Scripture John 5:1-9
When Jackie and I went to Alabama for my brother’s memorial service in August she notice the furnishing; lounge and rocking chairs, and tables on some of the front porches in the neighborhoods. She asked did people still sit on their front porches and socialize with their neighbors? I said yes they still do. Interestingly enough for us because rarely in California do we even know our neighbors.
A man went over to his neighbor’s house to visit with him. While he was there he noticed the man’s dog lying on a board with a nail in it. He asked his neighbor did he know that his dog was lying on a nail? The man said to his neighbor that his dog will get up when the nail hurts bad enough.
The man at the pool of Bethesda had a painful past. Verse 5 says that he had an infirmity for 38 years. He had been paralyzed for a long time. Paralysis is often accompanied by “neuropathic pain” resulting from nerve damage. If the physical pain of paralysis wasn’t enough to cope with, mental health research has shown that paralyzed persons find themselves on a continuous rollercoaster of emotions; sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, worry, fright, frustration, confusion, and depression.
If you have been hurting for a longtime, you can become comfortable with your pain. You may well internalize your pain. You may feel safe and familiar with your pain. You may resolve to be around other people with pain.
That’s what this man in the text did, he was around other people with pain. Verse 3 says that there was a great multitude of impotent folk; that were blind, and halt, and withered around this pool (V.5). In overcoming the pain of your past the first thing that you must do is face your pain. You can’t fix it, til you face it. Jesus confronts the man with this very issue. Verse 6 says when Jesus saw the man lying there at the pool and learned that he had been paralyzed for a longtime he asked what some might say was a very insensitive question; “do you want to get well/will thou be made whole” (V.6)?
He was at the pool waiting for the troubling of the water by the angel. He was there where the multitude of impotent folk waiting to get in the water after it had been troubled by the angel. He was there with the rest of them that had pain. Because you can become comfortable with and internalized your pain, Jesus asked him did he want to get well (V.4)? If he wanted to get well/if he wanted to overcome the pain of his past, the first thing he had to do was to face his pain because you can’t fix it, til you face it.
Then if you want to overcome the pain of your past, the next thing you have to do is let go of your pain. In order to heal it, you have to feel it. Jesus’ conversation with this man is about the expression his pain. In Verse 7 the man says to Jesus, “Sir I have no one when the water is troubled to put me into the pool” [if that was not bad enough] when I am coming, another steps down before me” (V.7). Jesus gave the man an opportunity to express his feeling.
If you are to overcome the pain of your past, you have to find a way to express your painful feelings. It could be through journaling. It could be through art. It could be through music. It could be through sharing your feelings with trusted friends, or relatives or prayer partners, or a professional therapist. As one of my colleagues so aptly put it, there is nothing wrong with having Jesus and a therapist.
This man was finally able to express his feelings to one he found to be a trusted friend. Jesus my sisters and brothers is that kind of friend. Let go of the pain of your past by finding a way to express your painful feelings.
Finally, you can overcome the pain of your past by taking authority over your pain. You can overcome the pain of your past by taking responsibility for your pain; not blaming yourself but being accountable to yourself. This paralytic man took responsibility for his pain. In Verse 8 Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk (V.8). Verse 9 says that immediately the man was made whole and took up his bed and walked (V.9). In order to overcome the pain of your past, you got to make it before you take it. He was made whole then he took up his bed and walked.
Like this paralytic man you must claim the power that you have in Jesus Christ our Lord and take authority over the pain of your past. You must make it and transform it into an instrument of healing and transformation not just for yourself but for other selves as well. You must redirect your time and energy from remembering and reliving your pain to working towards overcoming your pain.
When you hold on to pain, and resentment, and hurtful memories, you relive them over and over, again and again. The pain of your past does not define who you are today. The pain of your past does not determine who you are today. The pain of your past does not determine who you can become on tomorrow. John tells his first century believers in his 1st letter Chapter 3 and Verse 2: “Beloved, now we are the [children] of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). You must make it and transform the pain of your past into an instrument of healing before you take authority over it.
But most importantly, you must know that you are deserving of the freedom from the pain of your past. Though difficult; healing is possible, wellness is possible, and wholeness is possible. Releasing the pain of your past is possible. Effective copying mechanisms are available.
Use your pain as an instrument of healing for others who are experiencing pain. Work tirelessly in the present not to allow your pain to become a painful past for someone else. Pray about your pain. Count your blessings for every pain that you have overcome. Like the paralytic man you are an overcomer. and like Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man, you are a “bionic believer”. You can be fixed, and you can be made over again because overcoming the pain of your past makes you stronger in those broken places.
Overcoming the pain of your past is possible with Jesus Christ. In this New Year I declare and decree, that you are an Overcomer. I declare and decree, that you are a Bionic Believer. In Jesus Name Amen!
Recommended Resources for Overcomers
- How to Let Go of Past Hurts/blog, PsychCentral.com
- Healing The Hurts of Your Past, F. Remy Diederich
- Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, Lysa Terkeurst
- Healing The Wounds of The Past, Bishop T. D. Jakes
- Getting Past What You Can Never Get Over, John F. Westfall
- Overcoming The Pain and Failures of Your Past, Dr. Legacy
- Let It Go: How To Stop Your Past Ruining Your Future, David Rahman
- Take Your Life Back: How To Stop Letting The Past and Others Control You, Stephen Arterburn
- When The Past Won’t Let You Go: Find The Healing That Helps You Move On, H. Norman Wright
- Experiencing Grief, H. Norman Wright
- Recovering From Loses in Life, H. Norman Wright
- Getting Past Your Past: Finding Freedom From The Pain of Regret, Susan Wilkinson
The Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway is the senior pastor of Bethel AME Church in Los Angeles.