Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Titus 3:14
We have been urged, not only here at the end of Titus, but throughout our church experience, to do good to others and to help those in need. The plights of the poor and the hungry are usually presented. Sometimes however, our ability to empathize and then take action is compromised by our own present pain. May I suggest we look at it a different way?
Nothing motivates me to reach out to people more than to identify someone in the same kind of pain that I’ve experienced. I understand them because I’ve lived their dilemma. Where others might not notice that they walk with a limp, it’s so apparent to me. All the signs flash red.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Here’s how Eugene Peterson put it in THE MESSAGE. All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
The kind of pain that has made me feel so alone – someone else is experiencing. The loneliness that accompanied that kind of suffering – also plagues them. The spiritual questions I wrestled with God over – most likely eat at them too. As I’m writing this, I’m coming out of my skin because, daily, I see the results of reaching out to you authentically through my own story. I read a text, I ask God to reveal if there is any inner conflict regarding what I’ve read, and if so, I share it. I have discovered that my struggle is our common struggle. Your emails back, or Facebook comments, reassure me that the God of all Comfort has done it again. He’s redeemed what is bitter and changed the nature of it to ‘bittersweet.’
Never did I see a greater example of this than after our son, Ryan, took his life 2 years ago. Several months afterward, I was scheduled to teach the book of Esther at a conference center in Asheville, NC. I wasn’t sure I would have the strength to go through with it, but God assured me He would help me. Before the last session of the weekend, I shared briefly about our son’s death, the spiritual wrestling it was causing, but ultimately, the confidence I was feeling that God would redeem the darkest thing our family has walked through. After it was over, the line of women waiting to talk with me was 2 ½ hours long. Most every person was eager to share their own stories of a family or friend’s suicide. Most had buried their words in shame and grief. Not that day.
As you read Titus’ last words from Paul’s letter, and as you think of the ‘urgent needs’ he describes, what comes to your mind? What has been your greatest struggle? What has been the issue that has nearly driven you to back up from God completely? Link arms with me to let God change the nature of what has seemed like senseless pain. God does not waste anything. The darkest experience becomes our greatest platform.
This entire letter to Titus was instruction on how to set the church on track. The end result would be a sound and healthy body, both theologically, and relationally, as God opened His people’s eyes to others. Comfort would abound. Trust in God would be recovered one person at a time.
My pain, other’s gain. My comfort, their comfort. If I hide, others will languish for a word and find none. Cover me with grace and fill me with hope. Amen