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(This particular article isn’t really about politics. But it is about my life and the profound changes that have taken place. This is my continuing story–this is about being in a brand new place, emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise…)

This world, good old planet earth, is desperately broken. I am not talking about pollution or global warming. I am not speaking of a new ice age or climate change brought on by human activity.

Those things can be debated, debunked, argued, or dismissed—depending on your take.

On the other hand, Paul tells us in the Book of Romans that we have all followed in the path of Adam and Eve—we have all sinned—and the wages of that sin is death.

Indeed, creation itself suffers the burden of our sin.

Romans 8:20-22, For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.

It is a broken world we live in, a broken world inhabited by horribly broken people.

Undeniably, sin has left its mark. Evil has scarred this planet, disfigured our bodies, and mutilated our lives. Ultimately, disobedience to God has left us with what an old hymn calls a crimson stain.

Yes, we have a broken world filled with broken people. And while I might wish to remain anonymous, I cannot: Hi, my name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and like you and everyone else, I am broken. I am broken and sometimes in ways still to be discovered or acknowledged.

Here’s a truth you can bank on: Broken people are hurt people.

Even worse, hurt people hurt people.

On October 10, 2011, with the murder of wife and son, I became undeniably aware of just how broken my world could be.

Those of my family who survived did so scarred, broken, damaged, and hurt. And by now you should know that hurt people hurt people.

I wish I could tell you that I was or am an exception to that rule. I wish I could tell you, but I can’t.

I just recently spent a week in the Florida sunshine. It was beautiful. And while I forgot about my troubles for a while, the world kept turning. And while it did, brokenness after brokenness made itself evident over and over again.

In a world of heartache and despair, if we are not careful, we will become blind to the beauty of the life God intended for us to live (and I know this first hand). Even worse, we will forget about The Great Physician…

After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [—waiting for the moving of the water, because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

“Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. (John 5:1–9a HCSB)

I wonder if you see yourself in this story.

I certainly see me…

Maybe you are not an invalid or totally dependent on the care of others.
Maybe you are not financially strapped.
Maybe you are not fighting an addiction.
Maybe you are not divorced and struggling.
Maybe you are not unhappy at your job.
Maybe you are not wrestling with your purpose in life.
And maybe, just maybe, you have never had to cope with grief and loss.

Those are some mighty big maybe’s, aren’t they?

And even if you can maybe say you are healthy, whole, sane, happy, and satisfied with life, there is still the sickness of your sin, the crimson stain of your soul…

Back in our text, John tells us this man had been sick and suffering for 38 years.
That’s a long time.
That’s a lifetime.

Did you happen to catch all the ways he was both alone and not alone?

Verse 7 says there was no one to help him in the water. Why was he alone? I cannot say for sure, but I can speculate from my own experience. I can guess that if he and I are alike, then we were alike in how we handled our pain.

And it is all very circular—hurt people hurt people. And in our pain, we also isolate ourselves. The more we hurt, the more we hurt. Pain causes us to isolate ourselves and pain causes others to isolate from us.

There is a world of lonely people out there. Hurting and hurting. And we are not alone, we just fail to recognize how others hurt just like we do.

But there is another scenario we might also consider (big stuff coming here…). Yes, hurt people hurt and isolate. But sometimes we build our lives around our struggle. We give it meaning. We infuse it with good intentions. And before you know it, it—-whatever it may be-—becomes not only our routine, but our identity as well.

The Great Physician did not come so that you or I could have or live a victim mentality. Our tragedies, pains, failures and heartaches do not have to define the entirety of our lives!

Jesus came to heal.
Hallelujah!

You may not see your struggles go completely away. You may have some degree of pain the very rest of your life. But the Great Physician, the great healer of our souls—-the one who washes away our sins—-the one who redeems, restores, and reconciles can change even the worst perspective.

This I know.
This I know.

Writing here today is proof positive of the Great Physician’s work in my life.

There was a time in which I hurt so badly that my pain became the pain of others. And I didn’t give them a choice. I hurt, so I hurt.

But eventually the emptiness of my loneliness couldn’t be sustained any more. Eventually I grew tired of being angry. I grew weary of making my pain my identity.

Enter the Great Physician.
Forgiver of my sins.
Healer of my heart.
Restorer of my life.

Like me, your healing may not be as instantaneous as the man in our text. Some aspects of our curing may take a lifetime. And truthfully, some things may not be completely cured until eternity calls.

But regardless, our healing will not begin until we hear and answer the same question Jesus asked: Do you want to get well?

The great Physician now is near, The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer, Oh, hear the voice of Jesus.

stethoscope_and_heart   Do you want to get well?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

You, God, who made the heavens and the earth and have promised to remake them, hear my voice.

I plead for a hearing because you often seem so distant to me, and sometimes I fear that you do not listen. Awake, O God, and hear my prayer for I struggle once again with death. Death has again invaded my world.

God, I hate death. I trust that you hate it, too. Death is my enemy; it is your enemy as well. It rips apart the very fabric of peace, hope and trust. Where are you in the midst of death, O God? Why, O Lord, do you stand so far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

How, God, does death bring any meaning to your world? Would it not be better…would it not be to your glory…that you would rescue us from death so that we might praise you in the land of the living? Where is your praise in the grave? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?

Lord God, every death raises questions about you, about the meaning of life, and your purposes. I confess that I cannot answer them, and “every death is a question mark”*. Death is like a fog that blinds me.

How Long, O Lord? Will you forget us forever? How long must we have sorrow in our hearts every day? How long must we live with these questions, doubts and tears? When will you rid us of this shroud?

God, take your hands out of your pockets and do something! Arise, O Lord, and destroy this enemy. Redeem us, O God, according to your unfailing love!

God, you are my God, and I entrust my life, including my eventual death, to you.

  • I confess that you, Father, are the maker of heaven and earth.
  • I confess that you, Jesus, were born of woman, lived among us, died with us, rose again for us, and now reign at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.
  • I confess that you, Spirit, are present to transform us and comfort us.

I confess the story is not yet over, and that you, God, will yet rise up and destroy the enemy, and you will give birth to a new world without death and without tears.

Rise up, O God, and give birth to your new world. Create your new world, Father. Comfort us, O Spirit, and come back soon, Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Given in the Gathering (Lipscomb University Chapel) on October 1, 2013 in Nashville, TN in mourning over the death of Isaac Phillips.

*From the song “Come Back Soon” by Andrew Peterson on his “Lost Boys” album.

You may view the prayer and accompanying chapel speech that was delivered to the whole Lipscomb student body after the loss of Isaac Philips, who was found dead in his dorm room in late September 2013. You may view the chapel speech at this link.

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