I worked for a few years as part of a child and adolescent mental health treatment team. We worked with families who had a child with severe mental health issues. The issues we dealt with were so severe that most of the children we treated had been hospitalized for them multiple times. My role on the team was to work directly with parents of sick kids. This job was hands down the most challenging, rewarding, humbling, fulfilling job I have ever had. Everyday I would meet with parents who felt at the end of their rope. They were at their wits end trying to help their child who had lost control of his or her body and mind and were doing things to harm themselves. What a helpless and hopeless feeling. I was thinking about this experience as I read about the demon possessed boy in Matthew 17.
Matthew 17:14-16 “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord have mercy on my son,’ he said, ‘He has seizers [lunacy in the NASB] and is suffering greatly. He often falls in the fire or the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
It is not fun watching someone you love being tossed about in a mind altering, self harming, out of control experience. Unfortunately, this condition is so common that I think we can all relate, I know I can. In fact, sometimes the out of control person is me. Sometimes it is a spouse. And sometimes it is our child.
In the passage the father humbly approaches Jesus, on his knees, seeking mercy and compassion for his hurting boy. He tells Jesus that his child is suffering greatly from either seizures (NIV), lunacy (NASB), or both. Whatever the condition it is safe to say that the son was no longer in control of his mind, body or actions and that the father is sharing deeply in his son’s pain. Heartbreaking.
Then the father describes the suffering…He often falls in the fire or the water. This child is both burning himself and drowning. How many times have I been near something that I knew would burn me but felt an over powering, out of control desire to fall into fiery temptation despite the pain it would cause? Lots. How often have I found myself in deep, dark, overwhelming situations where I felt like I was uncontrollably sinking or drowning in indecision or bad decisions or heartache? How often have I found myself gasping for air in water that is way over my head?
I have “fallen into the fire or the water” and needed to beg Jesus for his healing mercy to rescue me from myself many, many times. I have also heard from many parents who have identified with this father, overwhelmed and powerless, watching his child being taken over by something. Many times that “something” is the painful sin of addiction. These parents, like the father in this passage, are on their knees before Jesus pleading for help.
So here’s the application. In verse 16 the father says that he brought the son to the disciples and they could not heal him. When we, or someone we love, is in a serious fire and water type situations we frequently turn to other people or systems for healing or to help regain control. These systems and people aren’t bad, in fact they are often very good. Things like support groups, therapists, praying friends, spiritual advisors, concerned friends or family members. All of these are good resources for help or support but they are not the source of our healing. We need to start using these people and systems to avoid the fire and water hurts in our life and immediately go to Jesus FIRST, our my knees, if we, or someone we love, happens to fall in.