“Get up!” I remember hearing that in my head as I sat looking over the bridge toward the water below. It started as a gentle thought, prodding me to move away from the mesmerizing motion of the river. I knew that my legs should take me back toward the car, but I was frozen. Hope seemed to have been lost that day. The overwhelming circumstances of life had piled up for so long that I wasn’t even aware of what had led me to that spot. I sat and stared down as the tears filled my eyes against my will. The struggle to keep my emotions under control had been lost and the crippling pain of depression had overtaken me. I wish I could say that thoughts of my husband and children were drawing me back to a sense of importance. If I had thought of them I believe they would have brought me back to my senses, but at that moment my thoughts were consumed with an overwhelming despair. “Get up!” Those words kept getting louder in my head. Each time it seemed to become more stern; almost shouting to get though the darkness. I was panicking that I was going crazy. I could hear my heartbeat and in my mind was trying to escape from everything … including myself. “Get up!”
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 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 lie—the 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?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
John 5: 1-8
“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6b) If I would have been asked that question the day I was at the bridge, my answer (if I could have actually made the words come out of my mouth) would have been “yes”. I was consumed with the thoughts of how much of a train wreck I was. The sense of burdening everyone around me brought guilt and shame. Even the thought of reaching out to someone for help because I wasn’t doing well had been distorted in my mind as a selfish action; thus furthering my isolation. I was crippled emotionally, mentally and spiritually. “Get up!” That voice kept going over and over, until I finally took the first step toward the car. I literally struggled to take each step. And then, I realized that I had a choice. I could choose to remain in a pit of despair that was going to destroy myself, as well as my family or I could choose to not be a victim trapped in my own mind. I could choose to move into tomorrow regardless of how terrifying it seemed. The sun didn’t come out all at once, but slowly; with each chosen step; I was healed.
Although that experience is an extreme example of how I have sat down in defeat, it’s not isolated. I have never been back to a bridge mind you, but I have been crippled in fear of moving forward. I have been in different seasons of life when I requested help, but what I truly wanted was pity. We’ve all done this at some point, or at the very least seen someone else do it. Complaining about not having a job, but spending more time talking about it than looking for one. Wishing that the weight would come off, but not changing one lifestyle habit. Envying the friend who has a respectful and loving spouse; but never saying a kind word to your own. Hoping the person who hurt you would grovel in apology; but not even acknowledging their hurt. We can get into a stand-off within ourselves and justify our response; or lack of; by saying “When I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”. (John 5:7b)
“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.””
And what about those who are simply passing by and take notice of the crippling effects that bondage is having on someone else. “It’s not my problem.” “That is a personal matter.” “I have enough on my plate already.” And my personal favorite, “I’m going to pray for you.” Yes, ultimately every person has to choose for themselves to get up. But, in many situations it takes engaging in their life. That requires releasing the excuses keeping us from reaching out our hand. Honestly, there isn’t a valid excuse for not reaching out. We too can become crippled by not choosing mercy for those in need. God is always at work reaching out to the broken. Jesus is always at work reaching out to the broken. As a believer in Christ who has the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we too should always be at work reaching out to the broken. You don’t need to travel far, you just need to open your eyes.