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On your Mark

Disabled, but not alone

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. (Mark 2:1-3, NIV)

Most of us are fortunate enough to use our two legs to get us where we want to go. Others — through birth, injury or disease — are disabled and become dependent on family and friends for mobility.

I have a friend who was disabled at the age of 14 from a car accident. For her whole adult life she has been confined to a wheelchair. Despite her handicap, she is an incredibly joyful person with a multitude of friends.

About 30 years ago, I preached a sermon on Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses. I mentioned that if they had been afraid of the times, they would have never borne children and we would therefore have not had Moses, Aaron and Miriam.

My friend and her husband listened with their hearts to that sermon. They had already decided because of her condition that they would not have children — it would just be too difficult to be a wheelchair mom. But, the Lord spoke to their hearts to not be afraid of the circumstances. In time, a daughter was born and then a son. The daughter today serves with her husband and three small children as a missionary in Asia.

I think of my own friend when I read this Gospel story of the paralytic. What I note is that he had friends.

When tragedy happens to you, the wind can be knocked out of your sails. You can become bitter, withdrawn, sullen, full of blame, cynical and almost impossible to live with. People who become that way have few friends. They’ve driven them away.

But, this paralytic at Capernaum must have been like my own friend. He had lots of people who wanted to help him. We’re told that four of them carried him, but there were actually more than that helping him because “some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.” In other words, there was a whole group — but only four of them were needed logistically for transportation.

The application from this story is inescapable. If you suffer, don’t turn bitter. Be the kind of person who keeps friends around. You’ll need them to carry you — spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Two of my favorite sayings are: “What happens in you is more important than what happens to you,” and “The same wind that uproots a tree lifts a bird.” The paralytic, despite his suffering, had not permitted his spirit to become bitter — that’s why he still had plenty of friends. Nasty people don’t get carried around voluntarily.

Evidently when Jesus was in Capernaum at sundown a few days earlier (Mark 1:32-34), the paralytic and his friends had missed out; or perhaps they had tried to get near and were unsuccessful.

But, Jesus is again available — and they are now determined to not miss this new opportunity.

How about you? Whether able or disabled, do you have a sweet and joyful spirit that invites others to be your friends?

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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