I don't like being uncomfortable. I don't think that's new for anyone, but for me, I think about it all the time, I don't like being uncomfortable. Culturally, it's all around us too. We are almost conditioned to be comfortable. Sometimes for me, even the thought of getting up in the morning to exercise and workout is pushed aside because I don't feel like being uncomfortable. But also, as I get the nerve to hit the weights in the gym, it's not long after that that I begin to feel a lot better than I did before I started. Even this morning, I woke up with an incredibly sore back. This pain is something I have been dealing with since grade 9 because I had this great idea of climbing this tall tree. The limb broke, and I landed on my back, knocking me out. I have had a problem ever since then. So this morning, as I was debating if I should work out or not, my back was a thing that was making me feel like I was not going to work out. I was incredibly uncomfortable. I was feeling better just sitting on my couch, drinking my tea, reading. But then I remembered, all last week I was having back problems, but I worked out. What I began to remember was what I already knew: that uncomfortable feeling was helping me.
In Mark 2, we see the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof of a house by his friends and Jesus' interaction with him and the religious leaders around him. This is a great story, but remember, when we read God's Word, the first question we need to ask is: "What does this show me about who God is?" Earlier in Mark's account, he declares that in Jesus, the Lord himself was present. Here Jesus is showing the truth of that claim by doing what only God can do (vs. 7), which heats up the interaction with the religious leaders.
As I reflect on this interaction, I am reminded of a favourite pastor's words on this passage. JC Ryle asked the question: "Who can doubt that to the end of his days, this man would thank God for this palsy?" What JC Ryle is bringing to our attention is that without the man being paralyzed, he would have never seen Jesus. Without this paralyzation, He would have continued on with his life as "normal" and not been faced with the reality of an even greater need. Without this paralyzation, he would not have heard those beautiful words out of the mouth of our Saviour: "Son, your sins are forgiven." At the end of the day, that man being paralyzed was a great blessing to him. So let me ask you, as you read this, what are you seeing about who God is? This paralyzation was the beginning of God calling this man to himself so that he can have eternal life.
As you reflect on this story about the paralyzed man, can you relate at all to him? What circumstances have you faced in your life that have strengthened your faith, given you more wisdom? "Bereavements have proved mercies. Losses have proved real gains. Sicknesses have led them to the great Physician of souls, sent them to the Bible, shut out the world, shown them their own foolishness, taught them to pray." (Ryle, J. C. (1859). A Expository Thoughts on Mark (pp. 28 to 29). London: William Hunt.). There are so many people that can say along with King David in Psalm 119:71: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes."
I know that my sore back and my uncomfortable feeling is nothing in comparison to a paralyzation, sickness, loss of a job, being estranged from family, being separated from family during a pandemic, seeking to raise kids and work from home. I know many are overwhelmed. This morning, I was reminded once again that exercise is uncomfortable at the moment or even slightly before, but as I was going through that feeling of being uncomfortable and as I was finishing up my work out, I began to feel a lot better. So often we face circumstances that make us feel uncomfortable or even worse. We don't ask how God is using these circumstances in our life to do something even greater that couldn't be done outside of these circumstances that we face.
This morning you may have woken up feeling uncomfortable. You may be facing circumstances that you thought you would never face. It could be sickness in yourself or in a loved one, it could be isolation, it could be the overwhelming feeling of anxiety, it could be the complex situation of being at home all the time. But don't neglect to ask that question: how is God using these circumstances to bring me closer to him?
"Let us beware of murmuring under affliction. We may be sure there is a needs-be for every cross, and a wise reason for every trial. Every sickness and sorrow is a gracious message from God, and is meant to call us nearer to Him. Let us pray that we may learn the lesson that each affliction is appointed to convey. Let us see that we 'refuse not Him that speaketh.'" (Ryle, J. C. (1859). A Expository Thoughts on Mark (pp. 28 to 29). London: William Hunt.)