Today’s blog post is about the man with the withered hand. If you know the story, Jesus instructs him to ‘stretch forth his hand’ and his healing followed.
We’ll consider 5 ways we can become ‘withered’ on our healing journeys and in life. Then we’ll look at how we can gradually ‘stretch’ ourselves in a tolerable way that invites healing.
Let’s dive in
THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND
Luke tells us it was the man’s right hand that was withered. This means that he could not work for a living. He was limited.
One definition of withered means ‘to lose vitality and freshness..to decay..to be dried up…’
When we journey through illness, we develop coping strategies which help us survive in the short-term, but as time goes on, they lose freshness and are more hindering to our recovery.
We keep hold of them, because we’ve wired them in and they’ve become comfortable.
Have you heard of Karl Rohnke’s comfort/stretch/panic mode?
THE COMFORT ZONE
The enemy wants us to stand still and to give up on life. He keeps us looking at the situation in the natural where things don’t change.
This happens when we stay in our comfort zone.
Our faith decreases and we no longer expect breakthrough. We tolerate the way our life has become and lose sight of our hopes and dreams.
Mount Everest has ‘the death zone’. It’s about half way up. If you stay there too long, you will die.
In the same way, our comfort zone is sometimes essential. But it will limit us if we ‘pitch our tents’ and stay there indefinitely.
THE STRETCH ZONE
In counselling we refer to the window of tolerance which consists of our comfort and stretch zones.
The stretch zone is outside of our comfort zones, but only slightly. When we enter the stretch, we grow and move forward. This is the place of transformation.
If we want to make lasting changes, we do so by pushing boudaries, one small step at a time. It’s not necessarily comfortable or easy being here, but it is tolerable for our systems.
THE PLACE OF OVERWHELM
When I enter into the place of overwhelm, or panic zone, I’ve underestimated my window of tolerance.
There is no joy or fulfillment here, and there is a lot of panic, fear or frustration.
Sometimes I can have angry outbursts, or maybe that feeling of depression and hopelessness.
The place of overwhelm is basically accessing one of our survival states. See WHAT IS THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM?
For those with chronic illness, there is research to suggest, that the place of overwhelm or our survival states may have become the comfort zone!
You’re so used to being there, your brains class it as normal. You see, just like being in the death zone on mount Everest, you don’t realise how damaging it is to be there until it’s too late. It’s sometimes deceptive and unconscious.
This is also the place of emotional dysregulation.
Likewise there are personality traits, strongholds and mental programming from childhood which serve us when we’re young.
I believe God wants us to update those strategies. Our brains register them as normal, we may not even recognise them. They keep us in the place of overwhelm, or panic, but in a deceptive way. (We think we’re either comfortable or in the stretch zone!)
Whilst there are numerous mindsets or behaviours which we may need to change, I’ve just identified a handful here that are pertinant to healing.
I wonder if you identify with any of the following:
1. NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Imagine the strongholds the man with the withered hand had.
‘I’m useless….I’ll never amount to anything….it’s not fair….Things will never change for me…I’ll never get well, I’ve been this way too long…’
These thoughts are comfortable for him, especially if he’s been this way a long time. Jesus invites and challenges him to stretch his thinking.
‘Do you believe I will heal you?’ is basically what he’s asking him. The man with the withered hand had to elevate Jesus’ words above his internal chatter that had served him so long.
What negative thoughts are circulating in your mind as you continue with symptoms?
‘I’ll never get well…God would have healed me by now…’
Or maybe you listen to you own internal Pharisee:
‘I don’t deserve healing…I’m not good enough…
In the story, we see the Pharisees, who judge and condemn for a living, surrounding the man with the withered hand. I suspect they saw him as inferior, subservient or less than.
He had to let go of this condemnation and elevate Jesus.
What I love most about the man with the withered hand, is that it would have been way easier and more comfortable for him to agree with the Pharisees.
(Image: Rebekah Ballagh. Journey to Wellness)
They had the prominent and powerful place in society. Why risk even more rejection?
This man chose to elevate the words of Jesus and his power above the crowds. Listening to God’s voice within us, needs to be more powerful that the external voices surrounding us.
GOAL: To renew our minds so we only listen to thoughts that are in line with God’s.
(I prefer to write a separate post on changing thoughts but for now take a read of THE 2 STEP FORMULA FOR HEALING IN THE WORD OF GOD)
2. WAITING FOR SYMPTOMS TO GO
Jesus asked the man with the withered hand to perform an action prior to his healings. I believe that If we are waiting for our symptoms to go before believing in our healing, we may be waiting for a long time.
When we keep our eyes on the physical, we stay limited: there’s just no power here.
But when the snakes were biting and killing the Israelites back in Exodus, the instruction was to look away from the problem and onto the solution.
The man with the withered hand, looked away from the withered hand and onto the Lord.
As we’ve discussed so many times on this blog before. The Bible says our healing took place at the cross 2000 years ago.
Waiting for God to take away our symptoms before believing we are healed is not a New Covenant healing as far as I’m concerned.
The man with the withered hand knew in the natural his situation was impossible. He started to see possibilities when Jesus invited him to stretch forth his hand.
God invites us to take our eyes off the symptoms and onto His promises.
(Image: Rebekah Ballagh. Journey to Wellness)
GOAL: My goal is to believe BEFORE seeing the results.
- Imagine if we were doing all the things in our future that we presently can’t do. I have created a vision board to help me.
- Meditating on God’s promises of healing and declare them.
- Being mindful of the power of words. (If we keep talking about it, we just keep the symptoms alive)
- Start seeing ourselves the way God sees us: Whole and Complete.
Remember, the way we stretch is one tiny step at a time, otherwise we won’t stick to it or we may go into overwhelm.
3. RELYING ON OTHERS
The man with the withered hand was so limited he had to rely on others; their finances and their practical help. He broke this pattern when he stretched his hand to Jesus.
When I first was so unwell, I struggled to leave the house, get dressed and sometimes to get up from bed. I relied on my mother to do everything for me.
The cooking, housework, shopping…..
Then as the journey progressed, I realised this was hindering my healing. I believe it’s ok to rely on others occasionally or in the short term. There’s nothing wrong in reaching out.
But the problem is, it can become our comfort zone.
In order for healing, I believe we need to show our bodies and brains that we are already healed. By allowing others to do everything for us, it might reinforce that we’re sick.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Now I realise that some people are bed bound or living with massive limitations. I don’t want to be insensitive when I say this.
But the stretch zone, is working with the grace of God to do what you can do, even if it is difficult. This is not an overnight change. It really is one small step at a time.
GOAL: To be more independent.
- Develop a ‘can do’ attitude.
- Make a list of where I am depending on others.
- Start with what I can do and learn to pace. Ie, I can spend 2 minutes cleaning the bathroom and no more. When I’ve shown my body that I can do this, I stretch to 2.5 minutes…3 minutes…4 minutes etc.
They call this graded exposure.
4. ENJOYING SYMPATHY
When Jesus saw the man with the withered hand, he didn’t pity him or make a fuss of him.
I often see this on social media when people post pictures of themselves or their loved ones in hospital with tubes all over them.
What this does, is it reinforces the ‘atmosphere of sickness’ which I believe hinders our faith.
But if we’re not careful, negative attention can become a crux. Some people may rely on others for comfort and soothing instead of receiving it from the Holy Spirit. It also feeds the sickness identity.
This keeps people stagnated. It’s a secondary gain.
Remember we’re showing our brains that we’re already well so I believe posting photos on social media and receiving so much attention for illness is counterintuitive.
Plus relying on the external will could hinder the work of the Spirit internally.
GOAL: To receive compassion from the Holy Spirit.
- In the past, I have asked people to stop asking me how I am feeling.
- Not discussing it with others has definitely helped me ‘rise higher’.
- If I do need to talk about it, I choose just my inner circle of faith filled confidants who can stand with me in faith (and not pity or rescue me.)
5. IDENTIFYING WITH SICKNESS
There was an atmosphere of expectation the day Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. Even the Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus, expecting Him to heal!
I don’t know about you, but the longer I’ve got symptoms, the harder it is to remember life before.
So much so, imagining life without chronic pain, is even quite daunting and scary! People who identify with illness usually think and talk about it all the time. It becomes their whole world. They stop expecting the miracle.
I can imagine the man with the withered hand identified with his limitation. I can so relate to this.
But the more we identify with illness, the more we lose expectation. Jesus invites him to consider a different identity.
GOAL: to identify with Christ. To be more aware of who I am in Christ than who you I am in pain.
- Meditate on verses about identity in Christ.
- Picture the world as a healed person
- Focus on parts of the body that are not in pain or diseased. This helps to create opposite brain pathways.
- Learn to stop talking about illness
- Practise gratitude
- Engage with activities even if just for a few minutes. Ie, housework.
Can you imagine the difference to your healing journey if you partner with God in moving forward one step at a time? If you commit to breaking the patterns which are now limiting you.
When we enter into the stretch zone, like the man with the withered hand, we enter a world of possibilities and expectation. God loves us so much he keeps moving us forward.
Stretching produces an atmosphere of expectation. When we do what we can, He will do His part and do what only He can do.
Of course, whatever God reveals to you about your own journey is unique. I’ve just selected a few patterns as examples of entering into stretch.
Did you identify with any of the above?
I pray that this post will encourage you to stretch out your hand of faith and believe in God’s promises again.
Have a great rest of the day
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