Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Why we stay stuck (part 2)
What about the second kind of person? What about the person who does not want to change? I don't think this is an unreasonable thing to think about this man. He must have been adequately cared for, or he wouldn’t have survived this long. He probably had a few friends who stopped by, although, obviously, not at the right time. He has become accustomed to this way of living. He is surrounded by other people who were hopeless. sick, infirm and lame.
We have all found ourselves in situations where we become either become resigned to our fate, or accustomed enough to it to resist making any changes.
I recently read a study called “Change or Die”. The study followed several thousand people who had been told by their doctors that they must change their health habits or die. People with health issues serious enough that they were facing death, but with issues that were changeable or correctable. They were faced with issues like stopping smoking, stopping drinking, reducing stress, or losing weight. Faced with the choice to “change or die,” what percentage do you think changed their behavior and continued in a new pattern after one year? Nine percent. That’s less than one in ten. Nine out of ten people would rather die than change.
Sadly, I don't find this surprising. But, it begs to question, why would people cling so tenaciously to behavior that they knew would kill them? Perhaps for the same reasons the man at the pool, stays at the pool. He doesn't really want to get well.
If we decide we want to change, we know that there will be implications. And we don’t have a clear picture of what life might be like if we do change. Even if the alternative is a positive one, change can be hard to think about. We get used to our rut. Even if our rut is difficult, it is OUR rut. Sometimes, many times it just feels easier to stay put.
I can imagine that after 38 years our guy at the pool may have made the decision that this is as good as it will get. If he got into the pool and was healed, he’d have to get a job. He might even have to leave his friends behind. After all, if you are healthy and employed, then you can’t hang out at a pool all day. So, while his situation was unfortunate, he may have rationalized his way into thinking that it could be better than the alternative, being whole again.
For those who don’t know Christ, and for some who do, I wonder if they ever have a clear picture of what life can really be like. I’ve known many people who are not satisfied with life, but really have no desire to change. What if they really believed that life could be much better?
Jesus promised that we could have abundant life. Paul said in 1Corinthians 2 that. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Only God can break in and allow people to see what they can and should be. And you and I must faithfully testify in word and deed to that reality so that people can actually see the alternative for themselves! Many people think that if they follow Christ they’re simply trading one bad rut for another. And, where do you suppose they get the idea that following Christ is a joyless life? From us, of course. You know, if you are telling people by what you say or what you do that following Jesus is a bitter, dutiful distasteful existence, then I’d like to suggest that you take a good look at what you’re calling the Christian Life? It really ought to be a life of joy, of peace, and of satisfaction.
That doesn’t mean it is without difficulty. Christians have just as much trouble as anyone else in this world. But Jesus told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And he promises to be there with us in the midst of trouble and to help us to make some sense of it. If your words or your life communicate anything other than the fact that following Christ is ultimately an abundant, victorious and freeing lifestyle, then you should do the Kingdom a favor and stop following Christ and giving him bad press! But, don’t sugar coat it either! We will still experience problems and we should not paint a picture of a life with no problems and no pain.
There is another reason I think people who want to change, but don't. They don’t really believe they can change. After all, if you think it’s hopeless, why try? Why on earth would any situation be hopeless? We worship the God of the Universe, who holds everything and every situation in His hands. God can and does change hearts. And God can and does deliver us from our predicaments, no matter how bad or how deep.
Back to our story: We know that Jesus healed many people in response to their faith. He healed many people because they sought Him out and had faith. But our main character was not like this at all. He didn’t find Jesus, Jesus found him. This is a great picture of the grace of God. He finds us and he desires to change us, even if we don’t have the faith to believe that this can happen.
[more to come...]