FROM HURTING TO HELPING
October 25, 2015
Two psychiatrists were at a convention.
“What was your most difficult case?” one asked the other
“Once I had a patient who lived in a pure fantasy world,” replied his colleague. “He believed that a wildly rich uncle in South America was going to leave him a fortune. All day long he waited for a make-believe letter to arrive from a fictitious attorney. He never went out or did anything. He just sat around and waited.”
“What was the result?” asked the first psychiatrist.
“It was an eight year struggle,” said the second, “but I finally cured him … And then that stupid letter arrived …”
Bartimaeus had a dream. One day he would see. It was a foolish dream. At least it probably seemed so to his friends. Everybody knew that people with vision problems do not spontaneously regain their site. There were no reputable eye doctors in first century Judea. And even if there were, he was a beggar. He didn’t even have pockets to carry his insurance card. No doctor was even going to let him into the waiting room. We don’t even know his proper name. Bartimaeus simply means “son of Timaeus.” He was a nobody. A blind beggar sitting beside the road. The object of pity and probably scorn.
But someone told him that a man named Jesus was passing by, a man who had a reputation for healing those who were in distress. So, in an act of desperation and blind faith, Bartimaeus started crying out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” People around him rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Have you ever done that? Called out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Perhaps it was in a crisis. The police called. One of your children had really messed up. Or the doctor told you the lump was malignant. Or your marriage was in trouble and you thought all hope was lost. And you cried out like Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
If you haven’t done that sometime before now, your time is coming.
Pastor C. Wayne Hilliker tells about a woman with seven children who knew what it was to cry out for God’s mercy. Her name is Antoinette Bosco and her life was tough from the beginning. As the daughter of an immigrant from southern Italy, and bound by strict family codes, she had been raised in poverty, and limited in opportunities. A marriage that was arranged by her father failed, leaving her to raise and support her large family of seven children alone.
Then life took an even harder turn. Over a period of one year, her oldest son, Paul, had a blood vessel burst in the retina of his left eye leaving him blind in that eye. Then two of her grandchildren at ages two and four were in a near-fatal auto crash.
In the same year her son, Sterling, suffered three heart attacks. Then on March 18, 1991, her youngest son, Peter, at age of 27, and having battled chronic depression for 10 long years, walked to a pond about a mile from home, a place where he used to go to meditate, and ended his life.
At first Antoinette thought she would die too. She never believed she could survive the death of one of her children. She would go to bed at night and her body would take over with what felt like labor pains. She said it was as if from some depth she was trying to give birth to Peter again. Yet, from somewhere, she found strength to continue.
Then, two years after Peter’s death, there came another blow that almost crushed the life and faith out of her. She received the horrifying news that her son, John, a cabinetmaker who love to play the violin, and his wife Nancy, a woman who came from a closely knit farm family and who loved to read poetry, had been found in their bed, murdered by an armed intruder who had invaded the sanctity of their home.
The day after she got that call in August 1993, she awoke in the morning to the radio playing one of her late son Peter’s favorite pieces of music and she fell apart crying hysterically. In her pain she remembers telling herself, “I can’t get up,” with the emphasis on the word “can’t.” Then, from somewhere far away, she remembered reading a line that said, “If you think you can’t, you’re right.” The reality of the sentence shook her and she knew at that moment, that if she didn’t get up that morning, she’d be stuck in her pain, and she’d be lost. It was on that morning that she chose to live.
She had to struggle to find the strength that would put her on the road to healing and finding peace. Somehow, by the grace of God, (and she prayed like mad for strength) she got up, and got on with her life. Today she is a respected author of several books.
Maybe Bartimaeus heard that same voice. Maybe the voice said to him, “If you don’t get up and get help now, you’ll never have the opportunity again.” And so he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Fortunately, over the din of the crowd, Jesus heard Bartimaesus’ cry. He stopped and said to his disciples, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. What a beautiful word-picture: “throwing his cloak aside, Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” He wasn’t going to stay stuck in his pain, not if he could help it.
You and I see it all the time–people who remain stuck in their pain. The spurned spouse who will not let go of the rage he or she feels toward his or her ex. The widow or widower who will not let go of the grief following the loss of their beloved husband or wife. Parents who cannot cope with a debilitating or deadly disease of one of their children, who take it out on each other rather than leaning on each other for emotional support. We can sympathize. We know that we cannot feel the pain that they feel since we have never gone through it ourselves. Still, there comes a time when we, for our own well-being and the well-being of those around us, must throw aside the cloak of our suffering and leap to our feet and come to Jesus for the healing of our hearts.
It’s kind of like what Antoinette Bosco was saying, “When the reaction to the blows of life is serious depression, anger, defeat, fear, or even a kind of comfort in feeling sorry for yourself, you will stay in a lifeless hell unless you force yourself to get unstuck and go on with life.”
When people asked Antoinette Bosco, who had suffered so much, “how do you overcome these formidable obstacles?” She responds by saying that she can only speak of her personal journey in which she found that while the pain is permanent, “this doesn’t mean that we have to translate pain into permanent suffering. There is a difference. We don’t ask for pain, and it hurts terribly. But we truly are in control of what we do with our pain. We can fight it and continually suffer. Or we can accept it and learn from it, what she refers to as the single most important lesson of all: namely that healing begins with love and with compassion for others.”
Bartimaeus understood that. Jesus was passing by and he leapt into action. He jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
Bartimaeus said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately, Mark tells us, Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
We love a success story, don’t we? Instantly Bartimaeus regained his sight.
Dr. Daniel Lioy tells about a missionary named David McGuire who was part of a wonderful success story. While offering baked beans and buttered bread to Romanian refugees, McGuire was asked by Elvira, a gypsy woman, to pray for her infant daughter, Elisabeta. McGuire soon learned that the baby which this mother held in her arms was blind. He took special interest in the child. Along with a friend, he paid for an optical implant, a medical procedure performed in a nearby city. But that effort failed and all but destroyed one of Elisabeta’s eyes.
David McGuire refused to give up. He contacted a church in the United States, where people begin raising money. He wrangled with governments to arrange visas. An airline donated seats to get mother and daughter to the state of Washington. Paul Shenk, a surgeon, offered his expertise. During the operation, he said he “felt as if the Great Physician Himself was helping me.”
In the food line months before, Elisabeta’s situation looked grim. Today, with the help of God and lots of people, she can see.
That’s not quite as dramatic as Bartimaeus’ story, but it happened just a short time back, and it happened in our own land. Such success stories have become almost commonplace in our world today. Little Elisabeta was blind just as Bartimaes was blind, but now she sees. God is still in the healing business, but today God uses skilled doctors, and dedicated nurses, and Christian people, including missionaries, who see others in distress and help them get the care they need.
I wonder if that is not the significance of the closing words to this story. Mark writes, “Immediately, Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
After Bartimaeus received his sight, he became a follower of Jesus. No longer was he a beggar setting beside the road. Now he followed Jesus. That says to me that Bartimaeus went from being a receiver to being a giver.
There are some people in this church who are sitting by the side of the road crying out to Jesus for mercy. You have been hurt. Your situation is, perhaps, desperate. There seems to be little hope. You thought you could control your life and keep yourself safe, and keep those around you safe. But it hasn’t worked out that way. You are nearly to your wits’ end. My prayer for you is that this will be a passing thing. That healing will come to you or to those you love quite quickly. Or if this is a fatal thing, that there will come a time when you will be able to let go of your pain you will be able to move forward again with your life.
There are other people in this faith community who have already known what it is to be in Bartimaeus’ situation, but by the grace of God you have found healing and help. And you know it was because of Jesus. And now you follow Jesus. And you look around for others in pain so that you can reach out and show them the same grace that you have received. You, like Bartimaeus, have moved from being a receiver to being a giver.
However, there are some of you who have moved through life somewhat unscathed. Life has been gentle with you so far. You’ve seen others in pain, but so far your life has gone pretty smoothly. And you’re grateful. And you, too, follow Jesus. And because you follow him, you want to make a difference in someone else’s life. That’s one of the reasons you are involved in this church. When people work together in Christ’s name, we can do wonders for those who suffer. You will discover that in reaching out to others you will build up resources for when the time comes when you are the one sitting beside the road crying out.
I hope that all of you may discover that “joy that seeks you in pain.” Just as important, I hope that you are actively working to bring joy to other people’s pain. That, like Bartimaeus, you have become a follower of Jesus.