My daddy was a fighter. His heart surgeon said he was one tough cookie at 81 years old when he had triple bypass open heart surgery. When he weakened and grew frail in the latter stages of his life I came face to face with the mortality of every man, even the strongest and toughest among us. It hurt me to see him suffer and eventually succumb to heart failure. The older he got the more tender I became toward him and toward the mortal state of every human being.
Then as I look around the world and see the human carnage, the suffering, the endless sickness, diseases, and pains of so many, and the tragic circumstances some are born into or find themselves in, I realize how cursed this world is. In my younger days I was not as sensitized to it all because when you’re young you… well, you’re young. Youth is a time to dream, not identify with nightmares. And yet there are so many youth who are born into such severe hardship who cannot dream.
I have some young friends who are missionaries in Kolkata (Calcutta) that are spending their lives to help the neediest of the needy. I’ve not yet been to Kolkata…it’s on my bucket list, though, but I understand it’s common as in many cities of the world to step over people living on the street in cardboard boxes, but worse yet, is passing by others literally sitting in pools of their own urine, waiting to die. You can walk over corpses lying on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, having died from starvation and exposure with no one bothering to pick them up. How utterly heartbreaking to see humans made in the image of God reduced to such base objects of horror.
And you think you have problems because your boss didn’t give you a pay raise that you thought you deserved, or your girlfriend dumped you for another guy, or you’re pouting because God didn’t come through for you in some materialistic fashion? Many Westerners are so spoiled and Christians are not exempt as even our own character can be so unchristian at times.
How God’s heart must also break over the petty, self-centered-entitled-narcissism so prevalent here in the West and in His people, who should know better. Must every little trivial disappointment over not getting what you wanted out of life send you over the edge into manic depression? Many of us are living in prosperity compared to most of the world and we still complain. Please get another life.
Go volunteer at the nearest homeless shelter. Go visit a children’s cancer hospital and look straight into the stark faces of those dying children, or just walk around and familiarize yourself with the unending hurt in the hearts of their moms and dads. Go help at a hospice and be touched with the desperation of the dying dead. Perhaps the Lord will use you to offer hope and life in their final hour. What a great way to forget about yourself because you’re not living your American dream life, or you’re wallowing in self-pity because someone spoke harshly to you or did you wrong.
Oh dear Christian, please get over your victim mentality that is so inbred within our culture and develop a stable soul. Life is not all about you. Your frame of reference is inordinately crooked.
DEEP IDENTIFICATION: A BIG STEP TOWARD MATURITY
Here’s a big step toward maturity and receiving a revelation of the heart of God. Go find someone hurting more than you and you’ll stop whining. Go find someone sick and you’ll be healed. Go minister to someone dying and you’ll start living. Lift up the broken and you’ll be fixed. That’s the Jesus way.
When Jesus received the tragic news of his cousin’s head being cut off He departed for some alone time, but when His day was interrupted by needy people He continued to minister to them (Mk. 14:13-21). Oh, for such a giving heart! Truly He was a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief. He taught us by example that in identifying with the hurting and suffering of this world we, too could clearly manifest the Father’s will.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1).
Deep identification and a sort of co-suffering is necessary to have a real impact on the needy in this world. Perhaps age is a big equation in this also as I’m finding that the older you get, naturally the more opportunities you have to witness the sufferings and death of others, even that of your own family and friends. Not only did I witness that in my daddy now in heaven, but I am going through another season with my Momma as well. She now has limited mobility, recent emotional issues, and requires 24 hour care. She lives with my brother and sister in law, with occasional care-taking relief from me several times a year and many visits as I am able. Even when I’m on the road I carry her in my heart being familiar with her sufferings. I also have a number of other relatives and friends who are in great seasons of their own trials, and it brings me to a greater place of sensitivity, compassion, and prayer. I find myself crying more easily and laughing more readily as I’m appreciating life’s simple joys more, too.
The recent joy of helping a struggling pastor and his wife not to quit brought me to tears of joy when they testified that our visit turned their entire church around and renewed their desire for ministry again. I wept with gratitude that God would use my wife and I this way. What a joy to have a part in making a life altering and church changing supply to a people. It’s happened several times over the last few years and it never gets old. When you help and encourage someone there is an intimate identification with Jesus that fuels your heart with His unfailing compassions. It’s a small part of the fellowship of His sufferings that conform you to His death.
We love pastors who lay down their lives every day for others. We all need to be encouraged for there was a time when my wife and I were on the verge of quitting the ministry too. There is a simple joy in helping bear the burdens of others. Only those who’ve learned to live and move and have their beings in the Lord can understand this.
Other more earthly simple joys like enjoying a beautiful sunset, sitting under a tree on a hot summer’s night talking to an intimate friend, listening to the birds at the breaking of the dawn, and a host of others are not quite enjoyed the same way when you’re young. But seeing the beauty and tenderness of God in it all and how His upholding hand can be seen on every living thing trumps it all. Jesus exemplified the very heartbeat of God the Father and His selfless nature, for He was the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person (Heb. 1:3).
Have you ever wondered where did Jesus got the fuel to live such a selfless life? Yes, He was God but He was also a man subject to the same temptations and weaknesses we have. One of the keys to His life was His great desire to please the Father. His fuel for pleasing the Father was both the love He received from the Father and the joy derived from His obedience to Him. He grew up into that stature and we should be growing this way, too–further and further from self and up into the glorious nature of the fulness of the love of God.
Oh how I love Him…
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