Do You Want to Be Well? The Paralyzed Man, Tom Cruise, L. Ron Hubbard and Jesus

September 4, 2013

Do you want to get well?

Do we actually want to be well?

Do we actually want to be well?

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately.  Because it sounds like a silly question.  If you asked a sick person if they want to get well, chances are you’d get some weird looks.

But as I look at the world around us, I think about the story of Jesus approaching the paralyzed man at the pool.  He’s been laying there for years.  Jesus, inexplicably, picks him out the crowd.  He doesn’t ask how long he’s been there.  He doesn’t ask if he needs help into the pool.  He asks instead,

“Do you want to get well.”

At first, I wondered why Jesus would ask such a question.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s not such a dumb question after all.  Our modern culture is positively obsessed with wellness, health, and self-improvement…

But do we actually want to get well?

The answer to that question, I’m not so sure of.

Walking Away From the Former Life

Let’s think about the episode with Jesus and the paralyzed man for a minute.

The man is there with a bunch of other sick people.  They are superstitiously trying to dip themselves in the water when it bubbles up from an underground spring, believing that an angel is stirring the water.

The paralyzed man has been this way for years.  His life revolves around this pool.  He can’t work, so he begs for money.  His life is a mess.  No one would want this life.

Yet, Jesus asks him if he actually wants to get well.  Because being well won’t just mean walking.  It will mean walking away from the life he’s known.  No more begging.  No more pity from strangers.  He’ll have to, literally and figuratively, stand on his own two feet.  That proposition could actually be a bit scary.  After all, the devil you know can be more comforting than the devil you don’t, even if the devil you know is being paralyzed, begging for money.

A Wellness-Obsessed, Completely Unhealthy Society

I’m not just daydreaming about this Bible story for no reason.

I look at the shape we are in today.  Americans love wellness.  We love watching people lose extreme amounts of weight on TV.  We love purchasing gym memberships, home exercise equipment, and DVDs.

But we are still among the unhealthiest developed nations on earth.  The gym memberships and exercise equipment go unused.  It seems we love watching other people get in shape, but we don’t care enough about ourselves to do the same.

Or take mental health.  A quarter of adults are on prescription antidepressants.  A higher percentage of the population than ever is on mind-altering drugs.  You’d think we’d be the happiest people on earth.  But, somehow, it seems we still feel like crap about ourselves.

The same goes with our spiritual health.  There are more books and resources than ever before.  The scriptures and spiritual advice are more accessible than ever.  Yet the spiritual health of our culture, by just about every measure, continues to decline.

Heck, I look at myself, all the ways I’m not as healthy as I should be in my mind, body and spirit.

Is Tom Cruise Crazier Than You?

Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus’ question was not so crazy.  Because we may pray about a sickness or a situation in our lives.  We may beg God to make us better.  But deep down, in a place we aren’t willing to admit, we don’t really want to get well.

People who want to get well are willing to do things that look crazy to people on the outside.  They are willing to get on a TV show, have surgery, spend thousands of dollars, stand up on paralyzed legs when Jesus tells them to.

Tom Cruise is rumored to have spent five years and $100,000 on Scientology.  Sounds crazy, right?  So why would a person do that?  Because Scientology, at its core, is a faith about wellness.  And if you strip away all the other beliefs, Tom Cruise is willing to spend all that time and money simply because he doesn’t feel well. And he’s willing to do something that looks crazy to the rest of us to become well.

I look at sick people, and sick marriages and sick spirits.  I look at all of our addictions and obsessions and the ways we abuse ourselves.  I look at churches and companies and governments that seem to suffer from some kind of low-grade fever. And I’ve just come to the conclusion that the reason God doesn’t heal more of us, the reason God doesn’t answer more of our prayers, the reason God doesn’t send a revival is simply because we don’t really want it.  If Jesus asked us if we really wanted to get well, the answer in our hearts just might be “No, I’m comfortable laying on the ground, thank you.”

What do you think?  Are we a wellness-obsessed culture that doesn’t actually want to get well?  Tell me about your successful wellness stories!

6 responses to Do You Want to Be Well? The Paralyzed Man, Tom Cruise, L. Ron Hubbard and Jesus

  1. Wow, Matt, you bring it yet again. I’ve asked myself this same question in the past, after buying yet another home fitness product, trying yet another diet, adding yet another vitamin supplement – but not very hard. (I was also on antidepressants for 20 years; just marked my third anniversary off them last month, which I blogged about on said anniversary.) I need to ask myself again…really, this time…but frankly, I think I’m a bit afraid of the answer, so I’m not even sure when I will! But that was a great and very interesting point you made about why God doesn’t heal more of us/send a revival.
    Lucie recently posted..Because Sometimes it Takes More than Just Butt Glue

  2. “Wanting to be well” is vague unless Jesus is standing before you. Think about it. If YOU were 980 pounds, and your only comfort and recreation were eating and you had no friends, and you could work for YEARS and still be a fatty and be hated and laughed at even in Wal-Mart, why WOULDN’T you make the unconscious choice to eat that box of cookies instead of a banana for breakfast?

    When you’re really sick, you’re not well in the mind, either. I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that if Fatso used his gym membership that he’d be ok, and therefore is not making the decision to be well. Or that people on antidepressants are just deciding to have a problem.

    I think in some ways, our society makes us sick. We tell kids they need a healthy lifestyle and then we cram them in a school building for 8 hours/day and feed them pink slime. We tell our employees to make good health decisions and then work them 65-70 hours a week in a cubicle.

    Who’s really the sick one? :/
    Happy Elf Mom recently posted..Why Are You Homeschooling?

  3. I think you’ve hit on something very true here, Matt. But I wonder whether a big part of the problem isn’t that we often don’t know _how_ to be well. There are so few models of what it looks like to live life as a whole, true, beloved, free human being that we don’t know how else to be. Which is actually a sad reflection not just on society as a whole but on the church.
    Rob Grayson recently posted..It’s all mercy

    • And not just “how to be well” but what “well” means in the first place.

      Ask fifteen people what “healthy eating/living” means, and you’ll get fifteen wildly varied (and often contradictory) responses.

      “Do you want to be well?”

      “What do you mean by ‘well’?”
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  4. not only do some of us not want to be well, be want people to fell pride in our sickness. People walk around saying, “this is my situation and I’m going to ROCK i and you have to like itt”. Sometimes there is a place for confidence in our situation but I’ve seen too often we want acceptance when what we really need is healing.

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