Hurt is everywhere; all you need to do to find it is to look around.
In this world, near the closing of the final hours, there are many who are hurting. Physical pain, emotional turmoil, job loss, family problems, relationships broken, etc. The pain of some can be a prison; perhaps not one made of stone with metal bars, but one that holds captive just as well. A mental and psychological set of chains that can bind as surely and as tightly as any man-made chains of iron or steel, and all to often, far more cruelly, isolating like no human-fabricated enclose ever could. The wounded of this world litter the landscape, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. And what is sadder yet is that a great number of these are fellow christians who have fought the good fight, yet are battered and bruised, bloody and bleeding. Satan has taken his shots at them, and has not prevailed; yet, the bruises and blood from his viscous assaults are all too evident.
Yet, even sadder than this is the fact that for all the wounded, the lost and the brethren alike, there are so few who seek to "bandage" those wounds. Those who are not just willing to simply tell another what they must do to "fix" their situation, but are willing to enter into their grief with them, cry with them, and mourn for that which they mourn for.
James tells us in his book, during his discussion on faith and works, this:
"What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. "(James 2: 14-17, NASB, emphasis mine)
Now, what James is saying here is NOT that we need works to save us. What he is saying though is that faith produces works. But before we segue way into a discussion on faith and works, allow me to reach my point: that if we say we are Christians, yet we ignore the needs our brother or sister who is hurting, or hungry, or sick, or whatever, then how can we say we are His? Can we simply stride the barren spiritual wastelands of this world and leave those of us who are wounded and trampled to rot, while claiming to be sons and daughters of the king?
But it happens all too often.
The problem is that we have become so used to getting knowledge in this "information age", that when someone is hurt or suffering, instead of suffering with them, we simply give them the "answer" to their problem and leave them with it as we walk off to dispense more "answers" to others. Essentially, this is analyzing someone's problems and trying to figure out what the solution is.This is the spiritual equivalent of seeing a wounded man, and rather than binding his wounds, simply giving him the suture kit and medical supplies, tossing a manual in with it for good measure, wishing them good luck, and traipsing off to the next encounter. We may mean well, but has it not occurred to us that the person is simply not capable of articulating the knowledge we share at that point?
What's worse is when we encounter someone who is hurting, and we give well-meaning advice that unfortunately comes across as insipid and patronizing: An example is when someone is lonely and is hurting for a companion or a mate, and we say " well, God will provide one for you." Another is when someone has a broken heart and we tell them "oh, in time God will make it will go away." Or we use the ever popular "God will make a way" or something along those lines when someone is having a tough time of life.
Allow me to make my point in both these cases-
In the first one: while it is a good thing to try to help someone figure out what to do, to simply analyze their problem does not address their pain. Jesus didn't simply explain to the leper who asked him to make him clean how to cure his leprosy in '3 easy steps"; Jesus TOUCHED him and cured it. The Lord would place his HANDS on someone when he healed them, even though his word was enough.
Jesus knew the power of touch; of REACHING out to someone.
As John tells us:
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." " (1 John 3:16-20, NIV, emphasis mine)
We need to be willing to do MORE than simply that. We MUST be willing to enter into another's suffering and suffer with them.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15, NIV)
If they are hurting, an answer may solve their problem, but they are still in pain. They are HURTING. And yes, we can say "well, it will stop hurting as soon as we fix the problem", but if ALL we do is try to analyze their problem, we are simply tossing them that suture kit and telling them "heh, good luck with that!" We need to be willing to walk WITH them if need be, and to share their grief;
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:7, NIV)
As for my second point: by ALL means we are to bring all of our problems and needs to God's throne of grace, and to lift our voices in prayer to him. That he will provide is UNDISPUTED in scripture, and unmatched in spades:
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV, emphasis mine)
What I am pointing out here is when we attempt to give advice, and do not show any LOVE to back it up. We say " God will provide a companion", but do we offer to stay with that person? If we say "God will mend your broken heart", do we simply leave it at that? Or do we hug that person, and let them know that though their heart may be in pieces, we are willing to share warmth and feeling with them?
My point in this second part is that sometimes by what we do, and more importantly by what we FAIL to do, is we end up making people think that we don't care a lick about them, and are simply telling them that "God will take care of (insert problem here)" so that WE don't have to be bothered with it. It makes God out as if all he's good for is someone to take the refuse of this world when no one else wants them.
And you know, in many ways that is CORRECT. He will take those that no one else wants, and turn them into priceless treasures.
But what I am saying is that we can make people feel as if they have no value to us. Scripture has already established what it thinks of those who say "be warmed and filled" yet do nothing to do so. And it isn't enough to do so physically; if Christ was good enough to reach out to people and share a hug, friendly warmth and human compassion, why do we not do so?
Too painful perhaps?
Then consider it like this:
In most instances (unless it's an emergency), if a child hurts themselves, parents will comfort the child and console them. The parent may not be happy, but they don't leave the child in the wake of the trauma emotionally bereft. Now, would you want your parents to not comfort you when you are hurt?
Even worse: how would you feel if GOD treated you like that?
Imagine now if someone told you at that point "oh, God will take care of it?" in the most syrupy, singsong tone they could?
I guarantee you, you would not have warm fuzzy feelings. Yet, it happens all too often in this world, and then we wonder why many will not hear us, and those that are christian become disgusted.
To be frank, most times, people do not want answers when they are hurt: they seek solace, they seek for the pain to be eased. A father who has lost his child to an accident or illness doe not want an explanation of how it happened; the woman who was assaulted does not need a dissertation on sexual assault; the family who lost their home to a fire has no use for a soliloquy on the ignition temperature of paper.
They need reassurance, compassion, warmth. They need to know that God loves them, and that his people are willing to share that love, even if only in small ways. It may not seem like much, but to the suffering soul, it means the world. The little things still count folks, and if this article hasn't conveyed the message I prayed it would, then please take this with you if nothing else:
Sometimes, we are going to be the only "Christ" many will see in their lives. If we show coldness and aloofness for their physical suffering or their emotional state, and simply treat them as a means to an end, (either as someone we wish to witness to or as our brother/sister in Christ), then how are we reflecting him?
After all, we may find ourselves in need one day, and on the receiving end...
I bid you all peace.