Some say there are two groups of people. Those who run …
And those who don’t …
I’d like to suggest a different theory: we are all runners. It’s a part of our human condition. We tend to run from pain. For example, what happens when we touch something that is hot? Immediately, we jerk back in pain. When we are hurt or threatened by another person, many of us withdraw from the person and the situation. Some of us fight. But very few of us are willing to sit in pain. We either try to avoid it at all costs, or we run from it like our lives depend on it.
What if there is value in not running? What if there is much to be learned by sitting in the pain? What if there is an invitation from our loving and merciful Savior right in midst of deep suffering? And what if there is actually beauty in that pain? In the brokenness? What if the pain is actually increased when we try to run away? And what if the problem lies more in our inability to see what God is doing in the midst of the pain? What if, instead of running, we really need to regain our sight.
“Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they *called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you. Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.”
In many ways, we are just like Bartimaeus. Blind and desperately in need of Jesus to restore our sight. There is much to be learned from this beautiful passage.
Persistence in the Pain
When in pain, the temptation is often to minimize the situation, cope by filling our lives with something else to help us not feel the pain, or run from it completely and ignore what we are feeling and experiencing. Maybe we will cry out to Jesus once or twice, but when our pain remains the same, do we keep crying? Are we persistent in our pain, knowing that Jesus is our only answer?
As Bartimaeus continuously cried out to Jesus, “‘Son of David, have mercy on me!”, many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, ‘Son of David have mercy on me!'” (v.47b-48).
It can be difficult to continuously cry out to Jesus when it seems He isn’t listening or responding. Perhaps circumstances aren’t changing, pain isn’t decreasing, and maybe things are even getting worse. Frankly, for me, in these moments, it’s difficult to keep going back, to keep seeking Him and His presence. Why? Because I fear rejection. What if He doesn’t respond? What if I keep coming, but He never shows up?
“You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…” (Isaiah 43:1b-2).
These are the promises that we get to cling to when sitting in the pain is so difficult. When it seems He doesn’t hear or isn’t responding. When we are waiting.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14).
Wait. Be Strong. Keep crying out. There is beauty when we persist in the pain.
Respond to the Invitation
The timing of this event in Scripture occurs shortly before Jesus is to be tried, beaten, and crucified. Essentially, Jesus is making his way to his death. He is on mission to save the world. Yet, in this moment, He stops. He stops to hear the cry of one lowly blind man. He shows great love and concern for this man whose life is altered by deep pain. And in love He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (v.51).
This question is incredibly poignant. Jesus, the all-knowing Son of God, knows this man is blind. He knows that he wants to be healed. That he wants to see. Yet He asks the question –
WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU??
Friend, He is asking you and me the same question.
As I have pondered this question, this invitation, more than once, I’ve had to challenge myself to be really transparent. What is it that I’m asking of God? What is the ONE THING that I am seeking from Him?
If I’m to be honest, often the answer is that at my core I want God to fix my life. I want Him to heal the back pain that I must daily endure. I want Him to fix all relational problems. I want Him to take away the anxiety I feel around raising teenagers. I want Him to solve every financial issue I have. I desire that my life be easier and much more care-free.
There is tremendous value in being honest and telling God how we really feel and what we deeply desire. The problem, however, may lie in the motive of our hearts. While I truly do desire God’s provision, healing, wisdom, and strength in the above mentioned issues, I have to ask myself what is the motive of my heart?
If I am only seeking after God to fix my life, then He has become a means to an end. Not THE END.
In this place, it is helpful to ask myself these questions:
If my reality never changes and the problems of my life are not solved on this side of Heaven, is God enough?
Am I really ok living and sitting in pain and having the presence of God?
…Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this, I will be confident. ONE THING I have asked from the LORD that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:3-4).
David’s words here are hugely encouraging and inspiring. His reality is that his situation might not change. An army literally surrounds him and he is being hunted like an animal. And this is his response – IN SPITE OF THIS. Even if I am attacked. Even if my circumstances don’t change. Even if I am in pain. Even if I die. ONE THING I will ask of the Lord. To dwell in the beauty of His presence.
Similarly, this is the response of blind Bartimaeus. He cries out over and over “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And when Jesus invites him to come, he throws aside his cloak, jumps up and comes to Jesus (v.50). As a blind man, this cloak would have been one of his only possessions. It would have been what he used to sit on throughout the day as he begged for what he needed to survive. At night, he would have used it both to sleep on and to cover himself from the cold. And Scripture says he threw off his cloak to run to Jesus. He was willing to give up his only possession for the presence of Jesus. As he ran towards Jesus, he was ready and excited to receive whatever Jesus had to give him. He was ready to see Jesus, his One Thing.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He responds, “I want to regain my sight” (v.51).
Have we lost sight of who Jesus is? Instead of seeing Him in His glorious beauty as the One who has saved us and redeemed us, have we begun seeing Him as the means to an end? The One who can make our lives better? And if He doesn’t respond to our requests as we see fit, do we run away? Do we disconnect from both Him and the people who He has placed in our lives?
“He brought me up out of a pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth. A song of praise to my God” (Psalm 40:2-3).
We have been rescued and redeemed, saved, not because of anything that we have done but because of His great love for us. Is this truth enough?
“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Scripture says that God holds us in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) and that He never lets us go (Deuteronomy 31:8). As we are being held in His hand, right in the middle of pain and suffering, His Word says that there is fullness of joy.
The call of Jesus is not one to a life of ease. But it is one of joy.
“God, gives us eyes to see the beauty of this truth. That you are our One Thing.”
Walk in Faith
Perhaps the reason for our unwillingness to sit in pain and to keep crying out to Jesus is a lack of faith.
At my core, do I really believe that God wants to bless my life and that whatever I am going through is HIS BEST for me?
Do I trust that in His perfect, sovereign plan, the details of my life are the means by which God is growing me?
Is there really purpose in pain? Beauty in brokenness?
Do I believe that each and every thing that happens in my life is a deliberate decision by my loving Father to mold me and make me more like His Son? And in doing so, He is drawing me to Himself. Inviting me to come closer. To drink deeper. To find a joy and peace in His presence that I will never find in the things of this world. To walk by faith, not by sight. To sit at His feet and not to run.
I’ve quit running, both literally and figuratively. Because of the condition of my back, I had to physically stop running. And now, because of the condition of my heart, I know that I must figuratively stop running. Sitting at the feet of Jesus offers so much more than running to the things of the world to somehow escape pain.
Let us never lose sight that we are just like Bartimaeus. We are beggars desperately in need of God’s continual grace and mercy. And like Bartimaeus, we need to regain our sight. We need eyes to see the beauty of who God is and what He has done. That He has saved us and redeemed us. That He will never let us go. That He is always with us and upholding us with His righteous right hand. We also need ears to hear His invitation: “What do you want me to do for you?”
What is your One Thing? Are you willing to quit running, to be still, and let Him meet you where you are today?
In You I rest
In You I find my hope
In You I trust
You never let me go
I place my life
Within Your hands alone
Be still my soul
~lyrics from Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)
Anchored in Christ,