By Jeremy Stalnecker
Have you ever looked up from a difficult season of life and said something like: “How did I get here?” You find yourself in a place that you would have never thought you’d end up. Maybe it’s the bad decisions of others or your own bad decisions that brought you to this place, but whatever the reason, here you are. This may be a literal place but more likely it is a relational or emotional or spiritual one. As you stand here wondering what might have gone wrong, you are overwhelmed by just how bad things have gotten.
Bad. Not the word anyone hopes will define their lives but the only one that makes sense right now. You feel wrecked on the inside-a feeling that others may not be able to see but one that pervades every thought and removes any hope for the future. Even if you wanted to see the circumstances of your life change, and I am sure you do, you can’t imagine how that might happen. Recognizing a problem is not the same as knowing what to do next. Life has gotten really bad and there is no apparent way out.
If this describes you right now, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Everyone to one degree or another can relate to those times in life when there seems to be no hope for a better tomorrow. We want to believe that life will be overwhelmingly positive, but there will be moments that can only be described as bad. So what do we do in those times?
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in the New Testament book of Mark, chapter five. In the first twenty verses of that chapter we are given the story of an encounter that Jesus had with a man who was possessed with a legion (some believe as many as one thousand) demons. Maybe a strange “favorite” Bible story, but I love the way this unfolds.
As Jesus exited a ship while traveling with his disciples he was immediately greeted by a man in a bad situation. Now, I cannot possibly know your worst life situation, but it probably falls a little short of the type of bad this man was dealing with.
Here is how this man is described in Mark 5:3-4: “Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.” I’m not sure it gets much worse than this! Not only did he live in a graveyard, he was completely out of control. The next verse even says that he spent his days crying and cutting himself!
The description of this man and his situation may be one that you can relate to. Hopefully not in the literal sense, but feeling like you are living among the dead. You want to change your life, but you are out of control! Even the people who care about you can’t figure out how to make things better. All of this may even lead to a level of desperation that results in spending your days crying and seeking to do self harm. Not everyone gets to this place of course, but, at least on some level, I think that we can all relate. Hopeless. Bad.
And this is where Jesus steps in. The story is definitely worth reading, but I will summarize until you have time to take a look: Jesus cast the demons out and healed the man! We are even told in the text that the healing was so dramatic, the man was clothed and in his right mind, that those who knew him before were AFRAID. They didn’t know what to think but knew that something amazing had happened. There are other stories of healing in the Bible, but I love this one because it illustrates an amazing truth:
Jesus will meet you where you are!
This was a man in an utterly desperate life situation with no ability to change his circumstance. He was simply surviving until his body finally gave way and he succumbed to his situation. How he got here we are not told, but how he got here did not change the fact that he was utterly hopeless. And then Jesus met him and did what only Jesus could do! He cast out the demons and gave healing and hope to a man that needed both and did it while the man stood IN his mess. Jesus met this broken man where he was because that is where help was needed.
This is the part of the story that I love. So often in my life I think that I must figure out how to move forward before God will work. Especially when I am the one who created the mess in the first place, I allow myself to be convinced that I need to find my way back to God or be lost forever. If you have ever been in this situation you know what a hopeless thought this can be. It is when we need God most that we least know how to get to Him. I am so thankful that He does meet us where we are, right in the middle of our mess, and provides the healing and hope that are so desperately needed.
This story is great because it ends with a conversation between Jesus and the man recently set free from the possession of demons. The man, clearly overwhelmed and thankful for what Jesus had done, expresses this and declares that he will now follow Jesus wherever He goes. The response of Jesus? “No. Instead go back home and tell your friends what I have done for you and how much I have loved you.” Since he had friends to go back to I have to believe that at one time this man was in his right mind, and now Jesus told him that his “post deliverance” responsibility was to go back and minister to them. Jesus not only brought healing but provided purpose on the other side of that healing. “Use your story to help others find the hope that they too so desperately need.”
I believe that Jesus would say the same to us if He could tell us what to do after He brings healing to our lives. Not only does He meet us where we are, but he redeems the bad that He saves us from to a bigger purpose. Instead of wasting the times in our lives that we consider bad, Jesus tells us to use those times as a platform of healing for others who are blinded from the hope on the other side of their own brokenness. Jesus heals and this truth, shared from a point of experience, brings hope.
After reading this story I have wondered what exactly it was that this man told his friends. How do you sum up a life-changing experience like the one that he had just lived through? I can’t be sure but I think it may have gone something like this:
“I was bad. Broken and hopeless. So much needed to change in my life that I could not even figure out where to begin.”
But then I met Jesus! I was living in tombs and naked spending my days crying and cutting myself with stones. To say I was a mess is an understatement! But you know what? It didn’t matter. Jesus, the Savior and healer met me where I was and seemed to overlook what everyone else saw and simply viewed me as a desperate person in need of help.
That’s when everything changed. My encounter with Jesus restored my life and gave me hope for the first time in a very long time. I went from out of control to in my right mind, seeing things clearly. Not only that, I received a life’s purpose-to tell others how they can experience the same healing that I have.”
I think he probably ended with an invitation to his friends to look past their own bad situations, and to put their trust in the Savior.
After the encounter with this man Jesus and His disciples were run out of town. The people who lived there did not understand what had happened, but they knew they did not like it. But here is what I find fascinating: A few chapters after this happens, Jesus and His disciples return to this region and are met by a crowd in need of the healing and hope that only Jesus could offer. I can’t help but believe that these were the people who heard the mans story and just had to meet the Savior for themselves! Where once they had run Him off, they now wanted to have an encounter that could provide the hope THEY needed.
Whatever it is that you may be going through, please understand-we have a Savior who wants to meet you where you are. You may feel hopeless, and lost, and not quite sure what to do next, but there is always hope in Jesus.
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.