There are a lot of questions we hear for which the only appropriate answer is “DUH!” Sometimes people ask a question when they could figure out the answer just by being observant. But surely not Jesus, right?There’s no way that Jesus ever had a Captain Obvious moment, is there? There’s one example in Scripture that – at first glance – seems that way.
In John 5:1-6, this is what we read…
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 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. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?”
Seriously? “Do you want to get well?” Jesus, the dude has been an invalid for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS. Of course he wants to get well! Right?
It’s actually not always that simple.
As hard as it is to believe, getting the thing we say we’ve always wanted can be scary. We spend so much time with our dysfunction, our unhealthiness, our addictions, that it can become hard to imagine life without them. As I’ve spoken with men in recovery over the years, I’ve heard from lots of them the story of self-sabotage. Many people, fearing the unknown of life without their struggle, will have difficulty accepting the restorative work God wants to do. They hate their addiction, but it’s what they know. They hold a deep belief that they’ll never experience real change, and so rather than fully invest in a process in which they believe they’ll fail, they sabotage it; at least getting to choose how and when they fail.
Jesus’ question is not as obvious as it sounds. Not everyone really wants to get well. Or if they want to, not everyone believes they can.
In John 5, after Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to be well, the man told Jesus that he wanted to, but was unable to. He believed that the key to his healing was getting into the Pool of Bethesda. The belief was that when the waters stirred the first person into the water would be healed. Since he couldn’t walk, he never made it in first. Jesus then told a crippled man something interesting: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Do what now?
“You’ve just asked me the most obvious question I’ve ever been asked. And now you’re telling me to do something I can’t do. Thanks a lot, Jesus.”
But Jesus wasn’t clueless or simply asking obvious questions. I think He was making a point. He was challenging the man’s preconceived notions of what healing would look like. Jesus asked him to do something he was physically incapable of doing. The only way this was going to work was if Jesus did something to make it possible. But the man had to act. He had to at least act upon the belief that Jesus was going to do something. And He did. John 5:9 says that once Jesus gave this command, that the man was immediately healed and he picked up his mat and walked.
He did the healing. But He asked for action from the man He healed.
There are men and women all around us who experience a different type of paralysis. They live their lives in bondage, enslaved to pornography and other types of addictive sexual behavior. Most of them have trouble remembering a time in their life when they didn’t struggle. After years and trying this, trying that, making promises, failing, and sinking deeper and deeper into shame, many addicted people feel a lot like the paralyzed man from John 5. They feel like they live within arm’s reach of freedom but don’t believe they’ll ever experience it.
For Christians in this struggle, at some point all the years of failed self-effort and fruitless searches for the silver bullet catch up. In desperation they finally hear Jesus asks them the question, “Do you want to get well?” In this moment He gives a clarity that they’ve missed before. This clarity shows them that they cannot do anything to fix themselves, and that God can (and wants to). But their inability to fix themselves does not mean that they have no role or action. Just like Jesus told the paralyzed man to pick up his bed and walk, He calls addicted people to act; to take steps toward recovery, believing that along the way He will do the work.
Every week I meet with men who are seeking recovery and freedom from an addiction to pornography and other forms of sexual addiction. These men have taken an important step of trust and obedience. They are coming to understand that they are powerless to manage their own lives, but that through a process of recovery Jesus can and will make the change they’ve been looking for. They can’t do it. But Jesus can.
In addition to coming to group, many of these men have embraced therapy, sponsorship, and step work in addition to community. The ones who are willing to do whatever it takes are the ones who get better. They don’t know what all will be involved or what’s going to happen; they just know that something has to change.
Jesus does the healing. But He asks for action on our part. These actions (counseling, support group, working the steps, a commitment to honesty) show that we believe He can bring the healing, and that we’re willing to show up and surrender to the process through which the healing will come.
Maybe you’re struggling with an addiction. You hate it, you feel ashamed of it, you wish things were different, but you’ve really had a hard time believing that anything will ever change. I understand. I’ve been there. But as one who has experienced Jesus’ healing and restoring work in my own life, I can tell you that it’s possible.
Do you want to get well?
Awaken offers several groups that can help you wherever you are in the recovery process. We have weekly support for men and women who struggle with addictive sexual behavior, and for women who have been affected by their husbands’ or boyfriends’ addictions. We also have Twelve Step groups dealing with issues of addiction and control. CLICK HERE to get information on all of our group offerings. Or contact us with any questions you have.
Greg Oliver was a worship pastor for 15 years before his secret addiction to pornography and sex was exposed in January of 2009. Since then he has been on a journey of recovery, coming to know God better and experiencing His grace like never before. He and his wife Stacey have experienced deep healing & restoration within their marriage, and through the ministry of Awaken they walk with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders to help them experience connection and healing in the midst of sexual brokenness.