On Sunday my Pastor preached about the paralyzed man who's friends carried him, lifted him onto a roof, dug a hole in that roof, and lowered him through it, placing him at the feet of Jesus. This image has been present with me for the past two years. It wasn't long after Ashley died that I began to wonder why I couldn't pray. Why is everyone else so strong in prayer for me, and I couldn't even whisper a prayer? I didn't even want to. Shouldn't the depth of my pain push me to Jesus? I have always prayed the most when I was weak. A new friend, one that I met only because she lost her daughter only months before I lost mine, reminded me that we are too paralyzed to "get to Jesus." She reminded me of this story. She told me to let my friends carry me to Jesus. They are strong enough to pray. This does not mean that my faith is weak. When I can not stand, I must be carried. I was being challenged to strengthen another part of my faith, by laying down my pride.
This was hard for me to do. I am a very self sufficient person. I don't want to let go and allow others to carry me. In the past, I have had enough strength to bear some of my own weight. This time, I was rendered helpless. I wanted others to carry me, but I also wanted to do it myself. I had to learn that my faith was not based upon MY actions. Faith is also letting go completely, and believing that the prayers of others is enough. I began to rest. I let go of being hard on myself for not praying. I realized that now was the time to encourage others to pray. I needed to testify to them that their prayers work. They needed me to depend on them. This is God's way of making the body of Christ stronger. The picture of the friends that carried the paralyzed man is a perfect example of the way we are to live. Sometimes we are supposed to gain strength by acting. We need to carry others. Sometimes, we need to be forced off of our feet, carried by others, and gain strength in being able to testify to the healing power found in weakness. This picture is beautiful to me.
I began to see how God was working. I listened to friends tell me when they were burdened for me, and that they prayed. Often times, when they were praying, I was at rest. One of my close friends told me one day that she was hurting for me as she folded her laundry. She wondered how it felt for me to have one less pile of laundry to place into my basket. God allowed her to feel my pain and pray for me through a daily life function. It turns out, that I was indeed struggling with that exact pain at that time. She did not know that. I did. I told her. I gave her encouragement to keep praying. There were times when I would get a card or email or phone call out of the blue. It would say, "I don't know why, but I felt like I had to call you." I know why! That was God, asking you to pray for me. I needed your thoughts and your prayers. I couldn't pray, but you could. I remember getting a phone call when I was angry. I had been horrible to people that I love. My phone rang. It was a friend. I suspiciously asked her who told her to call me! I was about to be really mad at the ones I love...but, then, I realized that it was God who asked her to call me. She had no idea what was going on.
It goes the other way too. When we think of something we ought to do for someone, but don't do it. We are too busy, or we convince ourselves that someone else is going to do it, or that maybe we would cause more pain or discomfort by doing that, whatever the reason, we don't listen. I can testify to friends who were willing to share with me that they were so burdened for me, but didn't call...only to find out that I had been in pain and desperately needed what they were being asked to give. I urge my friends, LISTEN TO JESUS CALLING YOU! There is always a reason why we think of others!
There is another aspect of the picture of the paralyzed man being lowered before Jesus. There was a crowd of people watching. Some people in the crowd believed, but others were skeptical. I can imagine that some of the ones who watched these friends carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus were moved by being able to watch faith in action. This doesn't mean that we are to "brag" about what we do for others (that would bring glory to ourselves), nor does it mean that we should hide all that we do in faith. God wants us to testify to His goodness though faithfully obeying His call to carry a friend, and to encourage others by testifying to the healing power of faithful prayer. We can not hide what God can do. I count it blessing to testify to God's Grace. When I put the praise on Him, then my eyes are fixed on Jesus.
I love this picture. No one ever wants to be the one who must be carried, yet each one must take their turn. We gain strength all around when we are the faithful carriers, the one being carried, or the ones who are watching. This is such a beautiful example of the body of Christ in action. Even now, as I rotate through these roles, I continue to feel the places where others carry me. God continues to burden others to pray for me, or to write, or call....or let me know that I am not forgotten. The simple blessings in our lives can be used as constant reminders of the brokenness in the lives of others. It is not a means to pity, but to pray for them, and to give thanks to God for His blessing in our lives.