To See. To Hear. To Understand. To Believe. To Love.
Years ago, I didn’t see things like I do today. While I believed I was a good friend, I was often self-consumed and didn’t really take the time to deeply love those in my life. In reflection, I have to sadly acknowledge many of my friendships never ran deeper than just scratching the surface. Though not a conscious decision, I lived life as though I didn’t have time for others and often saw those who were in pain as a burden. This is something I have come to deeply regret.
When I went through the horrible experience of my nurse overdosing me, I was rendered utterly helpless. Laying in my hospital bed, unable to even get up to go to the bathroom, I was blown off by arrogant doctors who didn’t care about me, what I had lost, or the genuine pain I was suffering. They instead saw a problem they needed to fix; a mystery they needed to solve; a bed they needed to open up. Once home, I ran into people on the street who chose to laugh when they saw my tremors as I walked with my cane. They didn’t see a person struggling to heal. They instead saw a freak. Faced with the understanding that the world now saw me as a burden, I prayed and asked God to write the feelings of rejection, loneliness and sadness that I was feeling on the tablet of my heart. I never wanted to forget what it felt like to be seen as worthless or an inconvenience. I wanted to always remember so that I would never, ever, make someone feel the way I did.
It’s been over 5 years since I prayed that prayer and God has been faithful. Even as I type, tears stream down my face I gently tap into those feelings. The tears are not for me though. My tears come from the knowledge that there is a multitude of men, women and children who are alone, suffering and completely missed by the world spinning around them. They are living a life of invisibility where they are not truly seen, heard, understood, believed or authentically loved. They are aching for you and for me to noticed them and help them through their most difficult of days. Yet, as everyday passes, they slip deeper and deeper into hopelessness believing they will never be truly loved.
Friends, we must respond. But how? I believe, we start by demonstrating tangible expressions of love.
Tangible Expressions of Love
- See people – Instead of burning through days in a frenzied, never-ending pace, slow down and see the people God has placed around you. I’m not talking about seeing the car they drive, the clothes they wear or whether they just got a new haircut. I mean really taking time to look into their eyes, their faces, and to observe their over all countenance. Are they tired? Are they withdrawn or overly dramatic? Do they want to say something to you but they’re hesitating? Is there an obvious need you can meet? Seeing people requires a great deal of intentionality and compassion; yet isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Matthew 9:36 “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Hear – Have you ever had a friend say something like this to you? “I really tried to tell you but…” In this world, full of noise and never-ending distractions, it’s easy to let life get in the way and not listen to what people are really saying. I know I’ve been guilty of this and have hated it every time I’ve realized it. Learning how to shut out the noise, deadlines, and even our own passions and dreams, for a time, and instead genuinely choose to hear the heart’s cry of others can be a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that often bears great fruit though. Take the time to become one who is known for authentically hearing the calls of the hurting, weary and broken-hearted.
- Be Willing to Understand – When people are hurting they don’t always respond “appropriately”. All of us have character flaws, tendencies towards weakness and flat-out areas of sin in our life. When we are going through a time of suffering, those areas rush to the surface and often bubble over. When you step into someone’s pain, that pain might be so overwhelming that they lash out or push you away. It’s important to remember you can’t control their reactions but you certainly can control your own. So, lead with compassion, pray for wisdom and most of all, choose understanding if they stumble or err.
- Believe in others– This is where lives are transformed. Speaking truthful words of affirmation, life and hope into someone who is discouraged is like putting a salve on painful wounds. Believing for someone, when they can’t believe for themselves is incredibly powerful too. Imagine your role is similar to a lighthouse. Though the storm is raging all around, your words of confidence, affirmation, love and acceptance can guide them back to solid ground.
In closing I’d like to share a quote from Timothy Keller’s Book Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering
Look at Jesus. He’s always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because he’s perfect. When you are not absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world.”
While we are not perfect as Jesus was, we can follow his example. We can choose to act with intention by seeing, hearing, understanding and believe in those who are hurting and suffering but we can’t stop there. We need to work to discover heartaches, struggles, dreams, desires. We need to build lasting and meaningful relationships. Most of all, when we see someone hurting, we must run to their side to hold them, weep with them and love them with Christ’s enduring love.
We can do this!