Read Luke 13:10-17.
I’m not posting the audio to these verses here because in this week’s response section and video, I want to lead us in a guided, prayerful Scripture reading using this passage. (See the video or “Respond” section for more details.)
We so often try to stand beneath burdens that we were not meant to bear.
Sometimes it is tragedy that pushes us to that place. Sometimes it is one too many lesser pains. Sometimes it is the sting of another’s words spoken in haste, and sometimes it is ominous silence in an area of desperate need. Doubt invades, and discouragement hangs heavy. Faith may linger for a moment, but it soon feels artificial–a distant memory from a different time.
We square our shoulders to the world and brace ourselves for an inevitable hit. Or we turn our heads for just a moment, blindsided by what we could not have seen coming. We lock our knees to keep them from giving way beneath us, and it isn’t long before the lightheadedness sets in.
We finally bend to keep from breaking, and we realize that we cannot stand back up. We thought our backbones were stronger. We thought our faith was firmer.
I can’t say for certain, but I suspect that the woman in our story today knew something of this struggle.
The bent-over woman (I do wish we had been told her name) doesn’t appear to have approached Christ with any great boldness or expectation. Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, we’re told, and she was just there. Eighteen years is a long time to be harassed by the same illness, to be bound by the same spirit. I wonder if she had abandoned all hope of being healed. I wonder if hearing that Christ had come to her town awakened in her a desire that had lain dormant beneath the reality of daily life. I wonder if she crept into the back of the synagogue that day with some vestige of hope that He would see her. I wonder if, even as that hope stirred, she feared the disappointment that would follow if the Lord failed to act.
Perhaps the most refreshing element of this woman’s story is the one-sidedness of Christ’s compassion–His faithfulness without any indication of her great faith. If you come into the Lord’s presence today with unshakable and fervent faith, I’m so glad. But we don’t always come with confident expectation and sturdy hope. Sometimes we are just grateful to find ourselves in a room where Christ’s Spirit happens to be, and it is all the faith we have to hope that He might notice we are here. No matter your current level of faith, take heart and take courage as you read Luke 13:12-13 again:
“When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’ And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”
Jesus saw her. Might she have drawn her first deep breath in that moment? I think I might have.
Jesus sees you, and He sees what weighs on you. He sees the circumstance that has outlasted your resolve. It may be a seemingly small area or it may be the biggest need you’ve ever faced. It may just be a subtle, mocking fear that your life somehow does not warrant God’s tending.
As He did for that woman who walked the earth two thousand years ago, He calls you to Himself. She must have shuffled, still bent over, toward the Man who beckoned her, so even if you stumble under the weight that’s landed heavy, make your way to the One who calls.
When she got to Him, Jesus laid His hands on her, and “she was made straight” (Luke 13:13). I love that God Almighty, wrapped in flesh, called her close enough to Him that He could lay His hands on her. I love that as she straightened to stand for the first time in eighteen years, she looked into the face of God Himself. The woman in our story didn’t encounter someone who was “sweet” or “kind.” He offered more than empty platitudes. She encountered One who was powerful enough to extend healing and strength to her weakness, to actually free her from what had ensnared.
She encountered One who could restore her and who had come near enough to do it.
By His Spirit, Christ is able to do the same for us. He is able, and He is willing. Come and find life in your Father’s presence that you may have ceased to hope was there. I have felt the weight of discouragement and doubt too deeply to dismiss it lightly, but I have also encountered the Lord’s tender compassion too personally not to speak of it. He sees what threatens to overwhelm. And He cares so much. He is powerful and good and merciful enough to do something about it. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Come into His presence and see His goodness for yourself.
Let Him tend to you. Whether He changes your circumstances or meets with you in the midst of them, He is the only One who can heal you, the only One who can free you from what sits heavy on your shoulders.
He doesn’t just tell you to stand. He places His hands upon your shoulders and lifts you up. He tilts your face to look to His.
I pray the Lord encourages you this week. I pray He speaks to your heart in a way that only He is able. I pray that you rest in His freedom and healing. I pray that today, regardless of your circumstance, you will taste of His presence and know that He is good!
Are there any hopes or desires that you’ve silenced in order to avoid disappointment?
What burden does Jesus see weighing most heavily on you?
The Lord has called you from the crowd. What would it look like to respond to His call—to come forward and meet Him face to face? Think practically. Do you need to set aside time to meet with Him? Do you need to confess a sin or shame that has held you back from Him for too long? Do you need to tell Him what has wounded you? Could you meet Him in worship the way that you used to—or the way that you long to? What would it look like for you to respond to Him the way that this woman did?
This week, I’ve been deeply convinced that we don’t need a list of application steps, we need to hear the voice of God. We need His encouragement whispered intimately and specifically to our weary souls. I’m trusting Him to do that for me and for each of you. In light of that, I want to lead us in a prayer exercise that has helped position me to hear the voice of God. I’m hoping it helps to put us in a posture where we can hear and receive from the Lord this week.
I’ve led us through the exercise in the video above. You can also download the document to lead you through the steps on your own.