“Do you want to get well?” Jesus in John 5:6
Those words rang in my ear, even haunted me, throughout a 3-minute devotional one of the participants in my small group was sharing at the Speak Up Conference. My job was to mentor the group and do a critique of the talk, but instead I experienced a massive amount of conviction. She was telling the story from John chapter 5 of the invalid who’d been lying on a mat for 38 years, depending on others for help. He literally couldn’t do anything. He had to have others help to move his mat from place to place. He had to depend on the generosity (or pity) from others for financial support.
His life redefined the word “stuck.”
“Do you want to get well?” He doesn’t answer Jesus’ question though. He just quickly explains why he can’t do anything about his situation. “Well, every time the water is stirred, I have no one to help me get in. (They had a belief at the Pool of Bethesda that sometimes an angel would come and stir the waters and whoever got in the pool would be healed of their affliction.)
So Jesus looks at him and says, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately he’s cured! He gets up, carries his mat, and walks for the first time in 38 years.
“Do you want to get well?” It was like Jesus was speaking directly to me as this young lady shared. “Yes!” My soul cried out. “Then get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Could it really be that easy?
Let me explain my dilemma. I have been experiencing a deep depression since mid January. Some of it was circumstantial. We had just moved out of our house where we’d lived for the last 16 years. And we were moving stuff into two different places, some to the farm we purchased last year, some to the tiny 850 sq. ft. house we would call home for the next year as we built out a cottage on the farm. It was super stressful. It stretched our marriage to the limit. (Moving will magnify all of the differences between you and your spouse and Marlina and I were sideways a lot!)
On top of that, we rented out our old house to a wonderful young couple who agreed to a 3-½ year contract. Which was great…until it wasn’t. The first week they moved in, the entire septic system failed. $22,000 and a week later, they had a new septic system. And we had $22,000 of new debt with nothing to show for it except a backyard that looked like a nuclear test site. The move had been expensive enough, but this was the last straw.
My mind turned in on itself and depression came like a black wave, capsizing my plans for the year.
So I just kind of stopped. I mean, I did the things I had to do to survive, but I didn’t get a bunch of other stuff I wanted to get done. I had planned to finish writing the book “Undivided” in January. That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen in February or all the months following either. It’s super hard to write when your brain is functioning at about 50%. Words don’t come easy and decision-making is almost impossible.
I was stuck. Like an invalid on a mat of depression.
“Then get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” I felt like Jesus was saying, “Bruce, your depression is real. But I want you to pick up your mat and walk with it. I want you to carry the mat of depression with you, but don’t keep lying on it as an excuse not to be about my work. My power is made greater in your weakness.”
I had already seen that first-hand on the first day of the conference. I was doing the opening keynote, but I was running on about a 50% energy level. I had just come back from 3 weeks in Peru taking two groups back-to-back on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. But in-between the two trips, I got food poisoning, and I had to do something I haven’t done in 21 years of leading hikes. I had to evacuate myself off the trail. (Thankfully, I have an amazing guide from Peru who was able to take the 2nd group on and finish the trip.) But I went about 10 days without being able to eat, lost 10 pounds, and my fatigue level was off the charts.
I wasn’t even sure I could deliver the keynote talk. But as soon as I walked on that stage, a power came over me, and I had complete clarity and 100% of my energy back. It was the power of God in my weakness. And the talk couldn’t have gone better. All throughout the weekend, participants came to me over and over again and told how God used that talk to transform their lives and their thinking. (Ironically the talk was called “Complete Joy.”) It was a very humbling, but moving experience.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
So I did. I came back from that conference this week and decided I would no longer let depression dictate what I could and couldn’t do. I have the power of God within me. And I’m going to depend on His power in my weakness.
So I’m going to restart my blogging. (I stopped “A Word for the Week” suddenly in May of 2020 when the pandemic started and my son was in a horrific accident) And I’m going to restart writing the book, “Undivided: How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.” I believe it’s a super important book, particularly as we head into an election year. So I need to get it done. In the coming weeks, many of my “Word for the Week” blog posts will be chapter excerpts from the book. Think of it as a sneak peek.
What about you friend? Have you been stuck? Do you feel like you’re just lying on a mat waiting for someone to help? The mat of depression or anxiety? The mat of financial problems? The mat of a difficult marriage? The mat of an unfulfilling job or career? The mat of ________?
Maybe Jesus is whispering to you right now, “Get up, pick up that mat, carry it with you, and get back to doing the work I’ve called you to do. I want you to depend on my power in your weakness.”
Where do you need a restart?