Long Suffering

Christ at the Pool of Bethesda

Christ at the Pool of Bethesda – William Hogarth

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, Isaiah 47:1-15, Hebrews 10:19-31, John 5:2-18


Today’s reading from John is significant for several reasons. Jesus performs a healing on the Sabbath, which breaks the Mosaic Law. He commands the man he heals to get up and carry the mat he’d been lying on; this was also prohibited, so Jesus assumed authority to exempt others from the law. Finally, Jesus refers to God as his Father, declaring himself equal to God. This only intensified the Pharisee’s desire to see him killed.

John tells us the man was only one of many invalids lying by a pool with alleged healing properties. When Jesus realized the man had been suffering for 38 years, Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well.

What about all the other sick people by the pool?

John skips ahead in the story so we have no idea whether Jesus interacted with anyone else. The Gospels tell us several times that Jesus healed crowds of people, but not this time. Yet it doesn’t seem likely Jesus simply wasn’t concerned with them.

The truth is, not everyone is healed. Most of us are more likely to find ourselves among the long-suffering than the miraculously healed.  Some theologians would blame it on a lack of faith. Others would say each healing miracle serves a specific purpose in Christ’s ministry. We can find ourselves caught between contradictory ideas telling us both that faith will heal us and that suffering brings us closer to Christ. We must remember that whatever our plight, Jesus still sees and hears us. He still moves among us. His love and compassion for us are as great as they are for anyone else who seems more “blessed.”

Paul suffered an unnamed malady (he called it a thorn in his flesh) until he died. Rather than torture himself about why, he considered his weakness a perfection of his strength. Suffering is not a sign of disfavor. No one gets to impose their own meaning on your suffering, but illness and health both present opportunities to grow closer to God. Whatever the state of your life, God loves you and is with you.

Comfort: In sickness and health, God is with us.

Challenge: Do something – volunteer, donate, etc. – to support people with chronic illness.

Prayer: God of compassion, I will seek you even in my suffering. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever found meaning in suffering? If so, how?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

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