Last Sunday I forced myself to chug down bitter coffee in an effort not to cry.
The message Sunday morning really got to me. I’ve been meaning to write about it all this week. It struck a truth that’s ignored day after day, and made me a little emotional—or maybe a lot emotional. I was both convicted and vindicated as I listened to my pastor. I can be a crier, but I try to maintain it until a more private time. The bitter coffee got me through the service…but just barely.
I’ve always viewed the paralyzed man on the stretcher story as a miracle. We’re told in Mark 2 how a man, completely paralyzed, is lowered down in front of Jesus and completely healed. He gets up on his feet after years and years of being bed ridden, and walks away. It is a miracle. An absolutely amazing out-of-this-world MIRACLE! What I haven’t ever focused on in this story are the friends—the very people who cared for him day after day and ultimately lowered him down to receive his miracle.
The truth is that sooner or later we’ll all be on that stretcher and we NEED people to help.
We NEED people.
My pastor brought the story into today’s terms for the congregation. We will, unfortunately in this fallen world, all be invalids on a stretcher at one point or another. There are a number of factors that can knock us on our backs, causing us to be or feel all alone, unable to deal with life.
Loneliness is an academic…both in the church and in society as a whole. I for one have, time after time, felt like I don’t know where I fit in. Like I don’t belong anywhere. Like I can’t connect with anyone. Sometimes I have felt like I am the only one in my situation and that absolutely no one understands my inner turmoil. These, of course, are all lies. There are more people than we know experiencing similar trials. The devil is convincing, manipulating the truth just enough that the twist seems real. Whatever caused us to be knocked on our backs, lonely, helpless, unable to deal with life, increases our need for people to help. Suicide happens when people find themselves on that stretcher and feel no one cares.
People want to be loved and accepted for who they are. God often schedules divine appointments in our lives for this very reason. Like I wrote earlier, I felt convicted and vindicated. Convicted because I need to do more to make others feel like they belong, and vindicated because I have experienced the very feelings of loneliness my pastor described. I recognize that this may be God trying to get my attention.
How many times have I prevented the hurting from experiencing God’s touch? As the body of Christ, we should genuinely care for one another. We need to watch for others who look lonely, withdrawn or lost in the crowd…AND follow that with action. In Mark 2 the four friends of the paralytic didn’t just pray for a miracle, they did something about it. In verse four they were unable to get to Jesus because of the crowd of teachers of the law. But that didn’t stop the friends. They climbed up on the roof, despite I’m sure many negative comments from bystanders, and cut a hole. They lowered their friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus saw the friends’ faith—faith that refused to die even in the face of obstacles.
I want to be like these friends. I want to have faith that refuses to die, no matter what. We all need somebody to lean on, and I want to help others feel like they belong.