So I just finished reading an article where there was a caption that said: “The danger for most of us it that we desire feeling good more than we desire God.” Yesterday’s sermon texts were about two lepers – Naaman of the Old Testament who had to succumb to God’s instructions (through Elisha) to wash 7 times in the mucky Jordan River to be healed of his leprosy, and then there was the leper who encountered Jesus in Mark’s gospel, begging and believing Jesus could heal him. He was healed, but then promptly took off and did not heed Jesus’ instructions to go to the priests only and tell no one else. Instead he showed his new self off saying “Look at me!” Could it be that this leper was looking for a quick fix? A feel good fix? While the other, Naaman, realized that there was much more to healing – lasting healing included his own response of obedience to the will of God – a relationship with God.
In yesterday’s sermon I talked about when we go through difficult times in our times – when we experience disease in our lives – or anything that causes dis- ease, if you are like me, your one cry out to God is just make it all go away! You know, I just want to feel good..again. You see, I am fairly intolerant of pain and suffering – my anxiety level reaches high proportions, pain and suffering affect my sleeping, eating, spiritual life, and exercise patterns. The ebb and flow of my life is completely disrupted. I cannot focus, my relationships are strained, I want to crawl into a corner and never come out. And I realize that some of us might turn to ill-vices to conquer the pain, digging into deeper pits of despair. Or maybe you are one who lives in denial. Yet denial of pain and suffering has the same power to overcome your life and create dis-ease. We just want it all to go away and feel good again.
What I’d like to say is that this compassionate and merciful God we know does not desire for us to suffer either. But if this is true, then why is dis-ease so prevalent in our lives and in the world? What is the good of suffering? So here’s what I think: caused by sin in the world, suffering and dis-ease in and of itself is not good – but I believe it’s what we do with the dis-eases of our lives that matters. And it matters to God too, because God wants a relationship with us.
A quick fix suggests things will go back the way they were, before dis-ease infected our lives – that way we don’t have to deal with the tough stuff that might in some way change us. Just as when we cry out for a just and fair world where all are created equal, I wonder if what we really want is to have things the way they were “before,” when WE were comfortable. When we felt good. I might suggest that healing comes not necessarily by restoring things the way they were, but healing comes by submitting to the pain and suffering. For its there that we meet Jesus. Martin Luther called this a theology of the cross. You see, in the midst of dis-ease, pain and suffering, all God desires from us is a faithful heart. A heart that in its anger, strife, denial, heart-break, and yearning for healing, turns to God and remains faithful through prayer and obedient by submitting to God’s will . When we come to the cross in faithfulness and obedience and lay our burdens down, submitting to the powers of healing in Jesus, healing happens. Now don’t misunderstand me, healing comes not because you were faithful and obedient, but because the very act of faithfulness and obedience is in and of itself a healing of one’s heart soul and mind as we renounce sin and self-righteousness, and receives forgiveness and salvation and new life– all the promises of baptism. And our baptismal response to this free gift of healing through Jesus’ victory over death and the grave is a relationship with God that propels us to acts of justice against the dis-eases of the world such as racism and poverty and homelessness and violence and economic injustice and unequal opportunity to education so that all may be healed, all made whole.
So, is it a feel good quick fix you’re after? Or a lasting relationship with God?