Maybe I Can Help.

posted in: Faith, Family | 0

She buried her head into my shoulder and wept until her body shook. Steady tears slid down her cheeks and landed on my arm and fell to the ground. My friend was broken and hurting. She was hurting because the path that she’d walked had not been an easy one. She was sincerely sad because she was so tired of holding on to hope for change and never seeing it. 

My friend and her husband had adopted a child who had gone through severe neglect in his early years of life and the years since having their newest child in their family had not been easy by any standards. They had been the hardest years of my friend’s life. She longed for nothing more than a turn-around in her child, yet nothing she tried seemed to break through.

She confided in me that she had gotten used to comments from friends that made her feel so isolated in her life with her new child. Comments like, “Well, what did you expect to happen?! You chose this.” That stung more than anything else to her because she certainly had chosen this life, but only at God’s beckon. She was still having to choose it day in and day out while what felt like war was raging on in her home. She hadn’t planned to stop choosing it, even though the band of encouragers who’d rooted her family toward adoption had dwindled down to a small few who scarcely even contacted her in the middle of what she knew to be her new reality. A large part of her brokeness was this lack of compassion for her, although she’d been certain she had been pursuing God’s will.

Through time I became very disconnected with my friend who lived hundreds of miles away and I learned later that she no longer was parenting the child she’d adopted. The child was in foster care.  I felt so ashamed and even partially responsible that I had lost touch with my friend who’d needed support and love that I simply got too busy to offer her. What kind of friend was I?  If I’d have been there more would this story have ended differently? I will never know for sure.

Here in the church, what do we tell people when the life they know that they’ve been called into is paved with serious suffering and hardships? What are the right words when someone knows for certain they are pursuing Christ and they end up in their life’s greatest battle?

I know some things we never should say in the middle of someone else’s storm.

“You made this bed. Now lie in it.”

But you said you were called to do this.”

“We tried to tell you this wouldn’t be easy. I wasn’t sure this was for you.”

“I think you might have missed God’s will. Things wouldn’t be this hard if you were in his will.”

Since when did following Jesus become so void of real sacrifice and suffering? Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6) Following God’s plan never equated to comfort and convenience for Jesus, but rather constantly laying down His own desires.

No one wants suffering within themselves but it is a reality check when someone believes they are obeying God, and all of Christianity urges them forward; but when that road is a very difficult one…we in the church suddenly begin casting judgement and doubting that was ever God’s direction.

We are the precious bride of the Lamb of God, the very body on this earth of the One we are giving our lives for. We are only that body because Jesus drank of the cup God gave Him to drink from, which was a cup of great sacrifice and suffering. Yet we quickly believe that we would never be called to do anything that would be hard or stretching or involve a life of giving. We are band of broken individuals who have been made whole by His sacrifice and transformed by His love but at times we simply want to deny that for others to be recipients of that great love, it might just cost us more than we care to give. Sometimes our (my) follow-through isn’t so great, is it? Sometimes the affirmations in our words confirm the steps of others and then quickly cause those same individuals to doubt they were ever capable of being directed by God.

“Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Crucify Him!”

Why is it so, so easy for us to hold up signs declaring that abortion is murder but beyond difficult for us to provide for that broken child whose mother chose life, and that child now needs a lifetime of constant supervision and care to mend his early beginnings? Why do we find it so easy to complain about welfare and hand-outs but so difficult to give food away to the poor and invite the broken into our homes? How can I find it so easy to send a Jesus-loving family away with a festive party as they step off into the mission field, but so incredibly hard to consider or understand when that family is struggling and falling apart from their lack of support in that call?

Maybe we in the church have forgotten one simple truth.

God still calls people to do very hard things. Things that involve all of us.

There, I said it.

We in this body are designed to be so closely woven together that we are scarcely notice when our area or department has ended and we are now crossing over into and aiding in another area of need. After all, isn’t that real love?

God still beckons people to lay down everything. In our modern Christianity we like to place an order for a life that affords us the opportunity to wear shoes that fund orphanages and that help fight human trafficking because it’s enough to make us feel like we’ve done something impactful. And I love that stuff. Why not give to help? But let’s face it. We do a lot of this because looking compassionate is cool- so long as it doesn’t cut into our ten year plans. Unfortunately there are a few problems with the “pay to order” Christianity I often get mixed up in. We set people up for a major faith crisis when we build a beautiful parade of support and encouragement as they start a new race at God’s call, {because it’s going to be so big and so jolly and so wonderful}, yet when it costs them everything they own we begin to doubt and dissect them. Suffering isn’t what we signed up to watch. This probably wasn’t God’s will.

I often think about the story of the poor widow who Elisha helped in 2 Kings 4.

One day the widow of one of the Lord’s prophets said to Elisha, “You know that before my husband died, he was a follower of yours and a worshiper of the Lord. But he owed a man some money, and now that man is on his way to take my two sons as his slaves.”

Gasp! How can this be?! A man who loved the Lord and followed him got into debt and then died and now his sons are about to become slaves! How could that happen to someone who is following the Lord? My modern Christianity moans to accept that hard and difficult things do happen to good people.

You might know the rest of the story, but please read it again.

 “Maybe there’s something I can do to help,” Elisha said. “What do you have in your house?”

“Sir, I have nothing but a small bottle of olive oil.”

 Elisha told her, “Ask your neighbors for their empty jars. And after you’ve borrowed as many as you can, go home and shut the door behind you and your sons. Then begin filling the jars with oil and set each one aside as you fill it.”  The woman left.

Later, when she and her sons were back inside their house, the two sons brought her the jars, and she began filling them.

 At last, she said to one of her sons, “Bring me another jar.”

“We don’t have any more,” he answered, and the oil stopped flowing from the small bottle.

 After she told Elisha what had happened, he said, “Sell the oil and use part of the money to pay what you owe the man. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

I don’t have to understand or know why people have to die and get into debt, but I love that Elisha didn’t ask anything at all about those very hard realities. He apparently didn’t need info on how this prophet and follower of the Lord found himself in debt. Elisha, being much wiser than me, simply knew there was now a need and so the only words necessary were, “Maybe there’s something I can do to help.” A great miracle happened that day where pure love met great need. Healing.

Real love says, You have permission to mourn in the middle of these difficulties. You are right- what you’re going through is super hard. I might not understand it at all but I want you to know that I love you and the fact that you’ve laid it all down in your pursuit to love like Jesus. I’m here and maybe there’s something I can do to help.”

When the going gets tough; when our brothers and sisters find themselves incredibly broken and hurting, suffering and in prison and sick and in-debt, confused and tired and in need of healing,and all right in the middle of their pursuit to completely obey in what they cannot deny is the journey that is marked out before their feet- I seriously want to find myself as part of that Jesus net of compassion that declares, “I’m so glad you are brave enough to walk this journey. You are not alone and the fact that things are difficult right now doesn’t make you any less godly or any less in His will. I’m encouraged by your faith in the middle of this storm. Maybe there’s something I can do to help.

We may not all be called to walk a difficult path every day but as we follow Jesus, there will be times of suffering for us all. We were designed to be a band of loving support in this incredible thing called the body of Christ. In this group, we make allowance for one another’s faults. There’s no space for “I told you so” and “this isn’t my problem” because that couldn’t be farther from the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love that believes all things, bears all things, and endures all things. In a body, when one member struggles, we all lean to that side and feel the pain. When one part celebrates, we are all encouraged. And when one part is called to walk a difficult path we cannot excuse ourselves from this body that we are completely connected with.

We are designed to lean in…”Maybe there’s something I can do to help.” That kind of love writes stories people keep telling for thousands of years. That kind of love draws on the hearts of broken outsiders who need restoration. That kind of love provides strength to the very person who is struggling and can carry them through, right when they need it most.

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Jesus, help me to love just like that.