12 August 2014

The Invisibility Cloak

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going down another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.-John 5:2-9

Hopelessness is a terrible thing. It is dark. Oppressive. Under the heavy cloak of hopelessness, there is no apparent relief. Just pain. The news of Robin Williams' apparent suicide yesterday was just one more story of many lives affected by depression.  Mr Williams, one of the funniest men who ever lived, struggled with depression. When most of us think of his career, we remember Mrs Doubtfire, Mork from Ork, or the Genie from Aladdin, but I wonder if the opening scene from Patch Adams better captured his reality.  If you cannot recall the scene, he admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in the midst of a significant depression.  He "acted" depressed really well, perhaps because he understood.  

But it is not just Robin Williams who struggled with hopelessness and depression. The world is full of people who deal with dark thoughts every day. Some may describe feeling blue or down in the dumps, but for many, the darkness is much more oppressive.  Those battling hopelessness really see no way out. Death would be a relief. 

Unfortunately, hopeless people often feel invisible. They look around them and see other people living life, apparently happy, and they struggle to understand. They may ask, what is wrong with me? Why can't I feel happy like everyone else? Why is it that nothing will ever get better for me? 

I began this post with what is becoming one of my favorite Bible stories. It tells of a man at the sheep gate who I think struggled with hopelessness. He had been an invalid for 38 years and he had no one to help him get into the pool for healing. Bodies stirred all around him, but he had no one and no hope of getting any better. He was invisible. 

And then Jesus took notice. He asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man did not simply respond, "yes." His response reflected his hopelessness. He essentially said, "I don't have anyone to help me and I can't do it on my own." He felt lonely, invisible, and hopeless.  

Jesus did heal him, but do not skip past the relational aspect. Yes, Jesus was God and could heal miraculously. But he didn't need to speak to the man to provide the healing. He could have done it from afar, yet he approached and relationally engaged with him.  Jesus peeled back the invisibility cloak and connected with a hopeless man.  

Each of us can do that as well.  You are surrounded by more hurt, anguish, depression, anxiety, fearfulness, shame, and hopelessness than you can possibly imagine. Get into the habit of slowing down, looking around, and listening to people. Resist the temptation to offer a solution. Instead, offer an ear, a hand, or a touch. Practice moving toward people, seeing beyond their invisibility.  Help people to understand that they matter.

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