The harrowing details shared amongst friends, friends who love but didn’t understand. Sharing needs that needed to be met, but were messy. Trying to explain what was happening, uncertain if people really wanted to know. We mostly were met with the same response:
“I’ll pray for you.”
It was usually accompanied by a certain look as well. A look that says far more than the actual words spoken. A look that conveys lack of understanding but sympathy or more often pity. I know the intention was love but to quote Toby Mac from DCTalk, “ Love is a verb that requires some action.”
“Words come easy but don’t mean much When the words they’re sayin’ we can’t put trust in.”
Yup. These lyrics are actually talking about something else, but they resonated with me. I couldn’t trust people telling me they would “pray” because either they didn’t right then and there OR they never DID what they SAID they would do. Beyond that there was no action to their love outside of their words. It felt like empty promises. I shared our needs over and over again and lots of people prayed. Few people SHOWED UP. We needed present people. We needed support. I needed a cup of coffee with a friend, or someone to help us by making dinner, or someone doing my dishes, mopping my floors. Sometimes we just needed someone to BE with us. It’s not like we weren’t being specific. We were being honest. Maybe too honest…
James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
When someone asks for help, begs for assistance, we usually do what we can. Some of us can do more than others. We all have our own lives and struggles and issues and commitments and responsibilities. Absolutely. But does that mean we are to live in absolution? Does that mean we’re off the hook? Does that mean these verses don’t apply to us? We now the answer is no. We are called to action. We’re called to love with works.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
So often, we get it right. We show up. We love in actionable ways. We meet needs. When people experience relatable things. Birth of a new baby, we bring meals. Death in the family, we bring meals, surround the family, we sit and co-suffer in grief. Surgery, cancer, illness, hospital stays, we know how to love in these situations. But, when we are faced with anything that we’re NOT familiar with, anything at all to do with mental health, or disabilities or learning disorders or psychological issues, well, hmm, we’re not quite sure what to do. That’s messier than what we’re used to.
Depression, we don’t understand it so well. Isn’t that just about being sad?? And ADHD, well, we have opinions on that and some people even think it’s not real. Anxiety, yeah, that’s not really a big deal. Can’t even touch bipolar, schizophrenia, or any of the more ‘severe’ and ‘scary’ issues. We have to protect ourselves and our own families, our own children, right? Certainly God wouldn’t expect us to compromise our own comfort or safety just to minister to someone else’s family or children. We don’t want to expose our children or families to the ugly, to the scary. I get that. But then how are we going to minister to those who need Gods love most?
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)
God knows how needy we are. He’s not afraid of the mess. He’s also the One who enables us to meet the scary, the ugly, the uncomfortable, the awkward, and the unknown. Just ask ANY missionary. We have people, needy people, strong people, amazing people who we can learn from on the sidelines, on the margins, in the shadows. Waiting to be loved and waiting to give love. We aren’t the least of these. Those with disabilities aren’t the least of these, we ALL are. We aren’t “US” and “THEM” we’re just US. There are certainly different brands of suffering we understand more than others, but in the end, we’re ALLbroken. We ALL suffer.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over allthat he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)
All. Including those with disabilities. Including those with out disabilities. ALL.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
We all have something to offer. We all have affliction. We all can be and already are vehicles for God’d glory.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So when you have an opportunity to LEARN about someone else’s brand of suffering, to exercise COMPASSION, which literally means co-suffering, DON’T JUST PRAY. Pray and LOVE by acting. SHOW UP. SIT WITH. CALL. BRING COFFEE. BRING A MEAL. KNOCK ON THE DOOR. There are families with suffering children, who desperately and yet very simply just need to know THEY AREN’T ALONE. They need tangible expressions of the Hope and Love of Jesus. We ALL do.
-Steffani A. Platt