Do you like to go on hikes? I have a trail that I like to hike at the nearby state park. The trail is nice and rolling. It takes me through a beautiful woods, by a couple of lakes that typically have geese and ducks on them and finally it ends at a gate that has a sign on it that reads, “No Trespassing.” This is my indication that I have reached the edge of the park and not to go any further. Typically, I lean against the gate and catch my breath before turning around and going back.
Often, we treat people that are struggling like they are wearing “No Trespassing” signs and we are afraid to enter into their pain with them. Have you ever read the story of Elijah? I love his story and what we can learn from it about how to relate to those who are struggling!
Elijah was a prophet of the God of Israel. In 1 Kings 18, he has this incredible experience where he challenges King Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal to an epic contest against the Lord of Israel. Through his obedience, the Lord of Israel completely showed His supremacy over Baal. As a result, Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal killed.
King Ahab went back and told Jezebel, his wife, what happened and that her prophets of Baal were killed. Jezebel became angry and she sent a message to Elijah threatening to kill him.
Elijah fled to the wilderness for his life and eventually laid under a broom tree, asking God to just let him die. Instead of granting his request, God sent an angel who provided food and water and encouraged Elijah to get up to eat and drink between resting periods so he would be well rested for the journey ahead.
What if instead of doing this, God came to him and tried to give him a pep talk saying something like, “What’s the matter? Where’s your faith? Did you see what I just did back there? I lit that place up! Not to mention that huge storm I brought when there wasn’t a cloud in sight! Now let’s get back at it, you’ve got a big trip ahead of you.”
Do you see a difference in the responses? In an attempt to encourage those who are hurting, I have often heard people gloss over the pain, offer some cliché or just focus on the positive. We are afraid to enter into each other’s pain with them and just be there. It’s not fun. It’s not glamorous. It takes time and it can be scary but there is no better way to love someone.
How do you enter into other people’s pain? It’s not about the words but about being there with them and for them, serving them in ways that are meaningful to them. Do you know a family impacted by special needs who might benefit from just having someone be there with them?
1 Corinthians 14:1a – “Let love be your highest goal!”