Jesus always had a way of getting to people’s true heart, motivation, and values. He would ask probing questions — not because He didn’t know the answer — but in order get the person to understand THEMSELVES better, to understand WHY they think and behave the way that they do.
We all need that. If I’m honest, sometimes I have no idea what’s really driving me to do what I do, what my true motives are, or what presupposition I’m living from. I need someone to ask tough questions to make me think.
Jesus does exactly that in an interaction with a crippled man in John 5. This man was laying by the Pool of Bethesda, where many disabled and disenfranchised people lived.
“One who was there 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?’”John 5:5-6
Wait. THAT’S your question, Jesus? This guy’s been crippled for almost 40 years, unable to provide for himself, begging for provisions day after day, probably had zero family, no wife, kids, nothing. Alone. For almost FORTY YEARS.
And your question is “Do you want to get well?” Really??
It’s probably a question the man never even thought of for himself in quite some time. It can be really easy to settle into patterns that we didn’t originally intend for ourselves, but accepted over time, and now we never even think of a life that could look differently. And the question needs to be asked: do I really want things to change?
I remember having shoulder pain during the end of my baseball career, and feeling anxiety about seeing a team doctor about it. I never made an appointment, never complained about the pain, never even wanted to talk about it. I just took ungodly amounts of ibuprofen and grinded every day out.
Portia finally probed with some questions (after I woke her up again with winces from shoulder pain in the middle of the night):
- Does it still hurt bad?
- Yes. But I’m fine.
- Have you told the doctor?
- No. I said I’m fine.
- How long has it hurt?
- For about 2 years.
- What? Why haven’t you seen the doctor?
- I’m fine. I take meds. Everything is fine.
- You can’t do that forever. Seriously, what are you afraid of?
- I’m not afraid, it’s fine.
- Ok, but two years of pain is a long time. And you have team
doctors ready to give you care, really good doctors that could
help. Why not see one?
- Because I’m fine.
This went on for days. Frustrating, I know. I didn’t even know why I wasn’t willing to go. I hadn’t thought of it. I was just used to the way I dealt with pain. It worked for me.
But after more probing, Portia finally got to the root motivation of my unwillingness to see the doctor: fear. I was afraid they’d tell me really bad news, that something was really wrong, and that I couldn’t pitch anymore. It was fear.
After talking me through it, Portia finally convinced me to see the team doctor. I was fine. I had some inflammation in my shoulder that could be remedied fairly quickly with the right exercises and rest, and it was gone in a few days. What a relief! And it wouldn’t have happened without some uncomfortable questions.
Maybe God needs to get to the bottom of your motives. Maybe He needs to get you to think — why am I doing this? — before He can move forward with bringing healing and change. It starts with probing questions, questions that seem to be the simplest and silliest, like “Do you want to be healed?”
Be willing to answer those uncomfortable questions when they arise. Healing just might be on the other end!