A friend of mine that suffers from a serious condition came up to me the other day asking advice on how to handle a certain situation: he wanted to know what to do when well-meaning people came up to him and asked if they could pray for him. This has happened numerous times and he has grown tired of having to face them again after a couple of days, because he then has to deal with the disappointment in their eyes and sometimes have to experience a change in their attitude towards him. He almost feels guilty for not being healed.
What should our attitude be towards suffering; in our own lives, as well as others? It is so understandable that anyone who sees someone else suffer would want to do something to make it go away – it’s probably what we would have wanted if we were in the same shoes. I also understand my friend’s pain, he must have had these same expectations of being healed and subsequently learned to deal with the disappointments and with the feelings of confusion, anger, and doubt. So, what is going on here?
We are striving to be followers of Jesus Christ, but it seems we rarely truly grasp what this means. We imitate behaviour, but behaviour follows on what we feel; what we feel follows on what we believe and understand. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching (renewing minds) and the Bible often reveals what He was feeling while doing certain acts, i.e the compassion He felt before raising Lazarus from the dead, for the children they kept away, for the bunch of followers that reminded Him of a herd of sheep without a shepherd. So, the true followers would not merely be imitating, but would be renewed from the inside out as they follow Him.
I am concerned about what some disciples are being taught. It lacks the longevity, long-suffering and real empathy that makes up part of the fruit of the Spirit. (1) I wonder if we sometimes seek the easy way out by doing some spiritual thing and then leave. What my friend needed, firstly, was someone sitting down and listening so as to try and understand what he is going through. He needed to be known – for who he was, not who he could be.
This would mean that a relationship be formed. If we get to know others, we get to know what they need and what God is busy doing in their lives. Then we can better aim our good deeds. If someone goes through something we don’t understand it makes us uncomfortable, and we avoid what we don’t understand. Saying a prayer and bringing a ‘prophecy’ could be an effective way of avoiding the unknown. Who is the stronger person: someone who prays for miracles or someone with the courage to really get to know another person. Is the nurse that walks up and down on a 12-hour shift, tending to every sick patient’s needs less spiritual than the person that does miracles?
Where is this alien way of ‘helping’ people coming from? It is confusing many and I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this if I hadn’t been moved by the woeful experience my friend had to endure, and many others continue to face. If we want to love, then let’s love; let’s suffer with those that are suffering like Jesus did. Let’s get back on the road after Him and leave the road that is after our own misguided desires. Let’s seek the bigger picture, the one that is beyond our own egocentric lives, and maybe we will then be better able to help others. I am of the opinion that there will be more miracles – in the right situations, eventually, when we learn to live close to God and develop His mind and heart for His people.
- Gal 5:22