In my darkest days, I remember weeping from the deepest places within me. I remember aching not just emotionally and mentally, but physically too. All I longed for was for the pain to end. Why, oh why, wouldn’t God take the pain away? I begged Him to.
What I didn’t realize then, was that sometimes God will use the painful times to draw us closer to Him. He will use the pain and trials in our lives to make us desperate to do the hard work required to get well. Desperation often makes us willing.
Let me share with you from what has become one of my favorite passages in scripture.
You’re probably familiar with it. It comes from John 5.
“Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years.”
[Can you imagine? Thirty-eight years!]
“When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else has already gotten in.”
Jesus said, ‘Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.’ The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.” (The Message)
You know, I’ve been in the field of neuropsychology for approximately 25 years and for the longest time, I wondered, why in the world would Jesus ask that man, “Do you want to get well?”
Of course, he wanted to get well. Right? I mean, he was an invalid. Why would anyone want to be an invalid?
I have often thought, why would Jesus ask him that question?
Isn’t that answer obvious? Then, I thought, Jesus, you knew everything. Why would you ask that question?
But, the longer I’ve been in private practice, the more I realize, not everybody really wants to get well.
And the reason I know that is because I conduct what is called a neuropsychological evaluation. If you come to my office, I’m going to conduct an evaluation. I’m going to look at your brain functioning. I’m going to look at attention, and memory and language and problem-solving. And I’m going to look at your emotional functioning and your social functioning. I’m going to get an overall picture of what’s going on.
Through that process, we’re going to arrive at a diagnosis. And, then, after the diagnosis, I’m going to formulate a treatment plan with what’s going to help. You are going to walk out my door knowing what’s going on and what’s going to be the appropriate treatment.
And, then, it’s up to you to decide. Are you going to take my treatment suggestions, or not?
I have to tell you that there’s a fair amount of times where someone will come back two years, three years, even five years later, and they won’t have done anything I suggested. Then the situation will be worse. I’ll flip back through the chart and I’ll ask, “Well, why are you here?”
“Because things are worse. And, I need to know what to do to get better.”
I’ll look back in the chart, and I’ll say, “Well, I see that I recommended this and this and this. Did you do this?”
“Well, no” comes the reply.
“Did you do this?”
“No, because this happened” precedes the excuse.
“Well, how about this. Did you do this?” I inquire.
“No, because thus and so happened…”
I already know the answer before I ask, “Did you think you were going to get better doing what you were always doing before?”
I hear a lot of excuses. What I came to realize is that Jesus is really smart!
Really. I always knew that, but it jumped out at me. Why did he ask the lame man did you want to get well?
He wasn’t asking because Jesus needed the information. Jesus never asks a question because He’s asking for the answer. He’s always asking the question because He wants us to think. He asked the lame man because He really wanted the lame man to think and answer the question for himself.
Because getting well requires work.
He asked the lame man to pick up that mat and walk.
The lame man couldn’t pick up his mat and walk before he had an encounter with Jesus.
But, it was going to require faith that Jesus was going to do something. Then, he was going to have to do what Jesus asked him to do. It was going to require work.
Getting well and being well is an adjustment. If Jesus healed the lame man, that lame man was going to have to get rid of old habits, and old attitudes and an old identity. All of a sudden, he was going to have to live with a new identity. He was no longer going to be able to be that lame man who could live in this persona.
He was going to have to be a well man. That lame man was going to have to get a job. He was going to have to do something. He was going to have to make a living. He was no longer going to have the excuse that “I can’t do it” anymore because I’m lame.
So, being well is an adjustment.
And sometimes, it’s easier to live in our known misery than to trade that in for the unknown. The new normal.
So, sometimes, we have to ask, do you want to be well enough? Do you want it bad enough that you’re willing to do the work that it takes to be well?
I’m bringing this up because if you want to break free from depression, I’m here to tell you, it is possible.
This lame man, though, he was lame for thirty-eight years. Can I tell you, I’ve met many people who have been depressed for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. I lived with a mother who was like that.
But, after three decades, four decades, I think in her case, it was five decades, she did break free of that. Yet, it requires work.
If you want it, it can be yours. But, it is going to require work.
I have to tell you, I’ve been there. I remember sometimes thinking, “This is hard. This is really hard. I don’t know if I want to do the work. Like, can you guarantee me it’s worth it, because I’m not sure I want to do what it takes today. I’m not sure that every day, I want to wake up and have to do the work that it takes.”
I don’t know all of you, so I don’t know what you’re dealing with at home. But, I have teenagers. Enough said?
Sometimes, my teenagers don’t want to have to do the work we tell them needs to be done.
I have one who is applying for college. He’s not thinking that’s a whole lot of fun right now. But, the payoff is great. Yet he has to decide it’s worth the work of putting in the application and writing the letters, applying for the jobs, and doing the community service. Can we virtually guarantee, it’s probably worth the work?
Yet he’s got to make that decision. I can’t make that decision for him. But if he’s willing to do the work, the payoff is great.
And if you’re willing to do the work, it’s worth it in the end.
What I can tell you, is that when I was willing to do the work, the payoff was amazing. What I want to assure you is, God doesn’t play favorites. So what He was willing to do for me, He’s willing to do for each one of you if you’re willing to trust Him and do what it takes.
The question is, do you want to get well? And are you willing to do the work it takes?
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
Dr. Michelle, I was always struck by Jesus’ question to the man and his answer was yes. I want to get well. I remember when I had 110 pounds to lose. I had to act as if I was thinner. I ate as if I was thinner, I moved as if I was thinner and soon I was thinner. Sometimes our actions have to be such that enforce our belief. Put one foot in front of the other and do it joyfully for the Lord. This is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad. Thank you for being you and being an amazing author. Blessings. Diana
Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I have never looked at that verse in the manner in which you expounded upon it, but it is so true! Jesus could make him well, but he also needed to do the work.
This caused me to think about situations in my own life where healing has been delayed and whether or not I was willing or not willing to do the work.
Great, thought provoking post!
This is a very insightful writing. I never stopped at that phrase to analyze it before. Jesus does want us to decide to do the work. Relationships are hard work. Achieving goals are hard work. Getting out of the pit of depression is hard work. Thank you for that lesson. I’m sure I will refer people to this in the days to come. Blessings to you!
I’ve definitely lived the “desperation makes us willing”. I believe the Lord left me struggling with the chronic fatigue and its accomplices for five years because He knew that I would not stick with the gluten-free diet that I ended up realizing I needed to be on unless I was desperate.
Although I have read this post & that passage before, this morning they both fell fresh. I had read this verse earlier & they both just seem to blend: “But as for me, how good it is to be near to God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (Psalm 73:28, NLT) As we draw near to God, making Him our shelter, He makes us whole.The result is a heart filled with gratitude that tells of the wonderful things God has done. May we do the hard work recognizing that Christ is right beside us, filling us with all we need to do the hard work. Blessings!
Hi, I’m visiting from Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy.
You’re speaking my lesson with depression. I’ve been dealing with it since my early teens and that was *ahem* a number of years ago. I know that without God, I would not be here.
Here’s my Inspire Me Monday!
I’ve thought about this a lot in the past 3 years. I know what I need to do, but I’m not always willing to do it (it’s a lot of work to make dietary changes, especially when one eats healthfully according to society, but not according to my body). It’s a struggle and I fall often. This was encouraging for me today – a good reminder to not be afraid of WANTING it! Thanks for linking up at Inspire Me Monday
Michelle, this is spot on! And you know, I was fearful to share this thinking that someone might think it’s a tough call. But you know what? It is. I appreciate that you can share from your own example and still say that the hard work was worth it. There’s no pretending that it will be easy, but coming out of depression is possible. Now that’s really good news — it’s all because of Jesus that #hopeprevails. Amen!