I wonder how often we spend 15 minutes, or even hours, with a person and do not ever realize that they are really hurting. Have we become so self-consumed that we do not realize that they are hurting? Or is it that we honestly just don’t want to take the time to sit down with them and ask them the hard questions? What if that is what they want? What if they want a friend to sincerely ask, “Hey, I notice you have not really been yourself lately. Is everything ok?” What if they need you to sit there with them and allow them to cry or just spill their hearts, even if it takes a couple of hours and even if neither of them can really make sense of the situation. That seems to rarely happen. And oftentimes when the question is finally asked and you begin opening your heart, one of two things happen:
1. They receive a text message or phone call that suddenly becomes more important. They may not walk away to answer, but they are distracted for the moment and respond to something you just said with a half-hearted “uh-huh, continue.” You are left there feeling vulnerable and automatically shut down, not wanting to risk opening up anymore in case you feel that rejection again.
2. You no longer get into the first few sentences and they jump in with “oh, I know exactly what you mean. One time…” and continue to tell their own story. Sure, they may think they are helping you by showing you that you are not alone in your feelings, but you still not end up getting to share what’s on your heart.
Some of you may argue that the person should approach you if they want to talk, but let me challenge you to place yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. Think about one of those times in your life where you were hurting, because several things were starting to accumulate and they all contributed to the stress you were experiencing. Your situation, however, cannot be easily expressed in words. You have spent hours and hours trying to make sense of it all in your mind and you still cannot explain it with words. You feel as though you want to try to express it verbally to make some sense of the madness, yet you don’t want to bother anyone with “nonsense.” If you cannot make sense of it, you know there is no chance that someone else will. Sometimes, though, we just need someone to listen. We need to know that someone cares. People can do all types of things to try to make you feel better, like buying you little gifts or doing some act of kindness, but there are times when just sitting with them would be the best thing you could ever give them.
Perhaps one of my favorite passages in Scripture, Phillippians 2:1-11 states:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
By this, we are reminded that the Savior of the world humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, the most humiliating way to die at the time. It was a form of punishment meant for only the worst of criminals. In the same way that Jesus considered our needs (our ultimate need for salvation in this instance), we should also consider the needs of those around us. Matthew 25 reminds us that helping others is the equivalent to serving God.
Perhaps you are the one hurting. As much as we may desire for someone to sincerely come and talk with you, you must keep in mind that it may not happen. What do you do then? Sink further into self-pity? Absolutely not! Why? Because we have one on our side who has much more to offer than anyone or anything else possibly can! Instead, take comfort in the following passage (and there are many other great ones):
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation." (Psalm 91)
How long can we allow this selfish way of living prevail? We must step out and help those that are crying out for help. This does not only apply to those we consider friends. When you think of your worst enemy, think of him or her as a child of God, a brother or sister in Christ even. Does this change your perspective? Can you go to them in their time of need? Or do you make excuses because it is just too hard?
What are you doing to help those who are hurting?