What do you do when events in your life do not turn out the way that you thought or hoped they would? How do you react? Do you blame yourself? Do you blame others? Do you blame God? If you do blame others, you will probably struggle with a deep sense of guilt—especially if whatever happened to you is your own fault—or with anger, frustration, and bitterness toward others and toward God. How do we break free from the blame game? How do we keep guilt, anger, frustration, and bitterness from consuming us? How do we find joy in the midst of adverse circumstances?

In Luke 5:17–26, we are told about a man whose life clearly did not turn out the way he thought or hoped it would. I am certain that when this man started out in life, he did not plan on being paralyzed and having to depend on others to do even the most menial of tasks. It is not a great stretch to think that this man was paralyzed as a result of some accident or illness he contracted later in life. He is not described in the text as being “crippled” or “lame” or as having any condition that is congenital, but rather as being “paralyzed,” which is a condition that would have developed at some point in this man’s life after birth. It is possible that he was injured in a childhood accident of some kind. Maybe the injury was a result of his own or someone else’s negligence, or even an act of violence. Not a day would have gone by in this man’s life when he did not think about whatever it was that caused his paralysis.

In the midst of this man’s struggle, he hears about someone named Jesus, who not only has the power to heal but is traveling around the country exercising it. When the man hears that Jesus has come to his hometown, he enlists four friends to carry him on his bed to see Jesus. He is longing to be able to walk again and to have the events of his life reversed. But when the man is finally able to get in front of Jesus—which is no small feat—Jesus does not heal him, at least not initially. Instead, He says to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (v. 20).

I find this fascinating. Besides teaching people that He really does have the power to forgive sins, Jesus was giving this man what he needed most. He knew that this man needed spiritual healing more than physical healing. He needed to experience forgiveness and to be assured that his sins really were forgiven. Physical healing would only be treating the symptom of a deeper problem. He needed to let go of his anger, frustration, and bitterness. He needed to forgive himself or others for his or their failures. And the only way that could happen was for the man to experience genuine forgiveness himself.

The same is true for you and me. The thing you and I need most of all is spiritual healing. It is the only way we can forgive ourselves or others and let go of guilt, anger, frustration, and bitterness. It is the only pathway to true and lasting joy in the midst of all circumstances.