I consider myself a pretty transparent person. I'll be open about my faults, and most people know that I am not a neat, organized person and that I realize I will never be a perfect wife who makes beautiful casseroles. People know funny things about my cat, and if I've had a good conversation with you, you'll probably know what I'm struggling with at the moment, or what wonderful thing has happened. However, with all that transparency, would anyone ever guess I was an insecure person? Probably not. Or maybe the truly astute would realize that my verbosity about my life is a way to fill the void of silence.
The reality is that everyone hides things about his or her life. And maybe "hides" is not necessarily the right word. I think most people wish others knew the secret things about them; they just don't know how to express it, or they dream of a friend who will see them so clearly that all is understood without a word being spoken.
At the moment I am thinking about people who hide pain. So I suppose I'm thinking about everyone. We all push the pain we feel way down inside so no one knows about it. Sure, there are those who tell you every ailment that's befallen them, but that's not their real pain. The real pain might be loneliness, fear that their husband is cheating on them, or that life just feels like it's falling apart.
The world is painful, and everyone in it is in pain. Yet we've created an environment (a "Christian" environment, mind you) very hostile to pain, especially the pain of other people. To hold in pain means stress, sickness, and emotional suicide. To let it out means, sadly, much the same. How do we react when someone comes to us with a pain in their life? If not outwardly, inwardly we cringe.
"This is not what I need in my life right now! I don't want this complication of dealing with someone else's problems!"
Don't we think that? Admit it. You're selfish, and so am I, and we've made ourselves too busy to deal with our own problems, much less the problems of others. What a testimony to the love and sacrifice of Christ. Ugh. Sometimes I think of the depravity of man--of myself--and I want to puke.
So what should we do? It's true that "bearing one another's burdens" is a complicated issue. How do we know that people are in pain in the first place? Well, it's kind of like evangelizing; we dream of the day someone walks up to us and says, "You're different. How can I get what you have?", we explain the Roman Road (and remember all the verses) and that person accepts Christ on the spot. But that doesn't happen very often. And in the same way, people won't approach you about their pain. It must be proactive on your part. Truly listen to others with prayer and petition, that your heart could be open to hear their cries.
Realize that I haven't said, "Go out and get the dirt on all your friends." The point is not to be in the know, but to help someone fall on Christ. Be aware of your motives as you seek to help someone. Recognize also when God has laid a specific person on your heart. "Pray without ceasing" when walking the road of a comforter. After all, it's not you who is comforting, but Christ our Comfort ministering through you.
When you realize someone is in pain, how do you deal with it? Amazingly enough, all is not solved with a chicken casserole and apple pie (or more likely in my case, a sack of Taco Bell). Sometimes a meal is exactly what someone needs, and sometimes it isn't. There's not a hard and fast rule about how to deal with someone's pain. As a matter of fact, I'd be surprised if there were even two situations that could be dealt with in the same way. Every situation is different. But each can be approached the same way--with humility and grace. You have your own problems and mistakes, you won't be able to help others without the miracle of Christ working in you, and forgiveness is for everyone, not just for the ones with little sins.
One temptation is to pull out too quickly. Drop your casserole at the stoop and run. A note in the mail, a chat over coffee and then it's done. That's like taking a Tylenol for cancer. Healing is a process, and if you've been called by God to help a person through the healing process, then you're in it for the long haul. You are committed. When it gets tough is when you really know that it's not your strength that heals, but God's.
Of course, there are complications. We look to God's Word to learn how to deal with the unrepentant brother, etc, etc. But sometimes I think we use that as an excuse to give up too quickly. In my current experience with weight training, I have to rate how hard I push myself with every set of weights I do. I know from how I rate myself that I think I work a lot harder than I do. I think, "Whoo, ten pounds! That was a killer!" and then I watch others push and push until they can't push any more.
I want to be like that. I want to have that drive as a Christian. I want to push and push until the day I die. I want to be spent of myself so that there's nothing left but Christ, my Fulfillment. I want to sacrifice until it hurts, because there is no other kind of sacrifice. And if that means doing things out of my comfort zone, or sticking with a friend way after it got tough, then that's what I want to do.
Pain is not a personal problem. The pain of a fellow Christian is a call to heal the wounded. The pain of a non-believer is a call to save the dying.
This is our call. Are we listening?
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