Friday, February 18, 2011


But I cry to you for help, LORD;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you. 
Why, LORD, do you reject me
   and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
   I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
   your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
   they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
   darkness is my closest friend.-Psalm 88:13-18

This psalm is painful to read, but what keeps me holding it close to my heart it is that the quote above is the end of the psalm.  It isn't tied up with some Christian nicety, some message about "I'm desperate, but my hope is in God Almighty" or "Everything has been taken from me, but it's okay because I still have Jesus".  It is a true and honest expression of despair.  A believer who obviously clings to God in all things, but who is honestly overwhelmed by the pain in their life.

How often do we as Christians come in contact with someone who is truly desperate, hurting and mourning, and our first response is to tell them that they aren't trusting God enough, they aren't content enough, they are being prideful, they have little faith?  Yes, there is a time for those things as they are an important part of Christian discipleship, but for someone who is truly desperate, even if those things are spoken out of love, they will only serve to alienate the person further.  It takes an strong mature Christian to take that kind of correction well even in the most stable of times, much less when they are feeling desperate.

We say that being a Christian is mostly about what is in our heart, but really the only thing in our heart is muscle and blood.  What we really mean is it is about what we feel, think and believe and that all originates in our mind.  And sometimes, especially those of us who experience desperation, our mind is sick.  Yes, Jesus is the great Healer and He absolutely is the source of all great healing, but there are times where the sickness of our mind inhibits our ability to feel, think and believe as we should.  We may know there is hope in Christ, but can't feel it.  We may know that all things work for the good of those who love Him, but the sickness keeps us from actually experiencing it.  What then is the appropriate response to someone in such a state?  What will help bring them back to the place where God's love can heal them again?

The number one thing is simply the presence of another Christian soul.  Yes, later on, depending on the situation a myriad of different things may bring relief, but first and foremost, healing begins with experiencing Jesus through the presence of another Christian.  As Christians, we often times get so wrapped up in what we do for other people, we forget our most powerful asset is that we have the Living God, the Holy Spirit, residing inside of us and simply by being with someone hurting and opening ourselves up to experience their hurt with them, we are bringing Almighty God, a God who IS love, perfect love, to one who needs it.  

There is an African spiritual that I sang as a choral piece in college.  The lyrics, which reference Jeremiah 8:22, are

There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my hope again.

We often rely on the Holy Spirit inside of us to bring the healing, and yes, indeed, there is great healing and comfort that comes from there.  But don't forget that the Holy Spirit lives in other Christians as well and that is also a great source of healing and comfort, especially when the sickness of our mind keeps us from seeing God inside ourselves.  The simple presence of another loving Christian, not rebuking us or fixing us, but simply going with us through the pain and opening themselves us to allow God to love us and meet us through them is the most powerful help, the most powerful "balm in Gilead" a person in desperation can have.  

If there was one lesson that I could teach the church, one lesson that I could drill into them after "Jesus is all" is "Love first, do everything else later."  You may not understand why someone is feeling or acting the way they are and over time it may frustrate you.  They may need rebuking, intervention, or some other major life change.  But until they see your love, the perfect love that resides in you from Jesus Christ, they won't be able to see the answers amongst their sickness.  An old adage that has proven true over and over again is they remember your love before they remember what you say.  Your love will make the biggest impact.

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