In June, I shared that I had received some unexpected health news. (You can read more here.) I wish I was writing to share the unexpected journey has come to an end, however I am still in the midst of it. Tests have ruled out some things, but also left us with more questions than answers. I am now waiting to see a specialist, who will hopefully provide answers.
It still blows my mind that this all started with a simple eye appointment and now I am waiting to see a specialist. I do not feel great, but I don’t feel sick enough to see a specialist. I do believe God is my healer, and with one word all of this could end. However, if I am being honest, I haven’t handled every day of this journey with grace. I have had a short fuse. I have been cranky. Some days I have been downright bratty.
Several weeks ago, one of my girlfriends sent me a sermon by Christine Caine. The message is a timely message that I truly believe the church needs to hear. (The message is shared below – I encourage you to listen!) It’s a message that I have listened to several times, and honestly can’t stop thinking about. The message is based on the John 1:1-15.
In this scripture, Jesus goes to the pool at Bethesda. This pool was believed to heal people, and so disabled people would lay around it waiting for their healing. The man in this story had been laying on his mat for 38 years waiting for healing. Jesus approaches this man and asks “do you want to be healed”, and the man gives excuses about why he hasn’t been healed yet. After the excuses, Jesus simply tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. Christine Caine shares so much more, but the short version is “get off your mat”. What does that mean? It means don’t allow the circumstances around you to keep you from your healing or from what God is calling you to do.
This message convicts me so much. How many times have I laid still when I could have just picked up my mat and moved on? How many times have I believed my mat was my only choice? Here’s the thing, the man laying on his mat wasn’t sinning. However, because he choose to lay on his mat, he was missing out on the bigger things God had for him.
I have done a lot of thinking about this message, and I realized there is another story in the bible about a man who was laying on his mat. In Luke 2:1-5, Jesus goes to a house. News spread quickly and people gathered there to hear Jesus speak – so many people that there was no room in the house. The bible tells us four friends heard that Jesus was in that house, so they carried their paralytic friend – on his mat – to the house. When they got to the house, they didn’t let the crowd stop them. They carried their friend onto the roof, dug through the roof, and then lowered their friend to Jesus. Jesus healed that man.
The bible doesn’t tell us anything about the man on the mat. It doesn’t say how long he had been sick. It doesn’t tell us anything about his attitude. However, the friends of the the man loved him so much they wouldn’t allow him to stay on his mat. His friends not only carried him to the house Jesus was in, they literally dug through a roof and lowered the man down to Jesus. These men where the definition of best friends.
How many times have I allowed those around me to lay on their mats? Here’s the thing, I believe it’s okay not to be okay. (You can read more about my thoughts on not being okay here.) We will walk through seasons of our life that are extremely difficult and I believe it is okay to ask God the hard questions during those seasons. However, what would it look like if we didn’t allow our friends to sit on their mat during those hard seasons?
What do I mean by this? Well, I just shared that the unexpected season I am walking through has caused me to have a short fuse. Friends, in the natural I have a lot of reasons to be ugly. Unexpected health concerns, stress at work, years of delayed fertility and so much more gives me the right to be ugly; right? I want to tell you today, going through hard times does NOT give me the right to be ugly. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to ask God the hard questions. However, it is not okay to sin just because we are going through a hard season. I need people around me to tell say “Melissa, I know you don’t feel well, however the way you reacted was wrong. You need to apologize.”
There are days since this unexpected journey has started that I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Days that feel like my circumstances will be my new “normal”. It’s on those days, I need people around me to remind me the heart of our Father is healing. I need to be reminded that this is just a season. Let’s be honest, on the days that I feel like I can’t get off my mat, I need friends to pick me up and carry me to the feet of Jesus. I need friends who are willing to pray for me and stand in the gap for me until I see my breakthrough.
Can I be honest, this may sound like an uplifting post, but no matter what side of this you are on (the friend on the mat or the friend carrying the mat), this isn’t easy. It’s so much easier to give your friends hugs and tell them it’s okay to be ugly (or just give them hugs and ignore there ugliness). It’s also so much easier to ignore our friends who are speaking truth and to continue to lay on out mat.
The bible doesn’t tell us this, but I imagine carrying a friend to the house Jesus was in wasn’t easy. Lifting him to the top of the roof, digging through the roof and then lowering him to Jesus – they had to be tired. I am sure they were tempted to give up. I am sure they dealt with doubt, wondering if it would be worth it. I am sure the people around watching thought they looked ridiculous. However, they knew the character of Jesus and they loved their friend too much to give up. They were his best friends.
The bible doesn’t tell us this, but I imagine the man on the mat must have thought they were crazy. Why were his friends carrying him to a house were this man, Jesus, was? Maybe he thought he wasn’t “that sick” or maybe he was okay with his situation. Why would they go through the work of lifting him to the top of a house? The bible tells us he was paralytic, but I still wonder if he felt the pain of the journey? What if he would have told his friends to stop because it hurt too much? What if he would have told them to give up on him?
Proverbs 27:17 says this about friendship:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
When you rub two blades against each other, the edges become sharper making the edges more efficient in their task to cut and slice. Rubbing blades together creates friction and I am sure, if the blade could talk, it wouldn’t be the most pleasant thing a blade has ever gone though. However, without that friction the blade couldn’t be efficient in the job it was created to do.
I believe that is why it is important for us to have community. Not just people to hang out with, but people who point us to Jesus and call us to a higher level. We need people to sharpen us so we are more effective for the kingdom. In my book, this is definition of a best friend.
Today, I want to encourage you to surround yourself with best friends. The type of friends who refuse to let you sit on your mat. The type of friends who encourage you to get closer to Jesus. More than that, I want to encourage you to be a best friend. Be the friend who is willing to carry your friend to Jesus.