter 5 says of this spot, “In these lay a multitude of invalids – blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty eight years.”

38 years.  We don’t know much about this man’s story. I get the impression that perhaps things weren’t always like this. Perhaps when he was young he was healthy and free to move and run and play or work. But then something tragic happened. Maybe it was an accident or an injury, but there was no recovery. And so, he joined a group of similarly broken people and waited for a miracle. And waited. And waited. Sometimes he would see God move. Sometimes the water would stir and someone would be made whole. But it was always just out of reach for him, like something in a glass case he could see but couldn’t quite touch.  He knew it was there and it was real, but would it ever be real for him? Could his life ever really change?

Abruptly one day Jesus walks in and he asks this man a question: “Do you want to be healed?” That’s a strange thing to ask in a place like this. What was Jesus getting at with this seemingly rhetorical question? I wonder if he was asking if this man still had hope. The man, instead of giving a straightforward yes, points to what he sees as the obstacles in his path. He needs help getting into the water. But Jesus seems to want to broaden this man’s perspective of how God can move, so he gives the word to get up, take his bed and walk. And at once he was healed, and that’s exactly what he did.

Can you relate to this man? Have you been waiting by the water for so long, waiting for God to move? Are you wondering if things will ever change? A couple weekends ago, a friend invited me to a special service at his church. During the service, a prophetic word of healing was spoken over a woman with chronic back pain. We all looked on with hope and expectation of what God was about to do. But at that time, no healing came and the service moved on. I glanced over to this woman from time to time during the service, wondering what must have been going on in her mind. I saw her wince in pain to stand or to sit back down. But I also saw something else. On her face was no evidence of bitterness or cynicism. Rather she seemed to beam with joy and faith and to sing from a deep place of stubborn hopefulness. It was one of the most remarkable things I have witnessed. My friend, either God will remove the thorn from your side, or he will give you a fresh grace to persevere through it. Either he will change our circumstances or he will change and transform us through it.

This is spiritual emphasis week. A time to push back the cares of the world and the wants of our bodies and the things that distract us and be reminded that at our core we are spiritual beings. And our Heavenly Father is seeking people who will worship him in spirit and in truth. It’s a time to come to him so that we don’t lose heart. We don’t give up. We join a group of broken people and we look for a miracle. Even if we’ve been waiting for 38 years. We remember the perishable will pass and fall away and we practice putting on the imperishable. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:7).

by Steve Lamp

Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.