“Now a man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus, upon seeing this man lying there and knowing that he had already been in that condition for a long time …” – John 5: 5-6
While one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, the story of Jesus meeting this man now carries a more profound significance to Gracie and me. Scripture records the man’s plight as lasting 38 years.
In the following sentence, Scripture validates that 38 years is a long time.
November 2021 marks the 38th anniversary of Gracie’s car accident, and it continues to reach through the decades with challenges and pain. Still recovering from a terrible fall in September that resulted in a broken femur, numerous challenges daily remind Gracie that 38 years is indeed a long time.
Why is it important that God also recognizes 38 years as a long time?
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Numerous passages remind us that God sees us in our afflictions. When the Gospel of John pays special attention to 38 years and affirms it as “a long time,” we cannot help but see the juxtaposition of an infinite God recognizing finite affliction as significant. Without Scripture rounding up to 40, the number remains precise – providing the awareness that God sees all -while also seeing specifically.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3. When Jesus saw the crowds, He “…felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36
All this points to a Savior indeed acquainted with grief, but also acquainted with our grief. With Gracie’s grief. With your grief.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” implies mourning must occur before the comfort arrives. Not despairing or raging over afflictions but mourning over the brokenness – as Jesus did when seeing the crowds or at Lazarus’ tomb.
Looking at our brokenness – we also mourn. While waiting on comfort and healing, our resolve increases when remembering that God sees the days, weeks, months, years, and even decades of our affliction.
And He even counts the tears. “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?” – Psalm 56:8