Jesus asked the man at the pool of Bethesda ‘do you want to be healed?’ Sounds like a cruel question, so what was Jesus doing here?
Today we look at the meaning of the question ‘do you want to be healed’ in relation to our healing journeys and I’ll suggest 5 steps to help step out of any unconscious mindsets that are keeping you stuck.
DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED?
Jesus knew the paralysed man received such attention from others, it was stopping him from moving forwards.
‘Parts Therapy’ or ‘Internal Family Systems’ is a theory that some counsellors use to help their clients move forward from emotional blocks keeping them stuck.
The theory believes that we have numerous parts with us. Recognising them, their roles and agendas brings awareness to any internal part that is choosing to stay sick.
Recognition for suffering, or negative attention is not a good thing. It feeds the part of you that unconsciously ‘enjoys’ the benefit of attention and compassion from those around you.
Jesus knew the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5 saw himself through the lens of sickness.
THE INNER CONFLICT
You may have a part of you which wants healing and wellness but there may also be a part of you that contradicts this.
These 2 parts are in conflict which can keep you stuck.
We call these secondary gains because they benefit you somehow. They are usually unconscious coping strategies which serve for a time.
But when they become habitual, they are harder to identify and more challenging to break.
On surface level, they seem harmless.
When Jesus asked the lame man ‘do you want to be healed?’. I believe He was challenging him to let go of the hidden mindsets, the parts that will keep him stuck.
Let me give some examples:
1. WANTING COMFORT FROM OTHERS.
Or there may be a part of you that needs understanding and recognition. When you receive it, you feel a sense comfort which soothes the emotional pain you’re in.
The man at the pool gained comfort from those around him. ‘Look at that poor man…..Bless him…..How unfair for him to live like this….’
I definitely relate to this.
When I first became unwell, I was dying inside and in such torment. The way I dealt with this was to talk about it continually.
I didn’t want attention but I derterminedly spoke about it as much as I could because I just wanted others to understand.
This served me for a time. There is nothing wrong with this in the short term.
God does use others to give his comfort to those in need, but when it becomes a way of life, it’s problematic.
I imagine if he lived today, he’d be posting images of himself on social media, wanting people to comfort him. He craved negative attention.
He was looking for comfort in the wrong place. I imagine he grew accustomed to talking about how bad his situation was. This was his identity.
When you talk about your illness, the cancer, the pain in your body, you may keep it alive.
The more people see you as ‘sick’, the more it reinforces that sickness is your identity. You become known as the ‘sick’ person, keeping you in a place of weakness and lack.
2. SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
The lame man thought that people should be helping him. This isn’t really a grace mindset. Of course it’s ok to ask for and to receive help from others, but seeing ourselves as entitled is a little different.
Entitlement says ‘I’m sick, therefore people should ….go out of their way for me….be extra kind to me….put me first’
It’s a superior judemental type mindset.
Then they get angry when others don’t match up to their demands.
“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.”
3. MAKING EXCUSES
The lame man here was full of excuses as to why he wasn’t healed. In this case it was other people’s fault.
On my own journey, I definitely use the excuse ‘I’ve been ill too long’ whenever I go through a season of giving up or being negative.
Perhaps you use your illness as an excuse to get out of doing things like the housework, serving in church or even being good to people?
Do you allow people to do things for you when you could probably attempt to do them yourself?
Of course the lame man here was very limited and there were no wheelchairs. But I have seen people who are unwell rely on others way too much.
This may sound a bit unlikely, but there are people who have got such strongholds in the area of self-hate, on an unconcious level, they don’t believe they deserve anything good.
They believe they deserve punishment and that blessings are for others.
This thinking stops healing.
I have seen this so many times with people and even relate to this in my own journey. Whilst on a cognitive level I don’t relate, unconsciously my behaviour says otherwise.
…people-pleasing…not being able to stick up for myself…inability to receive a compliment…not expecting blessings…
Why didn’t the man at the pool ask people to help him to the pool? Why did he not stick up for himself when people pushed in front of him?
(Of course I’m just speculating because we don’t actually know what happened, but let’s imagine this for a moment.)
5. THE NEW IDENTITY
Lets say you have an unconscious identity as ‘the religious one’ or ‘the only sibling with no qualifications’ or ‘the son / daugher of so and so’ or ‘a wife and mother…’
Then all of a sudden BAM! you develop an illness. Now you have a new identity as ‘the sick one’
In your unconscious you find relief from the usual label and embrace the new identity. It’s refreshing to be known and seen in a different capacity.
HOW TO STEP OUT OF SECONDARY GAINS:
1. IDENTIFY YOUR SECONDARY GAINS
You may think you don’t have any (because that’s what I thought).
Why don’t you pray about it and ask Holy Spirit to shine a light on unconscious thoughts or behaviours that are contradicting the desire to be well.
2. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
When I joined my present church, I deliberately decided to not mention my health to anyone, unless they really needed to know.
It was a new experience to be amongst a body of believers who had no idea about my health struggles. I felt free.
There was such an empowerment in this. I was able to step up and live a ‘healed’ life, despite my body and symptoms. But I had to let go of the need for people to understand how bad it is.
Before healing manifests on the outside, we need to see ourselves healed on the inside.
We can’t do this if we’re in the same environment that created the mindset.
I’m not suggesting changing your family, but you may need to put some boundaries in place with them.
You may need to let go of certain friendships if you feel they’re seeing you through the lens of sickness.
If people are constantly treating you as someone to pity or someone who needs to be rescued, then they are reinforcing the victim role. (There is no healing here.)
Those surrounding the man at the pool of Bethesda only saw his disability. He didn’t seem to have any faith-filled friends. (A massive contrast with the man lowered through the roof).
2. SEE YOURSELF IN CHRIST
God has made you more than a conquorer and gives you authority overy negative thoughts and behaviours. Of course this is a journey for some of us.
Our identity in Christ needs to be more dominant than identifying with sickness. We can only do this by meditating in his Word, belonging to a Church community and looking for the evidence that reinforces this new thinking.
We believe the Truth of salvation because there is nothing in the world to contradict this Truth.
But when it comes to our identity in Christ, or our healing, there is so much evidence that tells us they’re not true. We have to resist this.
This means being aware of our thoughts, habits, behaviours throughout each day, even those unconscious ones.
4.RECEIVE GOD’S LOVE
This goes hand in hand with growing in our identity in Christ. Once you know how much God loves you and who you are in Him, you can love yourself in a healthy and Godly way.
Most people assume that becuase they cognitively know God’s love, that they are receiving or experiencing it.
I don’t think this is right.
Salvation and receiving the love of God are not the same. The name David means ‘beloved’. You need to know the love of God before you can knock down a giant of sickness.
Reciving God’s love also breaks the power of shame which is likely to be at the root of most secondary gains.
If you don’t love yourself very much, you may seek to find that love and comfort from others which will keep you in a place of insecurity and mask-wearing.
5. FLIP THE SCRIPT
When you make the unconscious thinking, conscious, you then have the power to change it.
From a place of self-compassion (remember there are no bad parts, we love and accept ourselves fully, because God does), can you sit with the discomfort?
I’m talking about those moments when you want the whole world to know how bad you feel. Instead of talking about it (because when you do that, you think it’s benefitting you but it’s not, it’s keeping the illness alive), can you sit with the sensation?
Perhaps you have a pain in your chest? tense shoulders, a knot in your tummy?
What you’re doing here, is you are showing your nervous system that these emotions and sensations are ok and they won’t hurt you.
Then you can practise a regulating tool, a self-compassion exercise or spend some time in prayer or with the Word.
NEW NEUROPATHWAYS IN THE BRAIN
Your brain will start to create a new pathway in the brain, a pathway that says ‘God gives me compassion….I can do all things through Christ….God meets my needs….I am reliant on him….
Making life long changes and breaking habits takes time. I believe God takes us one step at a time on our journeys so remember to be kind to youself without putting too much pressure on yourself to go an unrealistic speed for your system.
Imagine the difference it will make to your life, if you allowed God to meet your needs instead of relying on others to give you comfort or understanding.
Jesus realised the man at the pool of Bethesda had a sickness identity and relied on others rescuing him, hence the ‘harsh’ question ‘do you want to be healed?’
He was empowering him to take responsibility. I think Jesus was speaking to the part of him that benefitted from his lifestyle.
Wouldn’t it be great, if people were to see you for the amazing person I’m sure you are, and not someone who is sick. Our words are containers of life and death.
Do you see yourself healthy and whole despite the symptoms in your body? People will see you the way you see you. Do you want to get well?
JournalSpeak founder Nicole Sachs says ‘Sometimes we need to make a choice between what hurts and what hurts more.’ It may hurt that your suffering and no-one knows the hell you’re in.
But at least you’re not receiving attention from those around you that feeds the illness. Your healing is more important than people’s opinions.
I hope this helps someone today.
If this has blessed you, why not take a few moments and read other posts about Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda: