Summary: Actions to keep loss from paralyzing you - taken from the story of the healing of the paraplegic.
The worst natural disaster in American history occured this past week. The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was devasting. It looks like there may be hundreds dead, thousands who lost all their possessions and billions of dollars worth of damage. The city of New Orleans is fighting for its life and many other communities are reeling.
We’re in the series on the conversations Jesus had with people in need. There are other conversations of Jesus recorded but we’re looking specifically at the seven that precede the miracles John uses in his Good News account. In each case, Jesus could have just performed the miracle - but He always talked about it so we would learn how to deal with difficulties as He did.
This week’s conversation and miracle are especially timely since we’re witnessing the aftermath of such a powerful hurricane. Rebuilding lives after the great loss sustained by this catastophre will take years. Interestingly, the conversation in John 5 is between Jesus and a man who had been an invalid for 38 years!
It’s hard to think of not being able to get around normally for 38 years. This man’s mobility was severely limited - especially in the days before mechanized wheelchairs and vans with lifts - before handicapped accessible public restrooms and parking spaces. The loss of health and freedom he suffered was humongous.
Loss touches every one of our lives at one time or another. So this man’s story and the way Jesus interacted with him are important to us.
What do you do when you face a severe loss? Let Christ’s words encourage you to take the following ACTIONS FOR KEEPING LOSS FROM PARALYZING YOU:
1. EVALUATE YOUR LEVEL OF HOPE.
We’ve already learned in this series that Jesus loved to stimulate thought provoking conversations with a question. His question to this suffering man was, "Do you want to get well?" (Verse 6)
On the surface the question may seem unnecessary - but we know that the Savior never wasted words.
Does he want to get well? He’s been challenged with immobility for 38 years! Of course he wants to get well...doesn’t he?
Jesus was saying to the man, "Thirty eight years is a long time to suffer. Have you lost all hope? Do you still have any desire to get well?"
THE GREATEST OBSTACLE IN OVERCOMING LOSS IN LIFE IS THE LOSS OF HOPE!
A security guard at a railroad yard accidentally locked himself in a refrigeration car one night. He knew the door could not be opened from the inside. He was trapped. Doomed. He would die there, he knew, either from the cold or a lack of oxygen. It was the thought of freezing to death that concerned him the most. He screamed until his lungs burned, and banged on the door until his hands were swollen and bruised.
His situation was hopeless. His fate written. He decided his last act would be to record his agonizing death for whoever would eventually find his body. Taking a pencil from his jacket pocket, he wrote on the car wall: "It is so cold in here I can hardly stand it..."
After a while he struggled from the corner where he huddled and wrote a second line: "It’s colder still...my fingers are getting numb."
Then later, "I’m slowly freezing to death..."
And ultimately, "These are probably my last words..." By the time he scribbled his final sentence, the writing was almost illegible, the hand of a dying man.
His body was found the following morning, slumped in one corner of the refrigerator car.
The coroner had great difficutly determining the cause of death. There had, he determined, been sufficient ventilation inside the car to allow a man to survive for days. And, since the refrigeration apparatus of the car had been out of order, there was no way the man would have frozen to death.
In fact, the temperature inside the car when it was finally opened was fifty-six degrees!
(Story taken from "Don’t Tell Me It’s Impossible Until After I’ve Already Done It", by Pam Lontos.)
Jesus was asking this man if he had any hope left. He was asking him to evaluate his inner circumstances - not just his outer loss. The loss of his health and ability to get around was terrible, but it was something God could help him overcome IF he still had hope.
Watching the news reports from the aftermath of the hurricane you could see some people were overwhelmed and others were looking at their losses and able to respond with optimism. What makes the difference? The difference is, some have hope while others have already given up hope.
The thousands of people displaced by hurricane Katrina have many needs: water, food, clothing, and shelter. But the greatest thing they need is hope!