I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine named Lisa. Over ten years ago I was quite ill to the point of being almost bedridden. My husband, who at the time had a very understanding boss, would help get the day started with our children and then go to work about 9:00. I was very lonely, and we had no church. After visiting one church, a couple of kind women volunteered to come over and clean my house. They did this with love and without judgment of me. One of the women was Lisa.
Lisa started coming to visit me, listening to my lament and praying with me. I was still reeling from other events in my life prior to my illness. With a kind and understanding heart, Lisa heard my doubts and my cries, with love and without judgment. At her suggestion, I started memorizing Psalm 27. Now at the time, I could barely manage to remember a verse a week, but she never treated me as inferior.
After a few weeks I heard her tell the story of her life to a group of women. Eight months earlier in February, her oldest son had committed suicide. She had already lived through other family deaths in horrific circumstances, and this seemed to be the final blow to her. She told God that if that’s the kind of God He was, she didn’t know if she wanted to believe in Him anymore.
When Mother’s Day came around, as you can imagine, it was a heartbreaking day for her. That afternoon, however, the words of Psalm 119:11, came to her mind, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (KJV); Lisa decided she didn’t want to sin against God anymore. She begin to memorize Psalm 27, and from there she went on to Psalm 13, and then memorized Psalm after Psalm. We sat there listening to her with tears streaming down our faces. God comforted and restored her heart, and she in turn was strengthening us as she stood there, a testimony of trust in Him in the darkest of circumstances. God had not told her any whys about her life, but He had reached into her heart and turned her back to trust in Him. She later told me that she lived by these words of Paul:
On the way home with her that evening, I told her I couldn’t believe how patient and loving she had been with me because her year had held such catastrophe compared to mine. She told me she didn’t compare, she just wanted to help as she was able.
We need more Christians like Lisa. Too often when faced with someone in pain, that person is ignored, judged or held at arms length. There are times the church appears to believe that if a group is organized, then love will happen. Organizing can present a façade of ministry without actually accomplishing anything. Love occurs and ministry happens when one person reaches out to give what another truly needs—without presumption of what the need is and without pride of heart. This means the other person must be thought about and considered—Who is this person? What is he like? What does she need? Organizing should be be done because it will meet a need, and not because we have failed to consider each other and think it will meet a need. Philippians 2 should be written on our hearts.
I realize that different people have different abilities, yet far too few are willing to do the hard work of walking with someone through a valley of affliction. I think sometimes the suffering of another person causes our own inward fears and doubts to resonate. We cannot organize a group or steer someone to a meeting as a means of avoidance of the problems of others or of our own anxieties. We must risk not knowing the answers or whys, and leave those in God’s hands. God has called us to love one another.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Walter Langley, “Never Morning Wore To Evening But Some Heart Did Break” Public Domain
Lisa is younger than I am; I chose the painting for its pathos.
Copyright ©2010 Iwana Carpenter