Disclaimer: Some of the links in the following article connect to images and video of women who have suffered greatly. Please be advised as some readers may find the content disturbing.
This past Monday seemed like any other day. While sitting in my car, waiting for my daughter to get out of school, I scrolled through my feed on Facebook. A story was posted about women facing major consequences for turning down marriage proposals. As I clicked on “read more”, my heart began to sink and suddenly every minuscule complaint I had ever uttered came to mind, filling me with embarrassment and shame. Lately, the shared stories and articles on Facebook seem to be the things that draw me in the most and they often offer a redeeming quality to social media that the other end of the spectrum does not. But before I could finish reading, my daughter was in the car and we were on to the topic of her day and mine, while the images of these poor women lingered in my mind. The thought of these women and their day in comparison to mine was more than I could mentally grasp. There was a weight of embarrassment about the complaining earlier in the day about my messy house. I was frustrated that I had been rattled by a measly pimple on my face and felt shameful for being grouchy about anything at all.
When we experience tragedy in other’s lives, we immediately realize how small our problems really are in comparison. Then we feel guilty for being so angry at the person who didn’t get our order right in the drive-thru, for our computer running so slow, or for having to do too much laundry because of our sad overabundance of clothing. Normally, I admit, articles like these weigh me down for the moment until my next annoyance distracts me and someone cuts me off in traffic and I seem to move on, nonchalantly focusing on myself again. I’m not a completely insensitive person but the sick feeling passes quickly without ever letting it sink in as to how I should respond. Sometimes I am really good at dodging things that cause me emotional or mental discomfort. “Those things are too big for one person to change,” I thought, “so why bother worrying about them?”
When we experience tragedy in other’s lives, we immediately realize how small our problems really are in comparison.
So like a good Father who doesn’t let his children forget a powerful lesson, God did not let me simply forget or move on. These images, these women, what their lives are like, have been consuming me. Every time I have complained, I feel like God has answered with flashes of perspective brought on by the articles and pictures. Clearly, He has my attention, I’m shaken up, and even as I write, there is so much unprocessed thinking.
What do you do when something wrecks you, leaves you feeling utterly helpless, or mocks you for uttering a single complaint about anything? How would I even begin to make a dent in this painful atrocity? What do I do with this? How can I even begin to make a difference? These questions have plagued me the last couple of days. As I grieved on my drive home this morning, with a lump in my throat, I began to ask God again: what do you want me to do? Should I go home and tell my family I need to jump on a plane and go see these women? Do you want to me financially support the people on the front lines? Do you want me to be on the front lines? Am I supposed to bring awareness to the issue and show all my family and friends this article? While those ideas are certainly within reason, I know my tendency at times is to think God wants me to go big or go home. And I would say if God ever calls any of us to do the “big things” in response to any tragedy, we should. (And this isn’t my favorite term because it implies degrees of servitude and not the heart of benevolence). But reason also tells me that there are probably other things that He wants of me as well.
As I grieved on my drive home this morning, with a lump in my throat, I began to ask God again: what do you want me to do?
So in His loudest (inaudible) voice possible, He simply said, “why don’t you start by not complaining so much?”(Ouch!) But was that really all of it? Is that what He wants? As if to treat this command as some menial mission, because you and I both know, choosing not to complain about anything is no small task for the majority of us. This means filtering every thought and word; taking it captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) It means talking to God about my frustrations first, it means being aware of what the Spirit wants, not my flesh (Galatians 5:17), it means being an example to others, especially in my home where complaining seems to be the easiest, and it means asking God for the courage and strength to have perspective at all times so that I am not prompted to spout off when the world clearly makes me feel entitled to my defense. But that wasn’t all…
Compassion without action is really just pity.
My husband once taught on the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus speaks about three people who passed a half-dead (unconscious) man on their journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. He makes the observation that the Good Samaritan was moved to action, because compassion without action is really just pity. (Ouch again) Biblical compassion must not be mistaken for a sad feeling that passes once the intensity of the tragedy has subsided. True “Splagchnizomai” (compassion) moves us to action, as Jesus consistently shows us throughout scripture. I also appreciate the insight of highly respected authors on this topic. They have stirred my heart and made me face the excuses I keep making in an area desperately in need of Jesus.
“I think God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us toward Him. We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away. The folks who were following Jesus in Galilee got to decide the same thing each day because there was no road map, no program, and no certainty. All they had was this person, an idea, and an invitation to come and see.” Bob Goff – “Love Does”
“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?” Francis Chan – “Crazy Love”
How I yearn to grow from the lessons God uses to expose my character. He unapologetically confronts me with truth and grace and calls me to a standard of Holiness. He is on a mission to lift my sights and view this world and His people like He does. This is a learning process; one that I know is ongoing, as does my precious Heavenly Father. But I know this: I am capable of helping in a definitive way, and with the Spirit as my guide, my wayward, quick to grumble tongue might have the decency to have some better perspective.
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Photo Credit: Raul Lieberwirth, Creative Commons