During a Bible study session in college, we were going through the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda in John chapter five.
The paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda
Jesus heals a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. This man waits near the pool among so many other crippled, blind, paralyzed people with the hope of getting healed when the pool gets stirred. Jesus approaches him and asks, “Do you want to get well?” The answer he gives is, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Focusing on just one door
This answer struck me so much. He does not answer the question with a yes or no answer; rather he pours out his hopelessness and frustration without realizing that the one standing in front of him can and will help him in a new way. Often times, I feel like this paralytic man, focused on one way, that one door, which I think will answer all my uncertainties and anxieties. And life becomes so frantic, so disappointing if that one door does not open.
Many of us pray to God with an agenda. “God I want this and I want it this way and at this time.” It is good to pray persistently but when things do not get fulfilled the way we want, we get anxious, frustrated and hopeless. If Jesus stood in front of us at that time and asked the same question He asked the paralytic man, with a twinge of bitterness we would answer exactly the way he answered.
When God revealed His plans for Me
Let me share with you one occasion where He reminded me of this promise in a very personal and intimate way. I was going through a period where I was confused about my purpose, my direction and my future. Struggling through the uncertainty made me realize that I needed extra prayer and support.
One night after the Eucharistic adoration and praise and worship at the Catholic Church on my college campus, I requested prayers for me from the priest and some members of the worship team. The next thing I know, I am sitting inside a circle with five people around me. They all started praying with their hands over me. It was an intense, overwhelmingly emotional feeling.
One of the group members who prayed over me was a seminarian who is also a visionary. I had heard that he has the charisma of vision and prophesy but did not really believe it. During the prayer the seminarian said, “I am seeing a vision of you sitting in a dark room and there is a door that is slowly opening. Light is coming out of that open door and that light is covering you. But I do not know what this vision means.” Everyone still had their hands over me and they kept praying.
A minute later the seminarian asked one of the girls to read Revelations 3:7. The scripture said “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied My name.”
Then the seminarian explained, “As soon as I got the vision, I was asking God what it meant. The one word that kept coming into my head was ‘Philadelphia’. I did not know what that meant but then suddenly I realized that there is only one reference in the Bible to the word Philadelphia and that is why I asked that portion to be read. And God has revealed what the door means and what he wants to tell you.”
The priest then added, “Listen to what God says after ‘I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.’ God knows about your faith struggles and weaknesses but He also knows that you have not loved Him any less.”
At this point I was crying like a little child because God was revealing a lot about what I meant to Him and about His plans for me. I still have no words to explain what it felt like to be there that day. What are the chances that someone sees a vision about a door and keeps hearing the word ‘Philadelphia’ in his head and turns out that there is only one chapter in the Bible that has that word. And that passage talks about a door that God opens which no one can shut!
Every time I think of that day it gives me a lot of reassurance about who God is. He knows our struggles, yet He sees our faith and our efforts to keep His name. He has a plan for us; He actually opens doors and opportunities for us that no one can shut.
Every time I worry and I panic, I think of that day when God told me that He will open doors for me that no one can shut. And it brings in a sense of calmness, because I know that looking back at my life, He has opened a lot of doors that I never even thought would open up for me. I have also seen Him open doors for many others in numerous instances.
Our God can open up new doors
And in the Bible we see many people, including the paralytic, who had lost hope. God uses that same hopelessness and uncertainty to bring out His plan and to foster trust and steadfast faith. When things do not go the way we expect, when the ‘only door’ to answer all our problems gets locked, remember that our God can open up new doors, new pathways that is ultimately for our good and for His glory.
Also read When One Door Closes, Another Opens
Today, as I face my uncertainties, as I wait for His doors to open, I am prepared to be surprised, I am prepared to be overwhelmed and I am definitely prepared to keep my faith and proclaim His name through all of this.
– – – written by Treesa Antony