Responding When Someone is Hurting

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at my job and had just clocked in and was walking down a hallway where our first floor offices are located. About halfway down the hall, I looked up and noticed that one of our tool room attendants, a young man in his mid 30’s, was bent over, face down, with his hands on his knees. At first I thought he was sick or had had some kind of dizzy spell. Two other men were already tending to him and thinking they had matters well in hand, I was about to walk on by and go to my work area. That’s when the young man stood upright and I noticed the tears streaming down his face. He wasn’t sick. But something was obviously wrong. I stopped at that point to see what was going on.

One of the two who were tending to him asked what was wrong, but he got no answer. He asked again, this time adding, “Whatever it is, give it to God. He can get you through it.”  It was at that point that I realized that Michael and Everett, the two men who had stopped to help, were both Christian brothers even though I had not met either of them prior to that moment. It was evident by the way they showed concern and by the way Everett spoke of God’s power to heal. He would not tell us what was wrong. He said he just wanted to go home. So Michael escorted the young man to his car and we could only assume that he did indeed go home. As of this writing, we still don’t know what happened. We don’t know if he received some sort of bad news that day. The thought occurred to us that he might have suffered some sort of mental breakdown. As Michael and the young man were walking away, I told Everett we needed to pray for him, and we did, right then and there in the hallway. The good news is, he’s back at work, even though he still has not opened up and talked about that incident and what it was that had him so distraught.

But I thought about that for the rest of the day. Something happened to that man that so overwhelmed him, he was to the point of tears. And almost immediately, God surrounded him with three Christian brothers. Only God can arrange something like that. Many times throughout His ministry, Jesus encountered people just like the young man in the hallway at my workplace, people who were distraught, overwhelmed, and had reached the lowest points of their lives. I bet there were a few tears on the face of the Samaritan woman at the well, being the social outcast that she was. Jesus saw her pain and cast aside all the tradition and etiquette and customs of the day to minister to her.

There was the tax collector named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus as He walked. Tax collectors were despised and viewed as traitors in that society. He knew full well that everyone who knew him hated him, and the pain of all that hatred had to be evident. Jesus didn’t just happen to notice Zacchaeus up in that tree by chance. He knew that man had a need.

There was the crippled man laying near the edge of the pool of  Bethesda waiting for the water to stir so he could crawl into the pool and be healed. Yet for thirty eight years, he had been unable to drag himself into the water. He had to have to looked like someone who was defeated and had lost all hope. Jesus didn’t just happen to stumble upon this person. He knew exactly how long he had been there. He knew how badly the man wanted to be made well. He knew what that man needed to be made well.

There were many others who were blind, lame, demon possessed. There were the lepers who knew they were slowly dying and cried out to Jesus in desperation. Just as desperate, if not more so, were the parents of sick and dying children, or children who were already dead. Even at the cross, there was the thief who cried out to Jesus and his condition was the worst of all, for he was mere hours from being separated from God for all eternity. Not once did Jesus walk on by when He saw someone hurting. He always stopped. He always met their needs, both spiritually and physically. And in many instances, Jesus took notice of people who were hurting even if they weren’t crying out to Him for help.

He not only reacted to the physical and spiritual pain that He saw in others, He also experienced some pain of His own. He endured forty days of fasting in the desert before being tempted by Satan. He mourned the death of His friend Lazarus. He was no doubt troubled by the lack of faith of the Jewish people, and of the people in His own hometown. The scripture says Jesus knew people’s thoughts. And knowing their thoughts, He must have felt the sting of hatred and contempt. When he announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him, the Bible says He was deeply troubled in spirit. And of course, there was His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane  the night before His death, not to mention everything that took place afterwards. So we don’t have a God who simply knows about our pain. We have a God who experienced it firsthand.

He was never too busy to minister to people, even though there were times when He was quite busy. One time, Jesus was pressing forward through the crowds on His way to the home of a synagogue leader named Jairus whose daughter was dying. A woman in the crowd who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years reached out and touched the hem of His robe, and was healed. He knew someone had touched Him, but He did not chastise the woman or tell her that He was too busy at the moment.. He didn’t tell her He had somewhere else to be. Jesus ministered to her. In fact, his disciples sometimes did try to turn people away, and Jesus scolded them for doing so every time.

I mentioned the thief on the cross earlier. They had both been nailed to a cross and Jesus was in every bit as much pain as the thief who cried out to Him, and probably more so since had been tortured and scourged before being crucified. Yet Jesus responded to the cries of the thief and assured him that on that day, he would be with Jesus in paradise.

Jesus gave us a model to follow when we encounter someone who is hurting. We all have stuff to deal with every day. We get distracted. We get down. We have days when we’re in our own little valleys. We’re not always at our best at times and at other times it seems we’re too busy to notice. To tell the truth, I was not in the best mood that day I met the young man in the hallway with the tears streaming down his face. But that encounter has taught me that as Christians, we can be called to minister to someone in an instant. On that day at that moment, I was being called into service by God. I had things on my mind that I had to set aside for a few moments to answer God’s call. And all I did was offer a few words of hope. And really, that’s all I had to do. Most often, God isn’t looking for us to deliver an eloquent speech or some profound words of wisdom. He’s not asking us to recite a complete chapter from one of the gospels from memory. Usually, He just wants us to show that we care the way Jesus did, and to share a few words of hope, like those Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross. What words those were! With just a few short words, Jesus assured him of eternal life!! When He saw pain, Jesus shared the love of God and that’s really all He’s asking us to do!