Master Relater: Why Jesus Doesn’t Just Heal our Infirmities

Not long ago, my eight-month-old daughter, Jubilee, received her tracheostomy – an answer to months of prayer, waiting, and wondering.

At last, The Master Physician…not just making a way for greater health but advancing her recovery to the next level.

Yet, in recent days, as I’ve considered the Cross with Easter still in mind, I’ve been moved by the Messianic prophesy captured in Matthew 8:16-17:

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'”

A popular verse among those quoted in hospitals, I want us to consider Isaiah’s verb choices.

For instance, he doesn’t say verbatim Jesus would cure our infirmities and heal our diseases. Rather, he suggested Jesus would take them up and carry them – a metaphoric preview pointing to the Cross to come. Granted, on the surface this may seem discouraging for those seeking immediate results; however, I submit these words can carry powerful resonance if we allow them.

Think of it this way: Before Jesus could heal our diseases, He first had to relate to them. As Hebrews 4:15 emphasizes, Christ identified with us in our sufferings so He could restore our brokenness, transform our perspective, and fix our eyes to His presence. Cross in mind, this is why Jesus did not purchase our eternal freedom at the cost of iniquity alone as He knew our physical reconciliation was part of the package. Hence, why we must understand…

…while Jesus died for our sins and eternal relationship, He also endured our physical limitations so we could better relate to Him in our weakness.

To me, this blows my mind knowing…

…Jesus, even in His final moments, was not only proactive to consider our need to walk in fullness by His grace but cared just as much about our physical restoration as our spiritual freedom.

As for how this can encourage us in the short-term? Again, consider the Cross within Matthew 8:16-17. Before Jesus could instantly heal, there had to be a way to Him and for Him to call us to receive His healing. By establishing this pathway, He also made clear a critical order: Healing, in its rightful place, is not a catalyst but an overflow – a means to relationship with God. Accordingly, since Jesus is the answer (John 14:6), we must be careful not to assume His divine intervention is even close to the solution He is.

Yes, the NICU life, like many settings and situations, is a struggle stirred by our desire to know the ‘why’ of God’s plan, but this shouldn’t deter us from pressing into Jesus. As Matthew 8:1-17 reminds us, healing is a holy prompt to discover God as He connects to our circumstances. While miracles are often perceived as the mic drops of God’s power, dare to see the waiting for them as opportunities to know His love, nearness, and faithful sovereignty in a fresh way.

After all, it’s God’s heart our burdens aren’t the only things growing amidst our perseverance.

Bottom line: While healing is a culmination of God’s power, the anticipation of it should excite our hearts knowing He never stops pursuing us in the midst of chaos and crisis. Even though many of us reading this have felt the letdown at one point or another, take heart: The next time you sense God knocking, open the door, cast your anxieties, and let Him minister to you in ways only He can.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

Power in the Mud (Part 1): Why Jesus Used His Spit to Heal

So recently, I’ve been investigating some of the more creative and intense miracles of Jesus during His ministry.

Among my questions: What is the full significance of the garment at Gennesaret? Why were those at Gadarenes intimidated by Jesus? And whenever a specific number is mentioned, is there a reason for it? Or is it just arbitrary in some cases?

But perhaps the most pressing of late is the most random:

Why did Jesus use saliva in some of his healings?

While my research is ongoing, what I can say for now is while the Spirit of God as demonstrated through the spittle of His Son seems like a bizarre theme, the concept is not so far-fetched.

You see, back in the day, the medical community, particularly in Judea, believed strongly in the curing power of saliva. While practicing with spittle seems disgusting by our standards, as BC became AD, a patient would want a physician’s spit to be part of the prescription. Pretty crazy, right?

Accordingly, Jesus healing a deaf man by a wet touch to the tongue (Mark 7:33) and two blind men with a similar approach to the eyes (Mark 8:23, John 9:6), should not surprise us. Granted, Jesus could have gone against conventional wisdom and treatments in ‘out of leftfield’ fashion.

But that’s not who Jesus is or what He came to do. Rather than discredit welcomed practices (by Jewish and Roman cultures, no doubt), Jesus operated within an expected vein so He could communicate His intention to heal before actually doing so.

And while there’s plenty of symbolism involving the mud and washing of eyes, as I revisit these stories with one in the NICU, I’m encouraged by the Prince of Peace channeling a relatable ‘big picture’ into these miraculous moments.

For instance, while Jesus knew there was power in His Word, He also knew there was healing power in His saliva intended to impart life and restoration. With divine DNA flowing with His humanity, we can better understand such an operational dichotomy:

Just as there was future power in His blood, so was there present power in the mud…

…revealing His power to heal the afflicted and open their eyes in more ways than one.

Put another way, Christ’s lifeblood was His lifesource. To the extent He yielded and relied on God, to that extent His wonder-working power manifested through grace, understanding, even medical empathy. This makes sense especially when we take a birds-eye view of Christ’s creative healings.

For Jesus so loved whom He took compassion on, not only did He seek to model love by His power but also care by His intent.

While I will aim to unpack this further in my next post, for now, I live this in real-life in real-time. Given the amount of preemies I pass in the halls these days, I’m stirred by the fact Jesus never repeated the same healing miracle twice. And as Lys & I enter these dogs days at Vandy, I’m reminded how, like Jesus, we can be dependent upon a higher power pulsating through us…reviving our hearts again.

How sweet it is to know our Savior is an expert at making something out of nothing and meeting our spiritual need with a physical manifestation? After all, to heal is to not only restore what once was lost but to reclaim by faith God’s original design for our life.

Selah.

Jubilee (“Juby”) Fry after her laser eye surgery on 1/27/22.

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 2)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dust. After all, I need a new Swiffer. Possibly another Dyson.

However, in this case, I’ve been contemplating not only my relationship with God, but my relationship to God.

For when in crisis, it’s hard not to consider the contrasts…

  • When chaos is great, God is greater.
  • If man is small, how much less are his problems?
  • If man can do good, how much more can God do likewise?

You get the drift.

Granted, it makes sense to embrace these dichotomies in seasons of trials; hence, why I’m writing this.

‘Cause truth is…

When we wrestle with God during challenging times, we’re wrestling in our weakness to understand Him…and trust IN Him.

As the story of Jacob’s wrestling match (Genesis 32) tells us, there is a holy way to contend as we confront our failures and frailties.

The question is: How do we model this type of dependence?

For starters, I submit we perceive our smallness as a big deal. As the Scriptures stress, we are significant, yet small compared to the grandeur of the Almighty (Psalm 40:17, Isaiah 66:1-2, James 4:8-10); in fact, the Hebrew word for ‘wrestle’ literally translates to dust. Go figure!

As such, we can take joy knowing the freedom of living life to scale in the fullness of who God is.

For when we embrace our weakness at the feet of Jesus, we can accept how struggling with God in faith leads to peace, revelation, even blessings. This ties to the concept of divine wrestling being a grappling of our humanity and a tenacious acceptance into intimacy. Just as God relentlessly pursues us, so is there a renewing of life when we hold onto the vastness that is Him.

My encouragement to you, my friends, is this: If you’re, like me, feeling like dry bones, as if you’re going back and forth between, ‘All I can do is stand’ and ‘All I want to do is fight’, understand the reason you’re not alone is also the reason you’re more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) with life to come back to.

While the ways to restoration are many, dare to see wrestling with God as a spectacular way to get there. Even if you feel too weak or too stuck, remember who you are in light of God and what you can do when you view perseverance as a way to discover Him. You’ll find as you abide in God’s sovereignty, the more capacity you’ll have to hope while receiving His strength in place of cheerful fatalisms.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

Cries and Shine: Why God’s Joy Comes in the Mourning

So lately, I’ve been thinking…

In seasons of sadness, processing emotions can be complicated. As we declutter the soul, we sometimes stumble upon excess baggage, unmet expectations, even hidden motives we didn’t know where there; however, I also think part of the struggle concerns how we compartmentalize grief from its holy accompaniments.

For instance, many published works will tell you there’s joy to be found after sorrow, godly remorse, death, you name it. But filtered through the Scriptures, we find a different picture. More specifically, we don’t grieve to find joy but grieve with joy to find God and what He’s saying.

On the surface, this can seem like a paradox: How can a heart be at peace and rest in the midst of great pain?

Well, it depends on how your faith intersects its prepositions. If you believe you persevere to something good, be it a better outcome, a finish line, etc., chances are you’ll rush, perhaps force the virtue through coping mechanisms. Conversely, if you believe you persevere through something good, be it courage, humility, thanksgiving, and joy, chances are you’ll discover and uncover profound wisdoms once foreign.

Consider Psalm 30:11:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…”

When the Psalmist says “you have turned my mourning into dancing“, he’s not implying a complete substitution but embracing the two as co-existent. Per his next line – “You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” – the implication is not an eradication of suffering but a reorientation to the Spirit of God upon Him. Accordingly, the man once burdened by his surroundings can now take delight amidst a lifting load given his focus in more vertical than horizontal.

This tells me two things:

  1. Finding joy in grief starts by experiencing God on the road to recalibration.
  2. Finding joy in grief allows us to walk in freedom and share what God is doing simultaneously.

Can grief be turned into joy (John 16:20)? Absolutely! However, rather than itemizing the two, consider the bridge of comfort in between as a path to the glory that is His and the victory that is yours. From there, keep the oil of jubilation (Isaiah 61:1-3) handy and distribute as needed. After all, even in death and turmoil, there’s a favorable year of the Lord to proclaim. Might as well keep dancing.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

The Renew in You: How to Refresh, Restart, and Reset with God

Well, folks. We’ve made it.

The summer solstice, the midyear equinox, the halfway point, whatever July is to you, we’re here and still in one piece. Who would have thought making it this far would feel like such an accomplishment?

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Memes aside, as some of know, this is a special time of year for me – a time when I reflect and consider adjustments for the year moving forward; however, this year, I want to shake things up a bit. Rather than share reflections on lessons learned, I want to focus today’s post on finding rest through refreshing, restarting, and resetting with God. Yes, I get how the series sounds similar. Outside of our personal computers, I bet most of us use these terms interchangeably. Still, there are critical differences worth discussing as they relate to our emotional and spiritual well-being. As such, I encourage you to keep an open mind and a sensitive heart as we explore the depths of this topic.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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  1. Refresh

When I say ‘refresh’, what immediately comes to mind? An emerald beach resort, snow-covered slopes, a sparkling beverage?

Okay, okay…so these are some of my favorite things. But to an extent, you can see the common denominator. Generally, when we consider what refreshes us, our minds gravitate to what instantly gratifies us. Whatever can elevate our spirits in the heat of the moment, whatever can distract us from despair, chances are we receive it as refreshing.

Yet, while there is an interim component to refreshment, from a biblical standpoint, refreshment isn’t refreshment without sustaining momentum. For example, if you’re in a desert and find an oasis, the kiss of water to your lips is just as much refreshment as the long-term fill you carry on with. While the express relief is undeniable, it’s made more powerful through the restoration of heart, soul, mind, and strength to its original design.

Perhaps this is why the theme is threaded through all Scripture:

“And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain you; after that you may go on, since you have come to your servant.” And they replied, “Do as you have said.” ~ Genesis 18:5 (ESV)

“The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless), restoring and refreshing the soul; The statutes of the Lord are reliable and trustworthy, making wise the simple.” ~ Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

“He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3 (ESV)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].” ~ Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (MSG)

Upon further review, these passages tell me four things:

  1. Refresh is not only a footstool to rest, but can be the rest itself ¹.
  2. Refresh is often the next step towards righteousness (in particular resisting fear, receiving grace, and stilling our inner being).
  3. Refresh is designed to lead us towards places of freedom, health, and unity.
  4. Refresh is centered in the abiding of God’s nature.

Therefore, if you ever feel like a stalled webpage, don’t just receive God’s ‘refresh’ as momentary rest, but embrace it as sustenance taking you deeper into His love. ‘Cause truth is: Refresh is not simply what you take in, but what you allow to put out. All the more reason to rest in knowing even when there’s a setback, there’s a kickback with God to pursue. 

  1. Restart

Rolling with the browser analogy, as many Mac users know, a ‘refresh’ is not always a surefire cure-all to the ‘death spiral’.

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Sometimes, you need a hard restart to reboot your system to access files more quickly; think ‘have you turned it on and off again‘ but next level.

Assuming you can relate, consider the parallels to mental peace. Like refresh, restart implies calibration, alignment, and engagement to a higher form and by proxy, an ideal intent. Granted, a restart is more disruptive but it can also lead to more enlightening outcomes.

Take this year, for instance. These days there’s no question we’re experiencing unprecedented disruption. While we’re not encountering radical crises such as world wars or great depressions, we’re still seeing almost every nation being impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On the surface, this captures a historic screenshot, but digging deeper, look at what it’s inspiring. Despite so much on hold, we’re seeing people revising their priorities, pursuing dormant dreams, and encouraging their way out of complacency. Even in the most unlikely scenarios, people are beginning to care again at fundamental levels once taken for granted. An exciting, if not, thrilling development in a year many have thrown the towel on.

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As for how we ‘restart’, I submit we first take inventory of what we’re clinging to. Ask yourself, ‘What and where are those internal points of desperation? Are they guiding me to Jesus or pulling me away?‘ Be honest and know your wilderness is not the problem, but rather your commitment to the road God has made in it. From there, remember the secret of being content in every situation is God as your strength providing all you need for good work, faith, and life in abundance. Where you need to ask for purity, ask for purity. Where there’s past to surrender, surrender it.  Where there’s pleasure in stronghold, ask God to orientate your perspective. No matter where you are, what situation you’re in, you can pray, ‘God, I long to see not only what you see, but how you see‘ so I may not lose sight of your faithfulness and the ‘why’ to which I am called.

Of course, this is just a proposed template; obviously, be Spirit-led and discerning in your approach. For now, I pray and trust this guide can help start your ‘restart’.

  1. Reset

Finally, we come to reset, which if you think is similar to ‘restart’, you’d be correct. To reset is to essentially restart, but with one caveat: A reset requires change; a restart doesn’t.

You see, unlike the glorified mulligan that is a restart, a reset goes beyond a redo and into the realm of upgrade. To upgrade anything, you have to put it all on the table. Every detail, every piece, every character…every little thing must be re-examined in the spirit of inevitable revision.

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Now, if you think I’m taking a scenic route in describing repentance, I’m not trying to per se, though it is certainly applicable. Rather, my takeaway with ‘reset’ is the context of the action. Specifically, all of us should regularly take time to get away with God – to retreat with Him for the sake of being intentionally disrupted.

Consider this the full-circle moment of this post: To be disrupted is to know God has a message for you. Whatever the message is, you have to first position yourself to receive it. Hence, why resetting often can’t happen without a break from the ordinary. To receive from the Lord, you have to eliminate potential interferences including innocent routines. It’s not a knock on your daily rhythm, but a call to push to pause knowing God is more important.

My encouragement to you, my friends, is to heed these differences to know the season you’re in. For some of you, God wants to refresh your moment. For others, He wants to restart your walk and/or reset your faith. Whatever the case, don’t hide in the shadow of uncertainty or anxiety. Instead, know the time has never been better to supplicate – to ask God in earnest, ‘Is there a new idea, a fresh work you want to begin in me? Is there a lost truth you want to illuminate in me? Is there anything in my heart that needs to be uninstalled so you can install something in its place?”

And if it helps, think of this way: When you let go of the ‘me’, you can receive the ‘re²’; when you receive the ‘re’, you can find the ‘renew’ – the Isaish 40:31 – in each step:

“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” 

 Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or is the start of rest itself
  2. Whether it be a refresh, restart, or reset
Cover photo creds: Generals.org (edited in Canva by Cameron & Lyssah Fry)