At one time or another, every human being needs healing. The type of healing needed will differ depending on who the person is, and his or her circumstances. In every instance healing is a choice in which God and man are involved. Healing is a choice; it's God's choice. Also, there is a human side to the matter-there are choices we can make to ensure we experience whatever healing God, in His eternal purpose, has for us. Ultimately, however, we must remember the Creator of the universe is also the Healer of His universe. He is the ultimate decision maker as to how, when, and from whom we receive healing.

Surely God must love healing since He allows so much of it to occur every day. He created us with healing properties within us. A cut finger, in most cases, heals itself. There has to be something severely wrong with a person for a cut not to heal up on its own. A broken limb has the ability to fuse back together. The cold virus is defeated and destroyed by the healing ability within our own bodies. Healing goes on all around us and within us. It is a miraculous ability every person possesses to some degree or another. Sadly, the ability to heal emotionally, spiritually, or physically has been destroyed or weakened for some.

I love Bible stories that have a twist or a hidden message that when uncovered sheds new light on my own life. One of my favorites is found in the fifth chapter of the book of John. It is the story of Jesus visiting a place where people, hundreds of people, were sick, blind, crippled, and paralyzed. They were at Bethesda, a pool in Jerusalem near what was known as the Sheep Gate. These people lay all around in the alcoves hoping to experience healing. Supposedly, the water would stir and the first one to enter the pool would be healed.

One of the things that I love about this story is that Jesus was quite a phenomenon at the time. He was known for His miracles, healings, and radical teaching. He could have been anywhere talking with anyone on the planet because of His fame and the fact that He was God in human form. He had total access to the powerful and mighty, but rather than be with those at the top, He was there at the pool with the down and outers who had nothing better to do but lay around and wait to catch a healing wave.

I can only imagine the sight of all those desperate people with oozing wounds and withering bodies. The sounds of those groaning in pain and screaming in agony must have made it one of the worst places to go. The smell of rotting flesh and rampant disease probably brought on a gag reflex for most people, but Jesus chose to be there. I love that about Jesus.

Jesus approached one of the sick who were stretched by the pool that day. This was not a man who had heard about the healing pool and traveled from a distant city for a shot at instant haling. This man was a permanent resident of the poolside community; he had been there thirty-eight years. Can you imagine the despair of a life unlived, spent lying by a pool that never brought healing? Thirty-eight wasted years seeking something that never happened as he tried the same thing over and over again with absolutely no results.

Then on that fateful day Jesus walked right over to his mat and asked him an amazing question that I want to ask you. Jesus did not just heal him. He did not assume that the man wanted to be healed after thirty-eight years spent as an invalid. Instead, Jesus asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

The man had a choice to be healed or not. There had to be a "want to" in his will. He could have decided to stay unhealed forever, and there could have been some reasons to do so. He may have wanted to remain unhealed so he could just lie around or he may have grown accustomed to begging and knew begging was easier if he had a severe health problem. He may have become comfortable in his role as an outcast. He may have used his illness to disconnect from the world and other pressures of life. There are many reasons that he may not have wanted to be healed even though Jesus was offering to heal him. Jesus took the time to ask if he wanted to be healed, rather than just barge in and heal him on the spot.

Asking a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years if he wants to be healed is not a bizarre question. I have worked with many people through the years who could have experienced healing, but refused it. If Jesus had asked if they wanted to be healed, they might have said no. Some of them continued to stay overweight because it had some benefits they did not want to give up. They chose obesity over health because they liked invisibility-no one paid attention to them as fat people. No one spoke to them or showed interest in them and that made them feel comfortable and secure.

Others chose to stay heavy because it protected them. They had been abused earlier in life, and the fat kept them from becoming an object of desire for anyone. Or in the absence of the strength to set boundaries, their weight provided a portable boundary that few would want to cross. Actually their weight was not a boundary, it had become a protective wall, so they chose to stay fat. The benefits for them were too many to choose the path of healing.

I know sexual addicts who have refused healing. They knew they were sick. They knew they had destroyed their character, respect, marriages, jobs, relationships with God, and even their health. They knew all of that, but they chose to stick with being sick. They refused to make the choices that recovering sex addicts make when they decide they want to be healed and be well. The intensity and disconnection of the addiction remained a stronger lure than the hope of authentic intimacy and a loving relationship, so they chose to stay sick.

I have talked with alcoholic's sick wives who refused to get well. They structured their lives around their husbands’ alcoholism and lived in reaction to what they did and how to bad they were. They had no lives of their own, just the lives of enabling and covering up for their sick men. These well-meaning martyrs kept the alcoholics in the booze and kept themselves on the sidelines of life as they tried to control the uncontrollable. They lost themselves and refused to make some healing choices that could have led them back to the life God intended for them. They chose to remain the same. They chose to stay on their codependents mats, wallow in the pool of self-pity, and wade through their shame rather than to get up and walk the path of healing.

You may be one of those who have chosen to stay stuck rather than be healed. But now you are reading an article that could take you down a different path. I don't know what God has for you. I am confidant, however, that you can make healing choices and experience some level of healing.

When Jesus met the man at the pool of Bethesda, He asked if he wanted to be well. Fortunately, the man did want to be well, and when Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk, he did. He was healed after thirty-eight years. How long has it been for you?

I don't know how long you have struggled, but I know this: it is time to pick up your mat and walk, or pick up your mat and cry, or pick up your mat and drive to a meeting, or pick up your mat and take your medicine, or pick up your mat and help someone else, or pick up your mat and utter a simple prayer of surrender to taking the path toward healing. It is time to pick up your life and experience all that God has for you. In order to do that, you may have to do some things that will take you out of your comfort zone and push you into places you don't really want to be. I pray you will find the courage to do so.

The above piece is an adaptation from Healing is a Choice: Ten Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and The Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them, by Steve Arterburn. Nashville, Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005.

Stephen Arterburn is the founder of New Life Clinics, the largest provider of Christian counseling and treatment in North America. As host of the daily New Life Live! radio program, he is heard nationally on over one hundred and eighty stations and at Steve is the lead speaker at The New Life Weekend, a conference with specialty programs for Marriage, Anger, Fear, Boundaries, Depression, Weight Loss, Abuse, and Forgiveness. Steve is also the creator of Women of Faith® Conferences and the author/coauthor of over fifty books, including Healing is a Choice, Lose it For Life, The God of Second Chances, Every Man's Battle, Avoiding Mr. Wrong, Reframe Your Life, and Midlife Manual for Men.