The God Who Opens Doors

door

Facebook is my frenemy.

My friend when I have zinger lines to post up, witty comments or pictures of my kids in their matching Christmas outfits. My enemy when I have thoughts I really shouldn’t share at such lightning speed through cyberspace.

The other week I got myself in a situation. I read an article circulating Facebook about anxiety and fired away a response and posted it. Except after I did I realized that my words were really angry. Anxiety sufferers probably thought I was aiming my gunfire at them.

I wasn’t.

What I thought generated my feverish rant was the view in the article that anxiety is just part of some people — when my own view is that Jesus can help people with anxiety. But there was actually a different reason that article made me angry.

The article reminded me of a situation launching into ministry where I experienced anxiety. Not just a little stomach upset or increased heart rate. A situation where I felt such bad anxiety that my temperature rose to that of a menopausal woman. Where I felt sweat breaking out all over my body and my breaths getting short and choppy. Where I felt me retreating inside of myself like the zoom-in focus of a lens — me, getting smaller and smaller until I was just a little dot hiding inside me. Shaking.

A situation where I couldn’t succeed. Where every place I turned there was a brick wall blocking my path. A situation where I couldn’t make the people around me happy even though I worked my most charismatic personality traits and desperately tried. (Key word: desperately.)

A situation that made me want to make good on a vow I made as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again.

So, even though I typed up a series of rapid-fire words aimed at people with anxiety needing to get it together, I was really typing a series of words against the people who helped to trigger the anxiety.

I immediately felt God’s conviction afterwards. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until God showed me. God isn’t underhanded. He doesn’t want me to secretly swipe at people. He wants me to directly confront situations or people that hurt me and then let Him heal me.

Consider Hannah, a woman in the Old Testament who had every reason to lash out words of hatred and bitterness. Hannah was barren. She was one of two wives of Elkanah, and even though she was his favorite, she couldn’t bear sons for him like Peninnah, his other wife. Peninnah taunted her year in and year out, but nowhere does it say that Hannah retaliated. In fact, Hannah did just the opposite. She went to the Lord with her grief.

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10)

Some important things I can learn from Hannah:

1. She didn’t cover over her pain.

She wept loudly and often. In front of her husband. At the temple (to the point that the priest asked her if she was drunk). She didn’t hide the fact that her situation hurt her.

2. She didn’t use her pain as an excuse for wrong action.

She was devastated by her situation to the point that she didn’t even want to eat, but she did not use that to fuel revenge or bitter action against her rival.

The Bible says that God was the One who closed Hannah’s womb (1 Samuel 1:5). Peninnah aggravated a difficult situation, but it was the Lord who put Hannah in the situation she was in! That is a hard verse for me to read personally because I want to believe that God would never allow me to feel pain, but He clearly allowed Hannah to suffer for a time. In a particular instance in the last few years as I struggled to make sense of my circumstances, I cried out to God one day, “I don’t even know what I am fighting against.”

And I felt like the Lord told me, “Carol, you are fighting against Me.”

I was stunned. Why would God fight against me when He was the One who told me to pursue the direction I did? I don’t know all the reasons, but I do know that He has had a plan for me that has been totally different than I thought it would be. I have wanted my destiny to open up in my way and my timing, but God has not operated on my agenda. He has been more concerned about my refining and preparation than just allowing me to get what I want. He has closed the doors I have so badly wanted Him to open.

What we must observe in the story of Hannah is that although God sealed off Hannah’s womb, He enabled her later to become pregnant. Further in the passage it says, “Elkanah made love to his wife, and the Lord remembered her” (1 Samuel 1: 19). The very situation that is closed to me now may be open to me later in the future. And then there can be no doubt Whom I can give the glory to. As the Reformation Study Bible indicates: The Lord is sovereign over my situations and can intervene in circumstances and turn them in my favor.

I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

As this passage suggests, God brings blessing and calamity into our lives. He is not capable of sin (the word “evil” most commentaries cite as meaning punishment for sin or affliction), but He allows adversity to come in our lives. Not only that, He puts us in situations specifically where we will experience hardship at times. One of Satan’s best tricks is to get us to turn on others in those moments and spend energy nursing hurts that get us totally sidetracked from the calling God has for us.

What we can learn from Hannah is that when we are in those tough situations where we feel and know that we are wrestling God Himself we need to recognize His sovereignty — acknowledge that while He may be the One who has brought a trial into our life, He is the One who can also remove it. He’s not only the God who seals off opportunities that come our way, He’s the God who opens doors.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8)

As Pastor Dick Woodward says in a devotional about God’s supremacy, God will often put us in difficult circumstances because “He wants us to learn that He is our only hope and our only help as we live for Him in this world.”

Woodward’s assertion has been true in my own trying experiences the last four years: God is after my dependence on Him. My complete emptying of self to embrace His version of me. Is this difficult for me to swallow? Yes. Do I like it? No.

Hannah bore her long-awaited son in due time, and after he was born she sang this song of praise: “For the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). I believe that the Lord blessed Hannah the way He did because she went to Him with her deepest pain and acknowledged Him as the only One who could transform her impossible tragedy into a story of beauty.

I don’t have to resort to sniper attacks from behind a computer screen. As Hannah’s story reminds me, God knows, and even if I suffer a little while in the process of reaching all He has for me, He will take care to see that His promises are fulfilled in me.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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The Blessing of Failure in Ministry

 

rain Christian singer and songwriter Laura Story poses the following questions in her song “Blessings”:

What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if you healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?”

For the last few years, I have learned what it means to receive blessings wrapped in a package of pain. Shortly after I quit teaching and launched into the journey of ministry, I entered a period of my life where my abilities and talents came up short, our money dried up, and the ministry I felt called to did not open up for me. This chaos unfolded in several ways.

A month after I left the education field, I gave birth to our son; he was colicky and had reflux. For quite some time, I slept two hours a night and woke up to face an intensive day of caring for a newborn and two-year-old. The savings fund that was supposed to last for the first year depleted within three months after I quit teaching. We had some expensive repairs on two sets of air conditioning coils that came up to the cost of a few thousand dollars. That and the cost of the new baby’s hospital bills ate away at the amount we had set aside.

Before I knew it, I was in line at the school district office to pick up my cashed out retirement fund just so we could afford to live. To add to the mix, we left our home church campus (where we had been established for ten years) to help launch a new church campus. I mourned the loss of relationships, the choir community I had grown to love, and all the amenities and benefits of a bigger campus. The ministry that I had felt called to in music — didn’t exactly happen like I had pre-written in my own script.

Rather than step into a key position in music in the new campus — I was disappointed to find that I was not really part of the actual band, but more a secondary singer they rotated in occasionally. All of the new changes, the loss of identity with my change in job and our change in church campus brought me to a dark place. I started having a relapse of emotional issues that I hadn’t felt since college. Anxiety and depression. I thought my way out was just to try harder. But with each attempt I made to get things going, make things happen — I experienced more failure.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my experience is one that is not uncommon — particularly for those called to serve in a specific capacity in ministry. Streams in the Desert, a devotional with a collection of excerpts from various authors, gives many stories of individuals stumbling through the desert after a season of relative prosperity, experiencing confusion and darkness right after God gives them a directive to go. In one particular excerpt from Soul Food, the author explains:

At certain times and places, God will build a mysterious wall around us. He will take away all the supports we customarily lean on, and will remove our ordinary ways of doing things. God will close us off to something divine, completely new and unexpected, and that cannot be understood by examining our previous circumstances. We will be in a place we do not know what is happening, where God is cutting the cloth of our lives by a new pattern, and thus where He causes us to look to Him.”

In yet another excerpt from Streams in the Desert, Frances Ridley Havergal explains a situation that closely paralleled mine when she was called to a ministry and then found no opening for several years. She recalls the situation, saying:

Once when I thought the door was being thrown open for me to enter the literary field with a great opportunity, it was just as quickly shut … The year was 1860, and I did not come out of my shell of isolation with my book Ministry of Song until 1869. By then I saw the distinct wisdom of having been kept waiting for nine years in the shade … He often withholds our enjoyment and awareness of our progress, because He knows best what will actually ripen and further His work in us.”

A Dream About Gifts

About two years into the process of transitioning into ministry, I had a dream about gifts. In the dream, my sister was a post mistress and was driving through her route, delivering Christmas packages. She was in a hurry to get through her round and was not carefully placing the packages in the mailboxes, but throwing them haphazardly in yards as she went. She stopped in front of the house of one particular woman. After repeating her pattern of tossing a package, the woman came up to the vehicle and insisted that the post office take back the package, return it to the sender, re-send it in the proper manner and place it carefully in her mailbox. She did not want the gift unless it was sent to her in the way that she thought it should be sent.

I woke up from the dream, and I felt God’s whisper: Carol, what difference does it make how the package is delivered if it ends up being a gift? 

Obviously, I was the cantankerous woman in the dream. I didn’t want a gift delivered in a package of suffering. I didn’t think a package of suffering was any kind of gift at all.

A New Life and a Death of the Old

What I didn’t know at the beginning of my journey is that it takes great pain to birth a new life. I thought because I had been walking with God for a long time that I didn’t need to go through such a process, but I didn’t realize how much I relied on my own flesh patterns to make it through life. I thought that because He had called me to a ministry that His favor was on me.

I did not see floundering miserably as a sign that He might be working in me and creating the new self that would be the most effective in His kingdom. In the Old Testament, it took Jacob wrestling with God to wrench the old life from him and “fall” into the new life God had for him. He had to feel the heavy pressure of God “pressing the old life out of Him” before He could be named Israel and not Jacob (Streams in the Desert).

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me.’ The man asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ ” (Genesis 22:24-26)

As author and pastor Steve McVey emphasizes in Grace Walk: “In the breaking process, God has no intention of helping you get stronger. He wants you to become so weak that He can express Himself as the strength you need in every situation.”

McVey cites Watchman Nee’s observation that the basic dilemma of the Christian servant is for the “inward man to break through the outward man.” According to Nee, the outward man is a hindrance to our Christian service and our outward man has to be “broken by the Lord so that the inward man can pass through the brokenness and come forth.”

The gift we can receive during our struggle with God is a loss of dependence on self. As McVey notes, “God cannot use a Christian to fullest potential until that person has come to the end of confidence in personal abilities.” Like Havergal and McVey attest to, I did not see the purpose of the suffering at the time nor want it for myself, but I can see as I am moving past it the distinct gift that God handed me in not allowing things to happen my way.

[For some notes from my journey on some ways to survive when you’re walking through a place of brokenness, I discuss some strategies for when you’re in the thick of not really understanding the place God has for you in ministry that may be encouraging to you.]

Related Resources: Streams in the Desert is a devotional by L.B. Cowman that specifically speaks to and encourages Christians in tough spiritual desert places. Cowman includes her own writings as well as a compilation of excerpts from well-known preachers and writers. Grace Walk by Steve McVey discusses your identity in Christ and how to best to allow God to use you. McVey shares his story of hitting rock bottom as a pastor of a church and how God used that situation to show McVey how to walk in grace in his Christian walk rather than legalism.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Part Three: Is There a Healing Formula? (The Cause and the Cure)

plant cure

After I birthed my son, I got sick. Sinus sick.

I rationalized that my hormones were a little off-kilter, my immune system worn down. My son was a fitful sleeper, colicky. I couldn’t get him to take naps during the day, and I woke up fatigued from nights of tending to him every few hours.

My 2-year-old, on the other hand, popped out of bed every morning refreshed from 10 hours of peaceful sleep, wanting to play.

I existed in a never-ending cycle of sleep-deprived exhaustion where days and nights blurred together. But even as I eventually coaxed my son into a sleep schedule, I couldn’t get rid of my cold. Three months slipped by, and the inflammation and stuffiness didn’t budge. Medicine didn’t have any effect.

I re-joined choir, and every practice was a painful reminder that my voice was enveloped in a pillowy cloud of sinus. I forgot what it was like to breathe out of my nose or sing without sounding like a faint whistle stifled beneath an elephant’s bottom.

I called in a mold specialist to look at the possibility that there might be black mold in our house. I had remembered my sister telling me about how sick she got after they had moved into a house that had a hidden mold problem.

It turned out the mold “inspector” was fairly new to the business. Not only did he not give me a decisive answer about whether or not I had a mold problem, he left a 3″ diameter hole in the base of my cabinet trim.

I was starting to feel desperate. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I getting better?

A worship team audition loomed ahead of me. I just had to get well for it. I made a doctor’s appointment. One steroid shot later, I was nowhere closer to finding a solution. A sheepish me showed up at the group audition and warbled through a song, unable to show what I could really do. No amount of apple cider vinegar gargling or cough drop popping moved the build-up in my sinuses. And, probably, because they felt sorry for me more than anything else, I still earned a spot on the worship team rotation.

Determined to get to the bottom of my mysterious ailment, I went down to the altar for prayer one Sunday at church. As a woman began to pray for me, some names floated up — and what started as a faint wisp of an idea turned into a really persistent thought as the day wore on.

The names were names of people in church leadership that I had decided I didn’t really like.

It started with an event that I had attended where the couple appeared very distracted and distant when I tried to strike up conversations with them. From there, I allowed the enemy to worm his way into a series of small offenses and convince me that this couple had it out for me. One day, when the wife showed up to an event where I was also in attendance, I noticed that she looked nervous and out of place. Rather than approach her, I let pride rise in me. I felt a little smug about the fact that she looked so uncomfortable. I found my circle of acquaintances and left her to fend for herself.

After I received prayer, Jesus brought to mind those moments that I hadn’t reached out to that couple. Those moments that I let petty wrongs creep in and sow bitterness in my heart. For the first time, I began to feel bad for the way I acted. I realized that I had been at fault just as much if not more so than they had.

I cried for the rest of the afternoon as I felt God changing my heart. I knew I needed to apologize.

The moment that I uttered the words to Jesus, “I’m so sorry for the way I’ve acted” and determined to make that difficult contact with the couple, a beautiful thing happened: my nose began to get runny. Really runny. I needed a tissue. And all of that sinus blockage that had been stuffing up my head for months came draining out. And kept right on draining the rest of the night.

I could breathe again. I was healed.

I followed up with an apology email to the couple that week. It was awkward and hard for me to admit my wrong. They were gracious, but I felt really ashamed. What I was perceiving as purposeful rejection was really just misunderstanding: they had never intended to overlook or slight me.

In looking back, a few things stand out to me about my healing:

1. Jesus often does things before we understand.

My healing happened before I had gone through Hope ministry training, heard the term “spiritually rooted disease” or been introduced to the connection in some cases between illness and sin. However, I did sense inside of me that something was wrong that couldn’t be fixed by doctors because the illness had persisted through a doctor’s visit, a mold inspection and prayer at the altar.

In John 5, we encounter a lame man who also didn’t understand. He didn’t know how Jesus was going to heal him (he made a suggestion about the healing pools to Jesus). Even when Jesus gave him the command to stir himself and walk, he had no idea that Jesus was the Savior with the power to heal. But what must be noted is that the lame man obeyed when Christ said to “get up” (v. 8). He didn’t demand to know all the whys and hows before rising. He just did what Jesus asked and got the use of his limbs back. The cripple’s willingness to have a child-like faith and do as Christ said enabled him to receive healing.

2. Many times Jesus will give us more understanding after our obedience.

It was not until after Jesus healed the man that He found him again at the temple and said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). In saying what he did, Jesus not only cautioned the man against falling into the same trap again, He essentially gave the man an explanation for the paralysis of his limbs. As I expressed in a previous post, not all disease is caused by sin (we can get illness as a result of the fallen world we live in or we can be born with a disfigurement or disability). However, as commentator Charles J. Ellicott states: The lame man was freed from the effects, but to be truly remedial he had to be freed from the cause too.

Ellicot makes the important point that Jesus didn’t just want to free the man from the effects of his sin, he wanted to enrich the man’s knowledge so he would not end up confined to his mat again. The reality is that even after we’re healed, we have to guard ourselves carefully so that which entangled us in the first place does not slip us up again.

Jesus’ words about not sinning sounded harsh, but He was saying what He was so that the man could maintain his healing. As Luke 11:24-26 reminds us:

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of the man is worse than the first.

3. Healing of spiritually rooted disease comes when you target the cause.

Pastor and author Henry W. Wright relates in A More Excellent Way: Be in Health that when he started out in ministry, he prayed for people but was dismayed to find that only about 5 percent of the people he prayed for got well. As he started to investigate the Bible and ask the Lord for insight, he began to find that in the case of spiritually rooted disease (disease caused by a problem in our relationship with God, self or others) he saw people getting healed when he addressed the cause (the root or block of the problem). People got healed when he discerned the cause and gave them an action to participate in their healing.

This is not to say that Jesus can’t heal people through prayer. In fact, He instructs us in His Word to get prayer from our elders at the church (James 5:14) and pray one for the other (James 5:16). These are avenues we should definitely pursue. However, from my own experience, sometimes we don’t get well from those avenues alone.

Jesus many times will give us a step we have to take (like repentance of a sin or forgiveness of an individual). Prayer may give us knowledge of what step to take, but it is in taking that step that we will receive the healing we need. Jesus gave me the cause of my sinus issue before I really understood that my repentance of unforgiveness and bitterness towards the leadership he had put in place would open the door to healing. More comprehension came flooding in after the fact.

God is not a formula God — and I must stress that not all illness is caused by sin. However, sin that is unconfessed or not dealt with can indeed open the door to illness. A verse Wright frequently refers to in A More Excellent Way is Proverbs 26:2 (KJV):

As a bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

As this passage suggests, spiritually rooted disease does not come in our lives without there being a cause for it. Therefore, as Wright emphasizes – targeting the cause unlocks the cure.

Related Resources:

In A More Excellent Way: Be in Health, Wright stresses that sometimes people don’t get healed even when he discerns the root of the illness — in that case, he also has them address possible blocks to healing such as unforgiveness, lack of transparency, or problems with leadership (he lists many others).

I have used Wright as a reference in many of my posts because the information in his book confirms and correlates with that which I have experienced personally both in my own healing experiences and those that I have witnessed in others. I encourage you to investigate the book yourself and read more on spiritually rooted illness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Part Two: Is There a Healing Formula? (Wellness in Story)

Part 2 Arthur Dimmesdale, a minister in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter, hides a secret: he has engaged in a secret love affair and fathered an illegitimate child.

While he continues to present a spotless appearance to the town, he allows the mother of his child to bear the shame for the incident and wear a scarlet “A” on her breast. The weight of his past sin causes him to suffer from a mysterious illness so much so that a mark forms on his own chest — the mark an outward sign of his inward turmoil.

Eventually, when the weight of his deed becomes too heavy for him to bear, Dimmesdale comes clean in front of the village. Yet, when he does, he collapses and dies — as the difficulty of telling the truth takes a toll on his weak heart.

Although his actions contribute to a thrilling tale, I have to submit the idea that most likely Dimmesdale would not die from telling the truth in real life. He most likely would live from it. Truth-telling is an essential part of the healing process, and while we may feel like we’re dying from the excruciating act of professing an unsavory action — the toll it takes will be momentary and afterwards will be a wonderful freedom for us.

We need only look at John 5:1-13 to see how Jesus directs us to share our stories. In the passage, He heals a lame man and then instructs him to walk into town:

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. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ … So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’ The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.”

Several things stand out to me about this passage.

1. Sharing our story helps to break the power of the sin in our life.

Essentially, what Jesus was doing in asking the lame man to “carry his mat” was share his story. As I stated in a previous discussion, the lame man was most likely in the condition he was in because of sin. Everyone would see the mat that he had lain on for thirty-eight years and remember his previous life. We may feel that carrying our mat makes a “public momento” of our sin, as one commentator put it. However, I believe one reason Jesus asked the lame man to carry his mat was not to humiliate him but to show that he was no longer bound to his past.

For me, carrying my mat has been both the making of the cure public and the cure itself. Jesus revealed to me in the healing process I have been walking in that I had an addiction to approval and had made many wrong choices to gain acceptance. I had experimented with some same-sex relationships as a teenager — and looked for that acceptance in other ways as an adult, particularly from the males around me. Even as a former high school teacher, I had cultivated the worship of my classes and looked for a connection with my male students. Although this never ended up in a relationship of any kind, I certainly encouraged attention because of my own low self-worth.

He wanted me to go back to people in my past and apologize for my part in wrong relationships and tell them how I was changing. This also included going back to some women where I had been flirtatious around their husbands, my teaching community and the families of my students — and some pastors at my church to talk about what God was doing in me..

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

While I have always sought out prayer for healing, the verse makes it clear that confession is equally as important. Not just individual confession, but at times a more public confession, whether this be to a close friend or people in your realm. Let me stress that a public confession doesn’t always have to happen, and we need to be wise about the words we use. A private confession to God is what He asks for, and if the sin involved others in a public way, then He may nudge us to go and make a more corporate admission. Other times, we may find a burden lift when we share our struggle with a friend or small group. (See more on guidelines for this in my note after the post.)

Henry W. Wright, author of A More Excellent Way: Be in Health, asserts that not being forthright can actually hinder healing. A woman at one of his seminars felt convicted during the course of his teaching and stood up and confessed her sin. Wright notes that she was healed of five incurable diseases on the spot. He felt God saying to him, “Because she has humbled herself before Me and before you and this congregation, I am going to deliver her and heal her.” She came back to the next year’s seminar and gave her testimony.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Even though my own process has been very embarrassing for me in many ways, I have experienced this same freedom in making public what I felt was so shameful about my past. Many of us are afraid to do this because of what it will cost us, but the Bible gives a clear link between confession and healing.

2. Sharing our story will sometimes go against societal norms.

One thing that we cannot overlook in this passage is that Jesus purposely healed the lame man on the Sabbath knowing that the Jewish leaders would view both the healing and the man’s mat-carrying (burden-bearing) as Sabbath-rest violations. The reaction by the community was certainly not favorable. As soon as the man stepped away from Jesus, he was immediately pounced on by Jewish leaders and questioned.

In reaching out to people from my past as well as my former students and their families, I have been walking a path that has very much defied tradition. However, Jesus has been teaching me through this process that it is more important to follow Him and obey Him even if His ways are unconventional.

Far too often, we judge the rightness of a thing based on whether or not we are comfortable with it or we’ve seen other people do it. But this passage shows us that Jesus’ commands should always have dominion over our man-made rules and preferences.

Despite the discomfort the lame man must have felt in being questioned, Jesus used the man’s healing and mat-bearing as an instructional point for the Jews. In a later passage, Jesus explained with perfect articulation why He cured the man and asked him to bear a load on the Sabbath (5:17). The hard-to-wrap ourselves around truth is that there are painful and uncomfortable moments to our healing — but Jesus always has a purpose for those uncomfortable places. Jesus often has us walk through momentary discomfort because He knows there is healing for us on the other side. 

3. We have authority to share our story because of our personal encounters with Jesus. 

The lame man had very little understanding of who Jesus was when He was healed, but he had authority to speak because of his experience with Jesus and Jesus’ directive to him. Many of us shrink back and don’t speak because we don’t have a title or feel that we are adequate enough in God’s eyes.

However, despite the lame man’s speckled history, Jesus chose the man as a public display of His miraculous power.

‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.’ (Isaiah 43:10)

Not only have I had to complete some really hard assignments in repenting of past sins, Jesus has wanted me to further carry my mat by sharing my experiences with others in my blog. I’ve had many a night sweating over the posts I will have to release the next day. I know that telling the truth is going to get other people healed. But I have had this conversation with God before publishing my posts: Maybe someone else should do this. Someone with more knowledge. Someone more spiritual.

In reaching back into my past, I’ve had a lot of questions from the people I’ve contacted, and my answers haven’t always been eloquent. I have been piecing together the truth as I’ve been going along. But we see from John 5 that we are God’s witnesses not because we know everything but because of our personal encounters with Him.

The lame man had “no idea who it was” who healed him (5:13), but even that witness of him carrying his mat was enough to pave the way for Jesus to come in and explain some important truths about the Sabbath at a later time (5:17). Jesus can accomplish much from what author and blogger Bonnie Gray refers to as our “unfinished” places.

Picking up your mat when Jesus requests you to share your story may feel hard and wrong, but that may be a key part of your healing or the healing of others. For when you share your story, rather than have it buried inside, crippling you, the mat you once used to lie on becomes the one you can carry openly as you walk upright through the streets.

Stay tuned next week as I dive into Part Three of the healing series.

Carol’s Note:

Last week I noted the importance of repentance and seeking prayer for healing, and this week I stressed the importance of confession. Commentator Matthew Henry makes the observation that confession does not mean we run around sharing our every wrong thought or misdeed. Sometimes we have thoughts that pop in our mind that aren’t even sin because we haven’t acted on those thoughts. And sometimes individual confession in our own prayer time is enough.

However, when does God want us to share with a small group or a larger audience about a struggle? Henry suggests some great guidelines in his analysis of James 5:16:

Where persons have injured one another, acts of injustice must be confessed to those against whom they have been committed. Where persons have tempted one another to sin or have consented to the same evil actions, there they ought mutually to blame themselves and excite each other to repentance. Where crimes are of a public nature, and have done any public mischief, there they ought to be more publicly confessed, so as they may best reach all who are concerned. And sometimes it may be well to confess our faults to some prudent minister or praying friend … But then we are not to think that James puts us upon telling every thing that we are conscious is amiss in ourselves or in one another; but so far as confession is necessary to our reconciliation with such as are at variance with us, or for gaining information in any point of conscience and making our own spirits quiet and easy, so far as we should be ready to confess our faults.

Quite honestly, God has told me in what instances I should share in a more public setting. I have just felt a knowing inside. His Holy Spirit has counseled me about the choices I’ve made. He will do that for you to if you are seeking the best way to approach a particular situation. I encourage you to go to Him and pray before rushing off to make public a misdeed.

Related Resources:

Are you interested in the spiritual roots of many diseases? Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way: Be in Health talks about spiritual causes for many illnesses such as depression and his advice about how to look at disease from a spiritual standpoint.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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