Sometimes life does not line up with our expectations. God himself is above and beyond anything that we, in our finite existence, can imagine- and sometimes we wonder at his ways, even his motives. His own son defied the expectations of the most devout, particularly the pharisees. This religious movement was made up of lay people, not priests- average, everyday citizens that were deeply committed to the Hebrew scriptures and traditions. They were waiting for a Rescuer, one who would free them from Roman oppression. It was a dangerous and volatile world they lived in, and they coped by clinging to the law. They believed that the Messiah would not come until the Jewish community cleaned up their act, casting off all tolerance of sin. Their hearts were tuned towards a return to the Hebraic law, and they hoped that if they could just get the sinners to change their ways, then God would send the One who would free them.
Then Jesus came, proclaiming forgiveness, touching the unclean, healing the dregs of society- even eating with them, demonstrating his complete and total acceptance of all who came to him. The pharisees were shocked, then furious. They were anxiously awaiting one who would destroy sinners, not one Who would wipe out past sins. Here was a man who claimed to be of God, but reached into darkness with healing hands. Here was One who defied all expectation. And they could only tolerate Him so long.
While the religious leaders questioned and plotted, Jesus sought out the sick, the brokenhearted, the world weary souls in desperate circumstances. In a time when disease was dangerous, here was a man who risked touching people with weeping sores; he placed his hands on the infected, the dirty, the ones that others turned away from. Jesus invited those everyone else shunned. He drew near, and healed.
In Luke 5:17-25, we find an extraordinary story. Some men brought a paralyzed friend to see Jesus, but the crush of crowds prevented them from getting through. Yet they did not allow disappointment to defeat them. With tenacity and creativity, they found a different way. Up to the rooftop they went, removing tiles, throwing off every barrier to Jesus. They created an opening in the roof and lowered their friend so that he came to rest right before Jesus. And what did the great healer do? He looked past the outward ailment to the brokenness within. "My friend," he spoke with love,"all your sins are forgiven." I can hear the tenderness and compassion in his voice. Oh, how great, this gift of being set free! And yet the man was still paralyzed. The pharisees (lay people) and religious scholars were offended. "Who does he think he is? This is blasphemy, only GOD can forgive sin."
Ah, but they missed the point, didn't they? So blinded by tradition and self importance, they had forgotten that we are all sinners. We all fall short. Every one of us, even those who affect a pious exterior have hidden places of sin below. Places of destruction, places we try to squelch, and can even hide rather well if we work at it, but sin simmers in every one of us. And what kind of savior would heal disease, but leave us rotting in our brokenness? The fever might break, the limbs be repaired, but the soul would still be separated from the love of God. So Jesus, in his wisdom, offers what we need most of all. We cry out for physical healing, but we need deliverance on a deeper level. Lasting restoration takes place within. And we have a tenacious Healer, one who longs to break everything that keeps us bound, one that desires to reach into the darkest, shame filled places of our heart and soul and pour out his healing light.
Healing takes tenacity. It takes commitment, a willingness to throw off every barrier that keeps us from coming to rest in Jesus. And I say with all my heart, and every ounce of belief within me, that He can be trusted. No matter how people have failed us, regardless of disappointments or shattered dreams. God's ways may defy expectation, but His ways are higher, greater than all we can ask or imagine, and his heart? His heart is for our healing.
When looking into the Hebrew meaning inherent in Jeremiah 29:11, I find hope:
For I know the plans I have for you- mahashavah, plans to create something new and unexpected
Declares YHWH, the breath of Love, the One who gives air to the soul.
Plans for peace and not calamity- shalom, purposes for completeness and well being, for fulfillment, to keep us from self inflicted harm
Plans to give you hope (tiquah) and a future (aharit) -
Tiquah indicates hope, measure; aharit indicates where we can not see, including our future.
Our expectations for this life only leave us empty and broken. He longs to give us something
beyond ourselves, beyond our circumstances- no matter how devastating. His measure of hope is for lasting wholeness, even in the places where we cannot imagine possible. We can trust in our plans, which leave us inevitably disappointed. Or we can choose to trust YHWH, who is love and who calls us beloved.
He purposes to give beauty for ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
(Special thanks to Skip Moen.)