Grief and hardship come to us all.

The heartache you and I face helps put comparatively minor circumstances into perspective. I have friends and relatives who are suffering, those who now have an empty place in their lives due to the loss of a spouse or loved one. There are others who are waiting—waiting for a job, waiting for news concerning their health, or waiting for a son, daughter, spouse, or sibling to return safely to them.

Grief is something all of us will face at some point or another. While nobody in my family has passed on this year, I have experienced some losses and have been reminded of the shortness of life. A few months ago, I lost a dear friend to cancer. She used to tell people that I was her special friend. Not only did we attend church together, we seemed to understand each other. We laughed at many of the same things, enjoyed coffee together, and her sweet spirit helped sustain me through some rough spots. But now she is in the arms of Jesus. I imagine she is happy in the extreme to be with the One she loves so dearly. Three more friends have also left this earth since then, all of them Christ-followers, all of them showing evidence of that fact. I am happy for them, but I grieve also—mainly for their spouses, children, and other family they left behind.

Two other friends face serious health issues. One has had a stroke and at a rather young age (I consider late fifties “young”). She made it to church after 8 months of absence. Another was awaiting a lung transplant when I originally wrote this. Just a few days ago, he got the call, and has successfully received a lung. He is doing well, but has a long road of recovery ahead.

Yet another friend surprised me when I saw him at church one Sunday morning, and he told me he had resigned his pastorate. He has no prospects right now, but made this decision because “it was time to leave.” He must be hurting even though he knows he is following God’s direction.

Hardships and struggle come to us all. This is an imperfect world, and we will face tragedy, loss of jobs, health issues, and a myriad of other disappointments.

Does this mean we have done something to displease God? Does it mean He is punishing us or is mad at us? Perhaps we even question if He still loves us.

I do not believe God is mad at you or that you have displeased Him. Yes, we can be disobedient but as a Christian, Christ has done all that is needed to please the Father and He is not punishing you. Realize that Christ suffered the punishment for our sins. Disciplining? Perhaps. Remember that discipline can be Him redirecting us, giving us a different perspective, or leading us to repentance. But realize that He continues to love you.

If you are suffering or grieving or struggling or fighting an impossible battle, realize you may be doing just as God wants. Don’t believe me? Allow me to point to Job who God said  was a righteous man (Job 1:1). As a result of his righteousness, he suffered terrible losses. God also told Job’s friends they were wrong in their criticism of him. He told them to ask Job to pray for them and He would accept Job’s prayer (Job 42:8).

While I cannot answer your big questions in time of heartache or tragedy, I will suggest what God may want from you. He may just want to draw you close as He invites you to sit with Him. (He has a HUGE lap.)He may want to take your worries, exhaustion, and nightmarish circumstances upon Himself. Perhaps He just wants to love on and comfort you. The Bible says that He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1) who comforts us in all our sorrows so that we in turn can comfort others.

Take a moment today to ask God for His comfort, for His direction in whatever situation you face. And do not isolate yourself from others who want to comfort you or just be with you.

When God comforts you, try to find someone who needs comfort, and pass what God has give you onto them. It may take time to be able to do this, but eventually, through your own sorrow, through your own tears, you will be able to see the needs of another.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Sorrow

God Loves You in Your Sorrow

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Christ's compassion

Jesus Heals a Woman on the Sabbath

Read Luke 13:10-16

I daresay that most of us have been around people with serious physical deformities or perhaps you yourself suffer from a particular physical challenge. I grew up with a brother who had a form of muscular dystrophy. He died at the age of twenty-eight, and actually that is a rather long life for someone with this disease. Even though there were a lot of things he could not do, his disability did not keep him from studying God’s word and attending church. One thing that caused him problems was—believe it or not—he did not look like he had any kind of physical defect. He could walk without crutches or braces, get around without a wheel chair, and other than always being rather thin, he looked “normal.”

I remember when children figured out that something was not quite right they might say something like “what’s wrong with him?” So I grew up being rather sensitive to the problems of those with physical challenges, and today I cringe when people treat them as less than a person or I see the “normal” people staring. While it is our human nature to be curious, a look can always be accompanied by a nod or smile. (Sorry if it sounds like I’m being a little “preachy.”)

So now I try to imagine how the woman in our story today struggles to make it to the synagogue. Does she have any idea of what is to come? Bent over, unable to even look up to the sky, she is most likely in pain—both physical and emotional—but has learned to cope. Just as many people today learn to cope with pain that we perhaps cannot imagine. She walks to the synagogue, probably alone as people stare and children point and giggle at this oddly shaped woman—that is, unless people have changed a lot since Jesus’ day.

When Jesus sees her, he apparently stops in the middle of his teaching and calls her forward. Let’s take a moment to consider this. He calls her forward in front of everyone—the very people who have stared, ignored her as a fixture of sorts, minimized her existence, and maybe thought of her as being punished by God. Keep in mind that she may have been a young woman whose beauty and potential for finding a husband have been robbed from her. We don’t know her age, only that she has been bent over for eighteen years. So when Jesus calls her forward, what is she thinking? Has she seen Jesus heal before? Is she excited anticipating what the Savior might do or is she embarrassed at having this attention placed on her? I imagine her struggling to come forward, her feet shuffling, trying to lift her head to this teacher. But we know none of these things except that from our perspective the miracle that is about to happen.

And Jesus reveals his plans to her in a brief moment. First He lays his hands on her. We may not think of that as significant especially since it is a common practice for Him to do so. But this woman has probably not received much affection so this touch is significant. And when He does touch her, she is freed from her infirmity. Immediately she straightens up and praises God. Immediately. I love that Jesus can work in such a way, and the Bible indicates nothing of pain from this transaction, but perhaps we can hear the cracking of bones, as joints and vertebrae straighten, as muscles strained by the years of deformity relax, and those meant to hold her up are now free to do so.

Now we glance over at the synagogue leader who whoops and dances with joy!

Well, not quite. Instead he becomes indignant, and notice that he addresses the people (not Jesus), basically telling them that if someone wants healing they can come to the synagogue and be healed on any day of the week besides Saturday.

As quickly as Jesus has healed the woman, He cries out “hypocrites!” addressing the leader as well as the people who back him. He points out that if it’s important to take care of your animals on the Sabbath why can’t this “daughter of Abraham” be healed from an affliction on the Sabbath? That argument makes so much sense that notice what happens. The official and his backers are humiliated while others—the regular folk with little or no religious training—are amazed. All this takes place while the woman as I imagine tests out her new perspective, looks people in the eye for the first time in eighteen years, jumps for joy and runs to tell everyone that she is healed. She experiences joy in God while Christ’s opponents sit sour and humiliated. By the way, Jesus did humiliate his opponents on more than one occasion, and people were often won to Him because of this.

Praying you find joy in Christ, no matter your suffering.

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Christ's compassion

The Woman with the Bleed

Scripture: Mark 5:25-34

Jesus ministered to all kinds of people with a wide variety of illnesses and struggles. The one I want to look at today really touches my heart because it shows His concern for a condition that is almost uniquely that of a woman. And one that most of us would probably want to just keep quiet about. But since it is such a sweet story of Christ’s love for us, I want to take a close look at it.

Jesus has just crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples when we meet this woman with the bleed (or hemorrhage). Before she reaches him a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, kneels at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Him to come heal his daughter. So while Jesus (and apparently the crowd) takes off in that direction, this woman whose name is never given approaches Him thinking “if I can only touch the hem of his garment then I will be healed.” I imagine her hand as it reaches through the tangle of sweaty legs and dusty feet. And she does it. She touches His garment.

Before we move on, we should realize a few things about this woman:

  • She has not only suffered physically and financially (going to one physician after another, spending all her money and growing worse instead of better), she is also suffering spiritually and socially as this affliction marks her as unclean and therefore not fit to go to the temple or synagogue. (Leviticus 15:25-27)
  • If she is married there is a huge problem with her uncleanness. Her husband would not be able to have relations with her. For twelve years.
  • We don’t know how old she is so we don’t know if she has children and at this point in time she would be unable to have them.
  • She is basically an interruption to an important mission—that of a desperate synagogue leader whose daughter is dying.
  • She goes to Jesus in what she hopes is a private way. (No one else need know of this—she can touch Him, disappear into the crowd, and head home.)

Now it would seem Jesus had a choice to make. At the woman’s touch, He knows something has happened. Should He ignore it and continue with the synagogue leader? Wouldn’t that have been easier? Wouldn’t it have been better to hurry to the dying daughter? Or should He stop and acknowledge what has just happened?

Jesus chooses to do the hard thing.

He embraces this “interruption” and asks who touched Him. I can imagine the look on the disciples’ faces as they say, “well, ya know, you’re in this huge crowd pressing up against you like you’re a rock star or something and you want to know who touched you. Lord, are you…all right?” Yes, I am taking a slight liberty with Scripture but the point is the disciples often have a tough time understanding what Jesus is doing, and maybe they’re a little embarrassed by his behavior. Perhaps they’re thinking “all right, Lord, we’re here for You, but perhaps You need to get out of the sun for a bit.” At any rate, Jesus keeps looking around, pretty much ignores the disciples, and keeps asking. He knows that someone has touched Him and received healing.

Now I’m sure Jesus already knows who touched Him, after all He has the ability (even with His human limitations) to perceive what is in people’s minds and hearts. So…if He does know, why would he ask who touched Him?

Maybe He wants the woman to come to Him by choice, not because He points her out saying “I know it was you.” But isn’t Jesus still trying to embarrass her? Surely she does not wish to be brought to everyone’s attention. She didn’t want to get up in front of all those people and ask healing for this delicate matter. No, she wanted just to touch Him secretly with no one else knowing, and be done with it. But Jesus has other ideas, and I don’t think it is to shame her any further, but rather in His tender way, He wants to tell her something in front of the whole crowd.

Since he is so insistent, the woman comes forward and falls at his feet “in fear and trembling.” Was she afraid she was about to be rebuked for touching Him? After all, she was unclean and had no business touching anyone. And surely she couldn’t help but touch some in the huge crowd. We can’t be sure but we do know she tells Him the “whole truth”, apparently not mincing her words. And I’m wondering now, does this crowd already know about her situation? Do they know this woman has not been to the synagogue for twelve years? Does this synagogue leader who is standing next to Jesus know these things? And are they appalled at her words?

Well, it seems that Jesus knows exactly what to say to her. Jesus does not shame her because of all this. Instead of saying “oh, now look what you’ve done. Now I’m unclean too” He chose compassion. He chose to praise her faith. He chose to tell her she was whole, to go in peace, to be freed from suffering.

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But first he calls her “daughter” which probably meant “daughter of Abraham.” I hope you see the significance in that. She had been cut off from worship of the God of Abraham, from so much of what made her Jewish, and now Jesus is calling her “daughter.” He plays a part in re-establishing her place in the community and in the synagogue. If He, as God in the flesh calls her daughter, then He apparently establishes a personal relationship with her. He could have said “dear woman” as He did His mother but He chose the term daughter for significant reasons.

In just a breath or two Jesus establishes a relationship with her, compliments her faith, wishes her peace, and frees her from a terrible affliction.

Jesus may not always free us immediately from our affliction or our suffering, but He does make a way for us to go in peace. And perhaps a more important thing to consider is how we can help others “go in peace.” So here’s some homework: Ask God to give you an opportunity to speak peace into someone’s life outside your regular circle of family, friends, and co-workers. Be honest if this is new or difficult for you. You may find that you have helped someone with a smile or a kind word. Voicing your appreciation to a waitress or a nurse or cashier can make their day and perhaps help lift a burden that you are not even aware of. And don’t be surprised at the peace you find in ministering to another.

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