A man (at the Pool of Bethesda) had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. —John 5:1-9
The Pool of Bethesda was a place of suffering and healing. Each time an angel grazed the water, the first one into the pool was healed. For thirty-eight years, a crippled man resided at the Pool of Bethesda. For thirty-eight years he watched everyone else get healed because he had no one to help him into the pool. He was alone in his suffering.
And the Pool of Bethesda is still a microcosm of a larger problem in the world today. Not everyone gets a blessing. Not everyone gets a mansion. Not everyone gets a Mercedes. Not everyone gets an organ transplant. Not everyone is blessed with a child. Not everyone makes a million dollars by the time they are thirty. Not everyone has a friend or family member that’ll help them into the pool. Life is not always fair. We can suffer alone.
How did he survive all those years? How did he keep hope alive? Maybe he survived by being the best cheerleader at the pool. Maybe he raised his palms to heaven and rejoiced each time the angel stirred the water and someone else was healed. Who knows? But he never gave up. And Christ came walking through the pool area and said, “Do you want to be made well?”
Maybe you’ve been at the same boring job for thirty-eight years without another offer. Maybe you’ve been crippled that long. Maybe you just turned thirty-eight and life has hit a dead-end street. Maybe your Pool of Bethesda is a sickness or bankruptcy, and everyone around you looks healed and happy.
There will always be others who look like they have a better life, a better job, a happier marriage, healthier children. Envy is always the last enemy, no matter what kind of saint you are.
But prosperity doesn’t mean holiness. Not having the life you’ve always wanted doesn’t mean God isn’t pleased with you. It just means he is at work behind the scenes getting you ready for the life that he longs to give you one day. And, just like the man at the Pool of Bethesda, it can take thirty-eight years. So don’t give up. What if the crippled man had given up and been carried home. He would have missed his healing.
Thomas Merton once said, “The real hope is not in something we think we can do, but in God, who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.” So stop trying to orchestrate your own circumstances. For God might not give us the life we want, but he will give us the one we need.
So fight envy. It will keep you discouraged. Hold your palms to heaven and yield. Say as Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” This keeps you present and leaves room for Christ to walk by your pool of suffering.
Quincy Jones once told Michael Jackson, “If a song needs strings, it will tell you. Get out of the way and leave space for God to walk through the room.”