Audrey and Robert were paralyzed. There was nothing wrong with their bodies — it was their relationship with each other, their marriage, which had grown immobile and inflexible. In the middle of yet another screaming argument, Robert jumped up, grabbed two sheets of paper and said to Audrey, “Let's make a list of everything we don't like about each other.”
Audrey started writing immediately. Robert watched her write, his face a combination of hurt and anger. When Audrey stopped writing, he started. She wrote again. Every time she stopped writing, Robert would add to his list.
When they were finally finished, Robert said, “Let's exchange complaints,” and they gave each other their lists.
“Give mine back,” Audrey pleaded immediately as she glanced at the sheet Robert had handed her. All down the page Robert had written: “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
With that list their marriage began to be healed.
Many people, like Robert and Audrey, are paralyzed. There is nothing wrong with their limbs. There is something wrong with their hearts.
Such paralysis affects your intellect — you think about a problem or a situation and never make a personal judgment.
There is an emotional paralysis which lacks conviction — you flip-flop between two opinions.
There is a moral paralysis which keeps you from making a commitment to resolve the situation.
Worst of all, there is a spiritual paralysis which makes you cold, ineffective, and incapable of making any change on your own.
Walking in Jerusalem one day, Jesus encountered a man whose paralyzed body represents all types of infirmities. For 38 years the man had been paralyzed. It may have been an illness which came on him gradually; it may have been the result of an accident which suddenly robbed him of his mobility. Unable to move for so long, he seemed to be accustomed to his condition.
Sin makes us like that. We no longer believe change is possible. We have no hope that things can improve. Spiritually, we just lay there — paralyzed, unmoving, and unmovable.
For 38 years the man laid by the pool of Salome. The longer he lay without moving, the less likely he would be able to move. His muscles atrophied, becoming weaker with each passing day.
We lose the power we do not use. Jesus told of a group of men who stood around all day saying, “No one hired us.” There is not the slightest indication they tried to change their condition. Idleness became uselessness.
For 38 years the man seems to have been waiting for someone else to help him. He told Jesus, “I have no one to put me into the water.” This explanation of paralysis has many variations: no one put me in, nobody asked me, and no one ever helped me.
Some people are professional leaners. They always need to be prodded, pushed, carried, helped, and led. Their inadequacy becomes so deep they believe no one can help.
After Jesus healed the man He told him, “Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” Jesus suggested a deeper cause of some of our trouble. Sin which is unconfessed, the sin which we continue to practice — even sporadically — burns deep into our lives. Prayer becomes spiritless. Christian service becomes a drudgery. Serving Jesus is robbed of its joy.
What is the cure?
There must be a confrontation with Jesus. Thirty-eight years of excuses were swept away. With dramatic force and power, Jesus said to the man, “Get up! Rise! Take up your bed and walk!”
It does not matter how long you have been in this condition; break the chains of habit, discard the years of hopelessness, stop waiting for help from someone else. Jesus demands obedience. Move out in faith. You have been paralyzed too long. Jesus has come to set you free! He asked that man so long ago, and now He asks you, “Do you want to be made whole?”
(David Sisler's newspaper column, Not For Sunday Only, is in its 13th year of weekly publication. For reprint permission, or to subscribe, contact Mr. Sisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.)