Last week's reflection was on not having to compare our pain or struggles to others and end up feeling like what we are walking through is less significant. Amid everyone's present seasons is the God of all compassion, healing and comfort who cares about the seemingly 'insignificant' struggles and worries too. Social media has made it easier to see highlights of peoples lives and think that something is missing in our own lives. It's a tool that has revealed to me so many of my own emotions during social interactions ranging from pride down to self pity. Whether we admit or not, there are so many times we compare ourselves with our friends. We compare both the good and bad. We compare mountaintops and sometimes we also compare wildernesses.
As followers of Christ almost every day there will be opportunities for interruptions where we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus and when we stop and pay attention, someone may open up about what they are currently walking through. Sometimes it will be heart wrenching, outside your scope of reference and we will almost feel intimidated to offer any support, advice or prayer. Other times however, as we listen, someone will open up about what's wearing them down mentally, emotionally and spiritually and often times, without realizing it, there is the potential to inwardly think, "That's it? That's what they are worried about or struggling with?!"
Right there, in that mental thought is the invitation into a heart check.
We can feel like our pain isn't as significant as someone else but we can also feel like their pain is not as significant as ours. We compare and think 'I'm the man born blind' 'I'm the crippled man.' 'I'm the one that's been dead for days.' We get so consumed by thoughts of comparison that have the potential to build up into pride we dismiss the ones amongst us with the 'fever'.
We learn that our fever matters too, and therefore we can go boldly to God for all our issues big and small. This same knowledge challenges us to also get to let the people around us know that their 'fever' matters too. We don't have to compare our ailment with theirs, we don't have to compare our wilderness with theirs.
Jesus is the ultimate model of what it means to be present and available for people. Without compassion, how can healing be released? How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus to release healing to a broken and hurting world if we feel like our pain is more significant than theirs?
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
On the path to his own execution, prior to Jesus' arrest in the garden, a soldiers ear was cut off. Jesus, in the middle of all the chaos, stops and heals and restores the man . Everything we go through pales in comparison to what Jesus endured yet Jesus exemplified compassion in the middle of trial and released healing to a man. Over and over we read accounts of His genuine love and compassion for people that allowed Him to navigate interruptions.
The more we are unable to empathize with others, the less we become safe spaces and agents of healing for them to process and recover from their pain.
We knowingly or unknowingly may make people think or feel like their struggle is not significant yet that is not who Jesus modeled for His followers. Sometimes we look at what we are going through and when we compare it to what someone else is dealing with, a sense of pride can creep in the self-centered heart. Like what we have going on is so much more difficult. We end up viewing life through the lens of our own experiences and we never lay down our lofty thoughts to walk in brotherly love.
We compare the wrong story lines. We take someone else's present struggle, pain or worry and place it on the story line of our own lives and as a result, compare everything else they have ever gone through, with what we have and we brush off their pain. We compare and as a result are unable to extend empathy.
Pride and selfishness cannot co-exist with selflessness and compassion.
When you feel like what someone else is going through is negligible, remember that they matter to Jesus as much as you do. God cares about their heart and well being as much as He does about yours. We have to remember that in the story line of THEIR lives and experiences.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
The Bible doesn't tell us to mourn with those who are going through what we feel is more signifiant or harder, we are just called to mourn with those that mourn. We forget that they may have never experienced anything more painful or challenging. That means if someone in our lives is walking through something difficult, we get to step outside our story lines and onto theirs.
What someone else is currently going through may be the biggest or hardest thing to have ever happened to them. We need to continuously remind ourselves of this fact to genuinely and effectively extend empathy and compassionately relate with others.
Jesus cared about the fever as much as He cared about the blind man, deaf and mute man and dead man. Jesus took on a weight and underwent things we will never have to; the sacrifice that led to the atonement for our sins. Yet Jesus, being about His Father's business was always stopping for people. Even if you are walking through something difficult right now, be willing to be interrupted. If we continually think that we've had the hardest life, no one else has had it tougher, we will miss opportunities to be there for other people.
As children of God, we are reminded even in the middle of difficulty, that we are strengthened by the joy of the Lord which is a fruit of the spirit (Nehemiah 8:10; Galatians 5:22)
When we are in a hard place and depend on our own strength, we can't help but stay down and focused on ourselves. When we are strengthened by the joy that comes from the Lord, we are able to show up for people, even if we feel like their pain is insignificant in comparison.
This week, the challenge is to pray:
Lord, I'm feeling lost/hurt/angry/confused and in the middle of my wilderness. As monumental and eternal as my present pain feels, who can I be there for? Who can I show up for? Who can I pray for and listen to? Continuously convict me every time I become selfishly engrossed in my own season and pain and provide me with opportunities to be your hands and feet to someone else hurting right now.
We are absolutely capable of extending compassion without comparing. We can be there for others without thinking about ourselves first.
How can you show others that their 'fever' matters too?
Remain sensitive - Remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit at work, school, on the street or the store. Intentionally ask people how they are doing and if led, press in past the usual "I'm fine, how are you?" Pay attention to the small things, tone of voice, demeanor, their emotions (whether they are more easily angered or irritable than usual, if they are quieter or sometimes louder than usual).
Listen- Listen carefully, patiently and lovingly. Listen without trying to interject to provide a solution.
Encourage - Let them know that their present pain is valid. Sometimes we will have the opportunity to insert our own stories as a testimony to inspire hope amid their difficulty but never with the heart to trivialize their pain. Lovingly remind them of their identity as a child of God, equip them with verses to stand on through their trials. God's word stands even when you don't have the right words for them.
Pray - Not just a 'praying for you' comment. Intentionally take time to pray for them, pray with them and carry them to the feet of Jesus like the four men carried the crippled man. Pray for them then and through the week even during your prayer time intercede for them. Pray for more patience, kindness and grace to walk with someone else through their wilderness.
Check in - Remind them someone cares or is thinking about them. Reminded God's still got them and they will get through whatever they may be facing.
Are you willing to be interrupted and let someone else know their pain matters too?
Follow in the way of Jesus. Be there for people. Mourn with those who mourn, and when things get better for them, rejoice with them too.