Recently, God has allowed me to spend time with some people who are going through deep seasons of struggle and pain. An incarcerated man who is reaping the whirlwind from his addictions looked at me through a plane of glass in the prison where he now lives and recounted his story of downward spiral to me. Few valleys are as dark as the ones we place ourselves in through personal failure. Another friend shared in transparency the dagger in his soul from a marriage that seems to have died; hurt, rage and years of frustration have him considering some difficult next steps. A preacher I know struggled to open up to me about a cloud of darkened depression that seemed to hang over him. This is a biblically informed brother who knows all the verses I might have shared with him – his bible knowledge was not enough to dispel the gloom in his mind. A woman who lost her spouse opened up to me about the abject emptiness in her life now that her husband was in heaven. Another man who was mightily used of God has grown into his later years and wonders if his time of making a difference has passed… he senses the twilight on his years of usefulness. There is a family whom I dearly love which is being hit with boundless, seemingly endless, difficulty. They confessed to me how hard it is to continue to ride the roller coaster of emotions as they wait on their Shepherd to lead them to breakthrough. Through all of these recent interactions I find myself compelled to come before the King I love and serve and ask Him, “What can I do? How can I help them?” In the stillness surrounding those simple prayers I come away knowing one thing for certain: there is only one Savior and his name is not Jeff.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Like most men, I want to fix things. When I see something as minor as a picture hanging crooked on a wall I feel compelled to straighten it. Clutter bothers me because it violates my sense of order. When people are struggling and hurting I have a strong desire to help them back to a place of comfort and ease. Simply put, I want things to be as they should be. While it may be within my power to straighten a skewed picture on the wall or put some order to a cluttered garage, I have not been given the power to fix people’s lives. We are ambassadors, not micro-saviors. Yet God has not left us without the ability to play a part in the world of those who are hurting. He has commissioned us to be with them. He has encouraged us to weep with them when they weep. He has given us examples in scripture of those who would simply sit in silence with crushed people who have been robbed of their own words by pain and grief. God has structured certain valleys for people to be of such a degree of difficulty that nobody except He himself can be the rescuer. There is one thing for certain in matters like these: there is only one Savior and his name is not yours.
Hurting people are all around us and I am asking God to awaken us in awareness of their presence. Rejected people need unconditional love from us. Grieving people need someone to listen when they are ready to speak as well as someone to sit in silence with them when there are no words they can utter. We live in a day rife with personal implosions. Moral collapses, integrity implosions, shattered dreams all characterize people in our families, schools, neighborhoods and churches. They need to taste of the comfort that our merciful God lavishes on us when we have fallen. I am a preacher so please know that I am serious when I tell you that people need far less of our sermons and more of our understanding and compassion. They expect our sermons but they are surprised when we display genuine care in what they consider to be their least deserving moments. May we Christians step off of our soapboxes and step into the real world wherein people are not always consistent, healthy, happy, stable, pretty, successful and firing on all six cylinders. Isn’t that what Jesus did? His morality was flawless. His wisdom was without fissure. His glory was uncontestable. He saw everything rightly, spoke without error, executed perfectly in all things which He put His hand to… and yet Jesus gravitated toward the outcasts, the defiled, the broken and the forgotten. He seems to rush toward those who are the most helpless. Though He restored so many people’s lives when He was on the earth we come away seeing that His earthly mission was not primarily about fixing things. His mission was one of love. From that core motivation the Son of God continues to transform the lives of untold numbers of people. Jesus came to find hurting people who were made aware through pain of their need for something greater than themselves. Into the shards of broken lives He enters with eyes fixed on the weak, the despised and the helpless to present Himself as the Savior of hurting people.
I was one of those people and am unspeakably grateful that He came to my rescue. May we raise our awareness of this aspect of His present mission and seek out those who are hurting among us. He will walk straight into their lives as He did our own. Often, He will walk into those lives through you when you make yourself available.
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