I am back among the land of the breathing.
This morning, I opened my eyes and realized two things: one, I had slept through the night without a single coughing fit, and two, I could smell the rain-washed air drifting through our bedroom window. No more congestion, no more sore throat, no more rattling cough.
It's funny how just three or four days of discomfort can make you appreciate normalcy. I ran through the house sniffing that lovely smell and even went outside for a long moment, just because the scent of morning no longer eluded me. Every intake is pure delight. Last week I wouldn't have even noticed.
I've often thought about the people in first century Israel and what it was like for them when ailment struck. Blindness, flesh-eating disease, incessant bleeding, insanity--if those conditions stump our modern-day experts, imagine the helplessness you'd feel two thousand years ago when a diagnosis of that sort landed in your lap. Your only hope would be prayer.
But for a few, a different sort of Hope walked their way. A man blind from birth encountered that hope one ordinary day. He heard the voice first, then felt hands rubbing mud on his useless eyes. The voice told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam--and he did. He felt his way down the hillside, searched with his foot until his toe touched wetness, bent down and scooped a handful of water toward his eyes. And for the first time in his life, the man saw a flicker of light ... and then a ripple of watery motion ... and then his own reflection. He looked down in that water and saw the face of a once helpless, hopeless man who had been both helped and filled with hope by the God who loved him.
Ten lepers found healing one day when Hope walked past them on the road to Jerusalem. They knew, somehow, who He was. "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" They needed that mercy. Since the first tell-tale spot had appeared on each of their bodies, they'd made their home together wandering the hills, banished from all other human contact. Though occasionally a loved one ventured to within a hundred feet or so and lifted a hand or a voice in greeting, those glimpses only served to remind these lepers how long it had been since they'd kissed their spouse or held their children. And emotional turmoil aside, their physical condition was gruesome. Fingers rotted off. Noses disintegrated. Feet melted away to bone. Sores grew and covered their bodies. The only hope for these ten was the hope of death--until the day He walked among them.
He could have transferred healing through touch. He'd done it that way before. But maybe to remind those ten, and all the rest of us, that in the beginning He created the world with nothing but a word, this time He healed with His voice. "Go, show yourselves to the priest," was all He said. But when they did as He said, when they turned and began walking in obedience, it happened. I wonder what they noticed first. Was it the fingers that grew from their stubs? Was it the fact that they no longer walked on bone, but on fully formed feet? Or was it the ears, the noses, the beautiful restored faces of each other that first tipped them to the truth--that they'd been healed with a word from God?
A woman who had bled for twelve years found the courage to go against convention, show herself in a crowd, and touch, briefly, the hem of Jesus' garment. Power flowed from Him to her and stopped her bleeding on the spot. With no more interaction than that, the woman was restored. Hope healed her--then turned, smiled, and called her "Daughter."
And my favorite of all: the crazed, demon-possessed cave-dweller. I stood on a hill across from that cave this last October above the shores of Galilee and heard the story again. I heard about the man of the tombs, the untamable madman who had broken every shackle men could put upon him, but who couldn't break the chains of his hopelessness. Isolated in the cave, with nothing for company but a legion of demons, this man too woke every day waiting for death. But on a very ordinary day, God brought the key that would release him forever from his chains. With a word, Jesus emptied the man of his demons, filled him with hope, and restored both his sanity and his dignity. And the man was so spilling-over-grateful, he begged Jesus to go with Him. But Jesus sent the man home to his friends.
I have often wondered what that homecoming--what all those homecomings were like. "I'm home," I hear in my imaginings. "I've been healed!" And I see the faces of loved ones as they behold and then embrace the truth: their lost one is restored.
There's nothing new under the sun. The hopeless still walk among us. And God hasn't changed. He's as willing today to restore as He was two thousand years ago. But something else that hasn't changed is that people want a selective part of God, but not all of Him. They want the miracles, but not the relationship. They want the blessings, but not the obedience. They want the hope of heaven, but they don't want God to intrude on their lives here on earth.
If you're in dire straights, God will hear your prayers. If you feel despairing or broken, the healing you need is as near as a whispered prayer. And His name is Jesus. But know this: whatever situation you want out of, whatever healing you need, the fix you find will be only temporary. The blind man? He died eventually. So did the lepers. So did the bleeding woman. So did the man of the tombs. They enjoyed their healing for a time and had stories to share with all who would listen, but in the end, their life here was a brief, flitting appearance. So is mine. So is yours.
Don't ask God to solve your temporary problems and ignore the eternal healing He's holding out to you. He wants to give you a hope that lasts forever.
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 NKJV