Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid. (Job 6:21)
What keeps us from reaching out to the hurting? Is it our busy schedules? Is it our complicated lives? Or is it fear?
These questions have haunted me since one day last year, after an encounter in the grocery store. Sophia, our middle daughter and cancer survivor, was with me on a quick run for some basics. She is well-known at her school, having gone through her treatment while attending Pre-K and from a news report the whole school saw. A little girl who also attends the school was standing in line behind us with her grandmother. She greeted us and then turned to her grandmother and said, “She has cancer!”
The grandmother, to my shock, reprimanded the little girl harshly for speaking. I overheard her whisper she should not say things like that out loud. I don’t know if it was the superstitious belief that if you spoke the name of the disease, you invited it into your life; or if she thought it was rude to bring up other people’s business in the checkout line.
Whatever the reason, I could tell this woman was afraid, I could see it in her eyes when she looked at us. She is not alone in her fear of encountering pain, though because I’m just as guilty. Many times fear has kept me from reaching out to a friend or neighbor in need. I’m afraid I will say the wrong thing or not have any words at all. I have made all the excuses in the world – I’m too busy, I’m too tired, I don’t know how to relate. But it comes down to what Barnes Notes on the Bible summarizes about our verse,
You came with a professed intention to administer comfort, but your courage fails.
Fear keeps us from meeting people where they are. That’s the stark difference between us and Jesus. He never let fear get in His way. He touched the untouchable and cleansed the unclean with His bare hands. Against all social order, political lines and personal propriety, He met people just as they were. He didn’t ask them to make Him comfortable or clean up their act before He helped them. He was there in the midst of their mess. He met them along the road, at dinner, in the middle of a sermon; whenever and wherever they needed Him.
If we are to be conformed to His image, we must stop letting fear dictate how we respond to pain, tragedy and social injustice. We can’t let it keep us from others, wherever we encounter them. We must not be afraid to speak, to help, to reach out to them because that is when we demonstrate the true heart of our Savior. When we show His love to those desperate for it – He is there and will do His mighty work.
Who can you reach out to in the name of Jesus today?
Holy God – You made Yourself small and human, so we could see what love and healing truly look like. I admit I have not always done the same. Forgive me and cleanse me of the fear that keeps others at arm’s length. Help me to share in their lives and show them what You’ve done in mine. Help me to be an agent of healing and peace today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Further Reading: Psalm 147, Matthew 5, John 16