The gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus’ healing of a woman who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and unable to stand up straight. This is a wonderful story that is very easy for readers to identify with. There are so many things that weigh us down.
I first thought about this story the day we had a number of first-year college students visiting our Quaker meeting before their classes had begun. They were bright and perky; but I remembered other students I had seen in other years in the middle of the term, weighed down with schoolwork, relationship issues, concerns about the future, lack of sleep, and more.
I can also remember being weighed down feeling overwhelmed with many different projects that needed to be addressed, feelings of inadequacy, and a sense of great responsibility. And, especially as a young woman, feeling burdened with being a woman and the struggles that brought me in trying to find my place. I really value that in the story Jesus sees the woman, speaks to her, and lays his healing hands on her. All three actions bring healing. What a joy to be released from the spirit that crippled her—or cripples us.
One time I had been feeling weighed down for several days, with no particular cause that I could point to. The more I felt uncomfortable about the feeling, the more I paradoxically seemed set on being bent over. Until I heard a friend, who knows God’s love for her and has a deep and abiding love for God, say, “Sometimes I have things come up that I just can’t handle, and I tell God he is going to have to take care of that himself.” So I tried that. “God, I can’t handle this feeling. You’re just going to have to handle it.” I first had to agree to let it go if I were released from it, and I had to trust it into God’s hands. The next day I woke up cheerful. My anxiety about a particular responsibility had shifted. I felt companioned by Jesus, open and curious instead of fearful. The crippling spirit had been lifted. I was standing up straight again.
In what way are you, or someone you know, bent over with a spirit that cripples?
How does your faith speak to that condition?
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. In thee I trust. (And thank you, God, for faithful friends.)
For further reference:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16a).
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15: 4).