Recently, I was listening to my mother read about the healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:1-9) I’ve read this account many times before. Perhaps you have as well. But it occurred to me as I heard his story yet again, that I’ve never given this man enough credit.
In fact, I’ve even ridiculed him for giving excuses when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. I’ve thought, “Just say yes to the question, man! Jesus doesn’t want to hear all your complaints and excuses.”
If you’re not familiar with this story, many people believed that if you were the first person into this pool at a certain time, you would be healed of whatever your problem was. Apparently, this man had been ill for thirty-eight years. And he spent those thirty-eight years trying to be the first one in.
That’s when it hit me. He never gave up the wait. So maybe he was frustrated at times when others beat him into the water -- thus his long answer to Jesus’ question. Still, his hope, his persistence, his effort, his expectation, didn’t disappear and diminish because of years of anguish. He was still waiting for his healing, even after thirty-eight years.
Undoubtedly, Jesus saw this man’s great faith, and he healed him. And the man learned he could be healed without getting into the pool!
I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be faithfully waiting for something or someone for such a long time. How do you not become discouraged, downhearted or depressed? How do you not lose hope? How do you not give up and quit trying or waiting?
As I ponder this healing account, the answer seems fairly straight forward and could maybe even be described as simple -- keep your faith.
It seems to me that the secret for maintaining hope is to keep our faith in reaching our goals and dreams strong and unwavering. I think the man by the pool of Bethesda would have waited another thirty-eight years if he had had to.
I would love to have that kind of faith! There have been many times when I didn’t get the answer I was hoping for quick enough, and I became disappointed and depressed and pretty much conceded defeat. I can’t help but wonder now what might have been if I had not given up.
My mother is like that man by the pool of Bethesda. At least she seems to have his kind of faith. No matter what kind of trouble her children get into or what kind of problems they have, her faith in them remains invincible. Nothing or no one could ever make her believe her children can’t overcome whatever it is that needs overcoming.
I suspect many -- if not all -- parents are like this. I certainly know I would never give up on my daughter and her dreams! I have no doubt whatsoever that she can accomplish whatever she sets her sights on. My faith in my daughter is also invincible.
I’ve seen dads giving encouragement to their child when it was their turn to bat. And I’ve seen moms confidently and courageously attend to their child’s injuries when they fell off their bike or got stung by a bee.
Parent’s faith in the well-being and success of their children would never diminish just because their children face a difficult struggle. No, that’s probably when the parent’s faith increases and grows even stronger and more resolute.
Perhaps we could all have more faith in ourselves. I admit I’ve reached a time in my life when I don’t have the same faith in my own goals and dreams as I once did.
One thing does seem very clear to me now. Disappointment and discouragement will lead us to defeat. So surely, the only way to success, healing and progress is confidence, persistence, courage and encouragement -- faith.
We need to have the same confidence in ourselves that we have for our children. And we need to give ourselves the same encouragement as we give our children.
So how long do we wait -- or have faith? The answer again seems simple. For as long as it takes!