There have been, are, or will come difficulties and hardships in our lives; this is sure.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
For those that choose to face their problems alonewhether that choice is motivated by fear, shame, or pridethey will fail to move past them once they’re over.
If we do not walk with God through the course of a trial, and allow Him to share our heartache and painwith prayers, tears (and sometimes some yelling)our hearts will grow some callouses with the pride of having conquered that problem on our own.
If we’re not careful, we can allow such things to define us, and instead of moving through it, we may ultimately bring it with us, into the present; and into the future. If we don’t let that thing go and allow it to become a part of God’s bigger storyin which we have important roles, we will ultimately hold onto it as an anthem to be replayed again and again.
While we may oftentimes discover that we are living, as a result, in the midst of a fog, that discovery seems not to concern us too greatly, and we might simply make the adjustments necessary to help us better navigate it. In the end, we may even forget that we’re in a fog at all, accepting instead the new normal.
And so we go, traveling with the fogonly vaguely aware of its changing densityembracing it as our own, having quickly forgotten what the sunshine feels like. We meet others there in the fog who, like us, feel it’s a place we can belong. Because, let’s face it, maybe this is as good as it gets!
But then, suddenly, the fog clearsif only for a few momentsand we see things as they are outside the fog. Not that what’s in the fog isn’t real, of course. It’s just… foggy. And if we don’t like who we are in the sunshine, we may feel more comfortable in that fog, because it hides our blemishes; our imperfections. As a result, we can very quickly return to that “hazy” place where those who are also uncomfortable in the light tend to congregate.
When Jesus moved from place to place during his ministry, people who had never heard him speak came to him from miles around for healing. They weren’t necessarily interested in his message of everlasting life, but they did want the short-term freedom of physical healing so that they could be free to live in their fog without hindrance.
Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.
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 liethe 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?”
Now, while Jesus certainly healed many who suffered in each town he visited, he never stayed in one place very long. Physical healing was not his mission, but it was the removing of those ailments which were a hindrance to their receiving the Gospel.
I’m a huge Monty Python fan, and one of my favorites is The Life of Brian. In one of the earlier scenes of the film, we see a man on the street begging (Alms for an Ex-Leper):
Beggar: “Spare a talent for an ol’ ex-leper?”
Brian: “Did you say ‘ex’-leper?”
Beggar: “That’s right, 16 years behind the belt and proud of it, sir!”
Brian: “Well, what happened?”
Beggar: “I was cured, sir!”
Brian: “Who cured you?”
Beggar: “Jesus did, sir! I was hopping along, minding my own business, and all-of-a-sudden, up-he-comes, and cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my whole livelihood’s gone! Not so much as a by-your-leave. ‘You’re cured, mate!’ Bloody do-gooder!”
Brian: “Well, why don’t you just go and tell him that you want to be a leper again?”
Beggar: “Well, yeah, I could do that I suppose. What I was thinking was to ask him to make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle-of-the-week. You know, something “beggable”, but not leprosy, which is a pain-in-the…”
Brian: [Drops coin in cup] “There you are.”
Beggar: [Looks in the cup] “Half a denarii? Me bloody life’s story?”
Brian: “There’s no pleasing some people.”
Beggar: “That’s just what Jesus said, sir!”
While extremely satirical, we can see a lot of truth to this idea. Because while many of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ healings are in connection with a recipient’s faith, there were many who came only to have their circumstances changed, not their lives.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked himand he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Like so many, we too can seek physical or emotional healing so that we can be at rest in our foggy places. Instead, we must start moving forward through the fog, asking Jesus to show us the way out as we lead others to a brighter place as well.
We must not find comfort in the fog because it can be dangerous, and the longer we’re there the more inclined we are to forget what the sunshine is like. Instead, we must walk in the lightas He is in the lighttrusting that He is both willing and wanting to go with us through the dark places so that we might learn how to better navigate them, in order that we can one day help bring others through.
And it’s equally important that we not stand outside that fog and call out arrogantly to those within, trying desperately to convince them how much better it is on the outside. Remember that, while you’re in the fog, you can’t see the sun, and it’s difficult to trust those on the outside who aren’t standing next to you in the thick of it.
Ironically, when we’re in it, we can’t see the way out because we have bound ourselves so tightly to the others there that we reach a point when we no longer want to get out. We’ve made the fog our home, and everyone outside the fog can’t possibly know what they’re talking about. They are outsiders who should mind their own business.
But when someone else has journeyed in to lead us out of the fog, we must be willing to allow God to lead us back in once in awhile so that we don’t forget where we’ve come from or what others may be going through. We can never lead others out of the fog if we aren’t willing to go in and get them.
And remember, we must never go in alone! We must be tethered to those who are standing in the light; lest we get lost once again in the fog.