From June 2017
I am overwhelmed today by a sense of how many people in my life are suffering. Countless people around me are hurting and grieving, the long list includes: miscarriages, mothers with cancer, newborns with cancer, death of newborns, death of pastors, murder, suicide, job loss, home loss, chronic illness, and more.
I don’t remember another time in my life where so many things were piling up on top of each other (never mind a few US shootings and fires and bombings abroad).
The irony of it in my case, though, is my own life is swimming along pretty well. I am head over heals in love with my husband—who recently told me that I was the most adorable creature in the whole world (oh, be still my heart). While on the one hand this year has been a difficult in terms of grad school, travel for work, and frequent times spent apart, yet when I compare it with all that’s going on in family, friend’s, and co-worker’s lives I realize I have only long lists of things to be thankful for: Job, Housing, Food, Church, Health, Life, Family, Salvation.
And so I find myself staring at my days and hours and going, what is all this blessing for?
I know that suffering in this life is a given: we are sinners in a fallen, broken, hurting world. Nor does being a Christian somehow buy you an easy-pass, in fact we are told to expect suffering… and more of it! We will suffer like Christ, and mourn with those who mourn. We are not taken out of the world but bring the light of Christ into it. We are only promised that in our suffering we will never be alone: and that there will be a future day when all suffering ceases and every tear is wiped away.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ( Psalm 34:18 )
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147.3)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
We are called to bear one another’s burdens. I know there will be a future day when I will have burdens to bear, and where family and church will swoop around me with loving arms. But it is not this day. Today I am one of the strong ones. Today I am shouldering other’s burdens.
Today I have strength to pray. Do you know that in Colossians 4:12 Paul describes prayer as “wrestling?” I heard a speaker once explain how this is incredibly comforting. Because we expect prayer to be easy: but it isn’t. It’s actually a struggle. It’s a struggle of mind, body, and spirit. Isn’t it a comfort that it has always been so? And in Romans 15:30, Paul encourages the brethren to “strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,” —we enter into the struggle of our brethren through wrestling and interceding for them in prayer. Let us not neglect this!
Today I have enough money and a Generous God. One of the marks of the early church was their radical generosity: giving not just out of excess but against their own personal comfort and needs. Even Jesus in Matthew 6, when he reminds us to “Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor store away in barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them: therefore do not worry about tomorrow,” he then follows that up with “therefore go sell your possessions and follow me.” Our security in our Father’s tender knowledge of our physical needs and abundant provision for our spiritual ones should prompt us to radical generosity. What physical things can you be doing to help those suffering around you? Can you give your time? Can you make meals for those too overwhelmed to cook? Can you watch somebody’s children or cover a financial bill?
Today I have enough love. I believe the more we grow in the grace of the gospel, the more tender our hearts become to the sufferings of those around us, the more compassionate and empathetic we grow, and the more we will feel other’s people’s pain. Someday we will be like Jesus: and weep over cities and strangers. How else could it be? If the Lord is faithfully growing your tenderness: then today you have enough love. For that one person in your life who needs you to be Christ’s hand’s and feet.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Today I am one of the Lord’s strong ones: giving as He would have me give. Tomorrow I may be broken, and then I will pray, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29) Perhaps you will be God’s strength to me on that day.
We all take turns between these two halves of living.
Little Children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)