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The Bridges Built by Suffering

“Now true religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Our world is broken. Every human I know including myself is limping around nursing various wounds of all shapes and sizes, yet each of us is called individually to show up and enter in. There is a great paradox at work here. As we take our eyes off ourselves and give of ourselves sacrificially, we experience a fulfillment that is never experienced through the attainment of things and achieving the world’s idea of success.

Are you anything like me in feeling that you desire nothing more than to change things, to make them right, to make a real difference in this broken world, all while feeling incredibly SMALL and inadequate compared to the massive mountain of issues, needs and problems?

 

As we take our eyes off ourselves and give of ourselves sacrificially, we experience a fulfillment that is never experienced through the attainment of things and achieving the world’s idea of success.

 

I remember returning from my trip to Africa with my head spinning.

How to process? What to DO? How to respond? You don’t just re-enter your context without feeling like you have a million things to sort out in your head, and questions to ask. “Lord, how do you want this to change me? What in my daily life needs to look different? How can I make a difference when the need is so completely overwhelming? How can I live in freedom while also being inspired to step up? How can I get this intense experience and my current reality to live together in a way that is glorifying to you and not a result of altruism gone haywire after feasting on suffering and poverty for two weeks?”orphan

Jesus states that to love the broken is to love Him.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25

I just wonder… what will it take for us to see humanity through His eyes?

When will we rush to love the broken … to cherish the needy… to be inspired to serve not because it’s the “now” thing… and not because of guilt or obligation, but because of a soul-level desire to serve God in a tangible, life-altering way?

Most of us would rather walk on the opposite side of the road before we allow ourselves to truly relate or even notice the “least of these.” We shield our eyes from the suffering and numb our awareness in part because we desire to avoid the reality of pain. There is emotional safety in the shallow. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. I want to justify it in my mind – to make it all fit perfectly into an explainable, understandable equation. To face it requires much more of me than I wish to admit, and it also demands less safety and more trust.. less comfort and more compassion.. less of me and more of Him.

 

When will we rush to love the broken, to cherish the needy, to be inspired to serve not because it’s the “now” thing, and not because of guilt or obligation, but because of a soul-level desire to serve God in a tangible, life-altering way?

 

How can we be made to see sacrificial love as a PRIVILEGE?

I want to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable and I want to ask how I can comfort rather than wondering who is going to comfort me.

I am a true believer that our faith cannot be earned (or even deserved) but we see all over Scripture that true faith DOES things. It leans in. It gets involved. It willingly sacrifices. It listens. It loves.

Not with impure motives or self serving goals. It just does. Some call it fruit. Some call it works. God calls it proof of a vibrant, living, active relationship with Him. {tweet this}

I think we are often led to our sweet spot of sacrificial giving through the very narrow gate of our own personal suffering.

I got a text this week from a friend who has had a really rough few years. REALLY rough. Like the kind of rough where your husband leaves and you have two kids and you are left reeling, trying to figure out what went wrong and what–the-heck-to-do-now kind of rough. The text basically stated that she needed extra prayer as she begins to walk with other women who are experiencing similar tsunamis in life. The requests up to this point had been for SURVIVAL – that she would have the ability to get through one day alive. I had the most vivid picture in my mind of a limping person, with wounds still healing, reaching out a shaking hand to help someone with fresh shrapnel to begin her journey of healing. Amazing. He uses our brokenness as the key to open the door for other’s victory. What a plan. What a privilege.

 

We are often led to our sweet spot of sacrificial giving through the very narrow gate of our own personal suffering.

 

What experiences have you had that may lead you toward a deeper understanding of other’s affliction?

What trials have you endured that could give you insight into another person’s suffering?

Ask someone who knows you well to speak into what your life’s calling might be with regard to your personal strengths, passions and experiences.

Ask God to open doors and inspire your heart toward a calling.

Commit to consistent time in God’s word to help guide and fill you as you pursue service to others.

 

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Image Credit: Michael Mistretta, Creative Commons


Jen Bell

About

Jen Bell is a southern girl at heart, having spent her childhood in a quiet town in Oklahoma where all that matters is the Friday night lights. She is married to Brad Bell who pastors at the Well Community Church. They have two daughters who could be called “Night” and “Day” (in no particular order) and bring them great joy even though one is on the brink of the teenage years. She has a passion for discipleship and going back to the “ancient paths” and hopes to be a woman who speaks the truth in love for the glory of God. She and her husband converted their suburban backyard into a mini farm complete with grapevines and chickens, therefore much of their free time is spent tending and cultivating the growing things.


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