Read Mark 5:21-43.
Writing these devotionals was harder than I expected. But it also feels good. It has driven me to the Scriptures with the kind of determination that I might have missed if I’d been left on my own. I read better when I’m writing. I think better. I think more. I listen more. I lean my head over the pages of God’s Word with an intensity that is both exhausting and exhilarating. I feel so much more alive.
We were created to actually live, you know. We would settle for so much less.
**For what it’s worth, much of this post was written years ago, and the references to illness and germs stemmed originally from the biblical text and not from the current virus.
Jairus’ little girl’s grip on life was failing. He’d sat beside her bed and watched her laughter slip to lethargy. He’d watched the fog of fever gloss over her once animated eyes. He’d watched as weariness pulled her inside of herself. He’d watched the color drain from his child’s cheeks as clammy hands curled into fists to fight the pain. He’d watched that fight run out and give way to a restless sleep. He’d watched those fists unfurl the way they had when life was new and sleep was welcomed. He’d watched the life drip from her delicate fingertips. And he’d run to drop himself at the feet of Christ.
Thank God for fathers who will not stand idly by as death smothers their daughters.
(If you didn’t have a father who would hunt down healing on your behalf, rest assured you have a Father in Heaven who will!)
There is much to be said about the heart of this man, this father who sought the Healer with courage that only desperation will allow. But I want to focus more on the little girl. Because I would wager that most of us are more comfortable seeking the Healer for another than we are waiting lifeless for a miracle of our own.
Has your vibrant laughter faded to a jaded smile? Do your eyes blink heavy against the fog? When did weariness convince you to withdraw? What drained the life-blood from your face? Why did your hands curl into fists itching for a fight with a world that does not fight fair? When did that fight give way to exhausted acceptance of what you were never meant to bear? What has worn you down and laid you out? How has death slipped silently into a place intended for so much life?
Once news came that the little girl had died, Jesus was selective about those He invited to accompany Him to her side. He took three of His closest disciples and the little girl’s parents. Anticipating the miracle He had in store, Jesus protected this daughter from the uncomfortable stares of curious onlookers. When the room was emptied of the wailing mourners and filled with hesitant hope, the Lord reached for the child’s hand and spoke directly to her: “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” (5:41). And immediately, we’re told, she “got up and began walking” (5:42).
Our God comes in such tender power. He is the Father who does not stand idly by.
Sometimes He works in strange ways. Sometimes He allows our numb hearts to feel the depth of the pain again before He comes to heal. Sometimes He allows the shame to nearly smother us before He lifts it off and sets us free. Sometimes, as He did in this little girl’s story, He allows our ailing selves to die before He calls us back to life. I don’t really know why He does that, but I think maybe it’s to make sure we don’t miss the miracle.
Like most of you, I have lived a lot of this season in that quiet place where it’s just Jesus and a couple of others. I have spent a lot of time with my hand tucked safely in His, learning to walk again on legs that are weak but sturdy. I’m so grateful for this life, but I fear I may have grown reluctant to really live it. Doesn’t He know it’s dangerous? Doesn’t He know that these people have germs (literally and figuratively)? They stare at me. They ask questions that they have not earned the answer to. They flippantly say and do things that cut deeper than they intend. They share opinions I didn’t ask to know. This life can kill you, You know, Lord.
And He gently pulls His hand from mine that I might see the scars. Yes, I do know, His eyes remind me.
Jesus gave this little girl miraculous life. Fresh breath filled her lungs. A once-stilled heart beat again, warming her hands and flushing her cheeks. But even with that new life, she could have stayed in bed for fear the fever might return. She could have sat up slowly, cautiously, knowing now the perils of life in this world. And so can we. We can protect ourselves right out of our healing. We can worry ourselves right back into our shame. We can miss our whole lives for fear of death. But we don’t have to!
The Risen One beckons us arise, and He takes our hand as He calls us forth. We do not go alone. We go with the God who has given us new life. We go with the God who binds up our wounds. We go with the God who bears our burdens and forgives our sins. We walk in the wisdom and power of His Spirit. And in His abundant provision, we go with each other—the body of Christ filled with the very Spirit of Christ. And we find that even with all their germs and stares and differing opinions, we still want very much to be a part of them. We find that it is in fact safer to exist without them, but it isn’t really living at all.
I love the ending of this story. Before He departed the little girl’s house, Jesus “told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5:43). I guess that if you’ve been so sick that you’ve died and then been raised from the dead, you have probably worked up an appetite. You are probably famished. And you might be so grateful for life that you forget the fundamentals of living—like eating.
You might forget to do the very things that sustain the life that He has restored.
He intends for us to live this life He’s given. He intends for us to do those things that give us life, that remind us of how much we really love it. For me it is writing. And reading. And long walks with friends who will listen to all of my words and sift through them for the meaning. And ice cream with my mom. And painting furniture. And rocking babies.
And relaxing against the reality of the Father who insisted upon the healing that would lead to life. And then insisted that I actually live that life.
When I would have settled for so much less.
What activities make you feel the most alive? (Don’t worry about making them sound “spiritual”—if they aren’t sinful, they’re fair game for this question.)
Search your heart. Where has lethargy or complacency or despair produced a death where God intends there to be life?
What does it look like in your own life to “protect yourself from living”? What actions (or inactions) are you prone to when you are trying to avoid taking risks or being vulnerable? If we can recognize the patterns we turn to, we can more quickly turn to Jesus when we recognize ourselves falling back to our old, self-protective ways. Write down God’s promise in Psalm 3:3 and put it somewhere to remind you of the One whose job it is to protect you.
What activities bring you life? Schedule one of them into your week this week and invite Jesus into it. Arise. Live! Enjoy Him and His presence as you enjoy something He created you to love doing.
I didn’t record a video this week. But as we go forward from this study, my challenge for you is to keep seeking the Spirit of Wisdom. Keep asking the Holy Spirit to fill you with His peace. Keep begging the Spirit of God to fill you with His power that you might walk in His power and in the comfort and confidence of His Presence.
And if you desire to keep seeking and seeing how the Man of Christ once walked and lived among those ancient people, open up the gospels. As you read through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, ask the Lord to continue to teach you to recognize the Spirit of Christ in your midst.
He’s been faithful this far. And He’ll carry us home. And He’ll walk right beside us each step of the way.