27 May 2021
Do you enjoy or despise it when someone asks you, “Is there anything I can do for you?” This question might be a kind gesture that makes you feel seen and provides just the care you need. Or maybe you find this question difficult to answer. Not only can it be challenging to receive help, but pinpointing specific needs can also feel impossible as we struggle to articulate what we may have kept hidden in our hearts.
Not so with a man named Bartimaeus! This blind, marginalized man responded succinctly and immediately when Jesus asked him straightforwardly, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51).
Friend, how would you answer Jesus’ question? Do you have secret sins that you dare not mention to Jesus because you fear his response? Maybe you wonder, “Can I actually talk to him about sexual addictions?” You may not be blind, but, like me, you have a lot more in common with Bartimaeus than you think, and that’s a good thing!
You can be boldly dependent
In Mark 10:46–52, we read about Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure for his blindness; he would experience this ailment the rest of his life. One day, he was sitting on the side of the road when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. In desperation, he began yelling and crying out for mercy. The people around him tried to quiet him; how dare a blind man interrupt Jesus, who was journeying towards his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–11)? But Jesus heard Bartimaeus and stopped to ask him a pointed question: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).
Like Bartimaeus, the men and women who come to our ministry for help and hope deeply feel their weakness and utter desperation to change. Yet what we see in this story is that simply acknowledging his impediment wasn’t sufficient for him; he needed to boldly acknowledge it before Jesus (and others!) and ask for help, which is a good model for us. Can you imagine what Bartimaeus may have been thinking and feeling after he uttered the words, “Let me recover my sight!” He couldn’t see Jesus’ facial expression or tell if he was listening carefully, but he believed enough to cry out for help, boldly and with utter dependence. You can too!
What does bold dependence look like?
- Naming your neediness to God (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 145:18, and Psalm 28:1–2).
- Asking him to help you and to give you courage to reach out to others (Psalm 121:2, Matthew 11:28–30, and Philippians 4:6–7).
- Looking and waiting for God’s help (Jeremiah 29:12–13, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 27:13–14, and Proverbs 3:5–6).
Jesus responds to us with attentive compassion
In this passage, we see Jesus respond to Bartimaeus’ specific need. Jesus knew he was blind, and he knew that the man desired his sight. Yet Jesus stops, asks him what he wants Jesus to do for him, listens, commends his faith, and eventually heals him. Before Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?,” he needed to approach Jesus in his heart. Here’s the crazy thing: Bartimaeus’ dependency and blindness is what qualified him to approach Jesus! He needed help from the only One who could truly help him!
Dane Ortlund says in his book, Gentle and Lowly, “The minimum bar to be enfolded into the embrace of Jesus is simply: open yourself up to him. It is all he needs. Indeed, it is the only thing he works with. Verse 28 of the passage in Matthew 11 tells us explicitly who qualifies for fellowship with Jesus: ‘all who labor and are heavy laden.’ You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come.”¹
Not long ago, a friend of mine asked what I wanted Jesus to do for me. I struggled to answer. What am I allowed to say? The thing that scared me the most about answering this is that to be honest is to be vulnerable. If I bared my heart before Jesus in such an honest way, how would he look at me? How would he respond? Would he hurt me or be disappointed in me like others were when I was vulnerable with them? Would this be the one time that he withheld grace or forgiveness?
To answer honestly would mean an additional layer of trust and surrender to him, which is why I think Jesus asks the question in the first place. Answering his question gives us an opportunity to express our trust in him. I see this same tension in some of the women who come to our ministry. In the midst of wrestling with sexual sin, they can be tempted to believe that what they’re going through is where Jesus draws the line. Strugglers can believe that his compassionate care, his tenderness, his forgiveness applies to everyone else—but not you and not what you’re going through. But, like Bartimaeus, our specific heartaches and struggles are the very things that qualify us to go to the One who can help. His attentive compassion awaits us.
Steps to help you engage conversation with Jesus
First, know that Jesus sees you and is inviting you to be honest with him in the same way that he addressed Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:50). Would your answer to Jesus solely focus on healing you from your sexual sin? Healing from porn addiction, attraction to the same sex, etc.? What can or should we ask for?
Consider asking God for grace (2 Corinthians 12:9–10), for comfort amidst the pain of ongoing struggle (2 Corinthians 1:3–4), that you would know him more amidst trials (John 17:3), for healing for your broken heart (Psalm 147:3), and to feel his nearness (Psalm 34:18).
God uses suffering as an opportunity to know him more, so instead of praying solely for the pain to go away, how might you pray for more of him amidst it? Here are some ideas:
- Walk towards Jesus. Bartimaeus “sprang up” and came to Jesus (Mark 10:50). He didn’t cry out for help and then sit back, hoping Jesus would find him. Despite not being able to see Jesus, simply knowing he was there was enough to make Bartimaeus reach out to him. We too can do this by going to Jesus rather than walking away to false comforts, distractions, or pulling away in isolation.
- Start with honesty. Tell him your pain, struggle, and shame. Try to put words on it. I mean really tell him. This might be messy and full of tears or feel like emotional turmoil; it probably won’t feel neat, tidy, and emotionally composed. We are complex beings, so when our emotions get stirred, we need to keep intentionally bringing these things to the Lord. Jesus is a Shepherd who also shepherds us through our emotions. You know what? It is okay if you go to Jesus, and you can only muster up “I don’t know” in answer to his question.
- Are your thoughts all that you’re listening to? Sometimes our shame and pain can drown out what God is trying to share with us. Answering Jesus’ question is only a part of his interaction with us. After Bartimaeus told Jesus what he wanted him to do, Jesus spoke back to him (Mark 10:52). His Word and his Holy Spirit also speak promises and comfort to us, but we live in a noisy world, and our own thoughts usually have a lot to say. Silence can feel awkward or even painfully loud. Listening is a skill that often requires practice, so consider how you can pursue quiet, slow down, and simply listen. Are you leaving space to pause and listen?
The physical healings we observe Jesus doing in the gospels reveal his power and the in-breaking of his reign as Savior. Can Jesus simply take away and heal your struggles? Yes, he could, but it seems that God more often leads his children through a process of transformation that draws us closer to him, and not only to answers. He longs for our full restoration, yet is just as passionate about having a close relationship with you.
Think about that! Your sexual and relational sins are serious, and God does want them to be repented of through changed behavior. Yet, more than that, he wants your heart changed through faith, dependent upon him, especially when temptations remain or growth is slow. He is not withholding anything from you and will not withdraw from you either!
Which of the above seem to be the most necessary step for you to take? Are you sitting on the road like Bartimaeus, needing to cry out for help with bold dependence? Have you heard Jesus’ call to come near to him, to leave where you are and ask for help? Have you been praying, seeking to grow, and yet change is slow? Jesus not only knows what you need to do next but is also with you as you take that step. Don’t give up; follow the example of a blind beggar who got up, approached Jesus, and followed him on his way.
¹ Dane Ortlund. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Wheaton: IL, Crossway, 2020. 20.
A story from the second chapter of Mark gives a wonderful description of the challenge and glory of how women stuck in the mire of sexual sin can connect with Jesus for the help they need.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12, ESV)
Many women are like this paralyzed man: desperate for help, but seemingly unable to draw near to Jesus. They are bound up in sin of a sexual nature and are “paralyzed,” unable to move or take action. Stuck in place and helpless. They are hurting, isolated, and terrified to consider talking to anyone in their churches about what is going on in their lives.
Chris came to Harvest USA for help, having recently left her partner of 23 years. She shared that, over the years when she would feel conviction over her homosexuality, she had sought help from pastors and other Christian leaders. Chris shared that most of the time, these leaders would respond to her confession with something like, “You do know, right, that this is a sin? That God is NOT pleased with this?” She said, “I would say back to them, ‘Yes, I do know it’s a sin. . . but do you have any words to help me? To lead me out?’” No one had been able to “pick her up and carry her to Jesus” for the discipleship she needed.
Sadly, overcoming sin of a sexual nature and understanding God’s good design for sexuality are not consistent topics of discussion, much less discipleship, in the church. Many women, like Chris, feel they are just outside the reach of Jesus and unable to draw near to him regarding their private struggles and sin. Some of these women may be ministry leaders themselves, but in terms of personal struggles with pornography, sexual fantasy, and sexual behavior with men and/or other women, they are clueless about how the gospel can help them move in the direction of sexual integrity and freedom.
How can women move from their patterns of sexual sin and the paralysis of faith that accompanies hidden struggles into the healing, forgiveness, and power of the love of Christ?
If you’re stuck on a mat . . .
Here are three initial steps of faith to take if you find yourself stuck and unable to connect the gospel to your sexual struggle.
First, acknowledge that you need help from outside of yourself. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” There is mercy for you, sister, as you turn to God in humility and ask him for help, which means reaching out to a person you can trust to share your struggle with.
Sharing your sexual sin struggle is key, as there is healing and freedom that comes in “naming” it before the Lord in the presence of someone else. The paralyzed man’s need was visible and obvious; yours is most likely secret, unknown to even your closest friends and coworkers. In confessing and asking for help, you are receiving the Lord’s help as you allow friends to carry you to Jesus.
Second, believe the words of God given to Christians: You are forgiven! Stand up! Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Will you believe in his gracious, loving words to you regarding even these areas of sin in your life? He welcomes you, always, at the throne of grace!
Third, pick up your mat and go home! In other words, now walk forward in faith and repentance. Keep fighting! Don’t give up! This is a lifelong aspect of following Jesus: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
My next blog post will unpack what that means. In the meantime, have you been paralyzed like Chris? Have any of these three steps of faith been helpful to you? Let me know.