I sat on a cushion by the small plastic table where Neveen had placed a cracked teacup and dry baklava. A toddler waddled by, the weight of a full diaper almost dragging near the floor. Four young children squatted quietly along the wall next to the cot in the corner. Rashid, their father, lay motionless under a matted gray blanket, his thin face chalky from disease. He couldn’t even raise his head; the doctors had given him only months.
The wad of tissue in Neveen’s hand was limp with tears. She was trying to be brave. “Inshallah." Her voice cracked. She had been taught to submit but the room was filled with longing. She leaned toward me, her eyebrows knit tightly, her eyes red, "Can you help him?”
I knew Rashid had accepted his lot; Allah had determined his fate, he would submit. But Neveen?
A quick picture flashed through my thoughts of a pitiful paralytic being lowered over the crowded room where Jesus stood. I didn’t know Rashid’s past, but I know it weighed on him. I didn’t know what he felt God was judging him for, but I sensed Neveen was aching to look past judgment. She wanted hope.
“Like the leper, this paralytic had lost all hope of recovery. His disease was the result of a sinful life, and his sufferings were embittered by remorse. In vain he had appealed to the Pharisees and doctors for relief; they pronounced him incurable, they denounced him as a sinner and declared that he would die under the wrath of God.”
I imagined a huddle of grown men bent over the paralytic’s wasting flesh day after day, rehearsing the names of doctors, priests, treatments, even some hear-say cures. One night they gathered with a new name to share. Jesus. They told their friend what they had seen and heard. Unusual. Amazing. A prostitute had been helped. A centurion's servant had been healed. He had befriended a tax collector, of all people.
I knew I couldn't do much to help Rashid, wasted as he was. He could die any day. But I didn’t know what Jesus would do; would He really help?
“Others, as sinful and helpless as he, had been healed, and he was encouraged to believe that he, too, might be cured if he could be carried to the Saviour. But hope fell as he remembered the cause of his malady, yet he could not cast away the possibility of healing. . . . He besought his friends to carry him on his bed to Jesus, and this they gladly undertook to do.”
Had I seen or heard anything that would give Neveen hope? Could I tell her convincingly what Jesus had done for others? Was I willing to be friend enough to take her whole family to Jesus? I couldn’t read the longings in her heart. I didn’t know if Rashid had strength to hope. I searched the faces of those who had accompanied me to meet Rashid. We had no reasonable alternative. They needed us to take them--all of them--to Jesus.
They weren’t going to be able to take themselves. They didn't know how to get to Him. But Neveen had asked us to take them to hope. I instinctively knew we were pushing against common notions of what to say and what not to say, what was culturally sensitive, what was offensive. But I also knew we needed to get involved, take a step of faith, pull up the roof, disturb the status quo, hesitate at nothing in order to bring this dying man into Jesus’ healing presence. Jesus was his only hope.
“There was no time to lose; already his wasted flesh bore signs of death. He besought his friends to carry him on his bed to Jesus.”
“I do know Someone who can help,” I ventured with a certainty I didn’t know I had. Neveen turned quickly to face me. I leaned forward, looking directly into her serious, round face wrapped tightly in black.
“I have gone to Jesus in prayer before in times like this. Could we take Rashid to Him right now?” A sad smile passed across her face. She nodded and signaled to the children huddled on the wall. A row of hands slowly opened heavenward.
“The Saviour looked upon the mournful countenance and saw the pleading eyes fixed upon Him. Well He knew the longing of that burdened soul. It was Christ who had brought conviction to his conscience when he was yet at home. When he repented of his sins and believed in the power of Jesus to make him whole, the mercy of the Saviour had blessed his heart. Jesus had watched the first glimmer of faith grow into a conviction that He was the sinner's only helper, and had seen it grow stronger with every effort to come into His presence. It was Christ who had drawn the sufferer to Himself. Now, in words that fell like music on the listener's ear, the Saviour said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee".... Matthew 9:2.
“It required nothing less than creative power to restore health to that decaying body. The same voice that spoke life to man created from the dust of the earth, had spoken life to the dying paralytic. And the same power that gave life to the body had renewed the heart. He who at creation “spake, and it was,” who “commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9), had spoken life to the soul dead in trespasses and sins. The healing of the body was an evidence of the power that had renewed the heart. Christ bade the paralytic arise and walk, “that ye may know,” He said, “that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins….
“The paralytic found in Christ healing for both the soul and the body. He needed health of soul before he could appreciate health of body. Before the physical malady could be healed, Christ must bring relief to the mind, and cleanse the soul from sin. This lesson should not be overlooked. There are today thousands suffering from physical disease who, like the paralytic, are longing for the message, “Thy sins are forgiven.” The burden of sin, with its unrest and unsatisfied desires, is the foundation of their maladies. They can find no relief until they come to the Healer of the soul. The peace which He alone can impart would restore vigor to the mind and health to the body. (Excerpts from Ministry of Healing, page 73-77).
That day Rashid and Neveen and their five children were taken to Jesus. We prayed for God’s power to be evident in a distraught and weary family. We prayed for God to perform a miracle of healing for body and soul. That day we took them each into Jesus' presence and He did His wonderful work. It was neither the beginning nor the end of their journey towards Him. He needed much more time; there were more miracles to perform. But we did what real friends do, and He healed--physically and spiritually. Six years later He is still working in their lives as they plant an Adventist church among their large network of friends, family and fellow countrymen.
Interestingly, it was a memorable point in my own journey too. I learned what a real friend is willing to do. I can always give personal witness of what I have seen and heard. In times of great need, I can always say, “I know Someone who can help. He has cared for me, and I know He will care for you too." --GA/KL