The story describes a physician coming to the pool at Bethesda seeking to be the first to enter the pool after an angel stirs the water. When the angel comes and stirs the water and the physician tries to get in, the Angel blocks his way. The following conversation then occurs:
Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”
Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.
Angel: “Healing is not for you.”
Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”
Angel: “I know.”
Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”
Angel: “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.” (italics mine)
Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:
“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”
This story is powerful to me, not only because our experience of sadness and suffering can be useful in the hands of God as we empathize with other sufferers, but also because when our suffering is embraced in the presence of God it is suffused with resurrection power. Suffering precedes glory - that is the biblical way. When we embrace suffering (instead of trying to anesthetize it, hide from it or deny it) we can walk into the darkness of other people's sufferings with a power of light that even we may not be able to see. We carry a weight with us, the weight of God which can only be manifested in the darkness. This weight can cause others to seek God merely by being near those who suffer well.
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