“Do you want to be made well?”
A scene in John 5 has stuck with me since I first read it. Jesus approaches a man who's been sick for 38 years and asks him if he wants to get well. I’ll be honest — I'm not here to teach you about the historical context or deeper meaning. (If you're searching for a theology newsletter, this isn't one.) I can tell you that it's a question that has haunted me for much of my life.
There's a moment that sticks out to me from my childhood. In the middle of an anxiety attack, I wondered whether my brain worked the same as everyone else's. I didn't know what was happening to me, but I knew it wasn't normal. Thankfully, there was an easy fix. All I had to do was ask God to make me feel better. I wanted to be well.
So I asked. I whispered prayers under my breath when I felt my chest tighten. At first, I tried to be inconspicuous at church, but I thought God might not believe I wanted it unless I was willing to embarrass myself. So I ran to the altar during our Pentecostal church services and threw my hands in the air when a pastor asked the congregation if anyone needed healing.
I wept. I fasted. I spoke in tongues. I'd vary the wording of the prayer in hopes it would do something. I'd pepper my begging with "thee" and "thou," wanting to convince God I meant business. I started to see a Christian counselor. My mental health continued to deteriorate.
Healing In A Hospital Bed
My breakthrough didn't come during a church service or prayer meeting. It happened as I sat in a hospital bed after self-admitting for suicidal ideation. The on-call psychiatrist asked if my therapist ever suggested medication and raised an eyebrow when I answered no. She had a compassionate look in her eyes as she told me that there were medications that could help. She could tell I wanted to be made well.
I credit psychiatric medication for keeping me alive. Within a couple months, I marveled at how good I felt. I've had my fair share of mental health scares since then, but I have largely remained stable. Since I started taking medication, I've only seen secular psychologists and psychiatrists by choice.
“He heals because He loves.”
I was more pious then, and I remember wanting to find God in my experience. I felt thankful that the kind psychiatrist was the on-call doctor. I was grateful that the ward was mostly empty during my stay and that the nurse let my family stay past visiting hours. I was desperate to give God credit for something. I'd dreamt of the day that I'd get to share my testimony after experiencing something supernatural. I never thought it'd be so mundane.
At the core of my theology was a God so loving that He couldn't help but heal when He was asked. I firmly believed that He hated sickness and had the power to take it away, but sometimes just… didn’t. It’s something that doesn’t make sense to me, which is one reason my faith is more complicated today. I can hold space for a God who loves without resenting my mood stabilizers.
Why I Pray
When I see people asking for healing prayer, I often feel uncomfortable. There's a voice that whispers, "that won't work." I think about my 11-year-old self, desperate for relief and pleading for help, and wonder whether God was busy that day. But I saw a quote that's stuck with me — that prayer can feel pointless, but it's an act of love. And sometimes, when I genuinely doubt the whole thing, I cling to that.
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