Because Those Who Are Suffering Need Us To Notice
Because Those Who Are Suffering Need Us To Notice
Categories: RECENT RESEARCH
Rachel’s face was weary, her distracted glance seemed lost somewhere in the distance. She spoke of her life in fragments and whispers. Her story was both tragic and impossible. My heart wept for the child who endured such abuse, such profound neglect and who woke up years later with a lifetime of losses and a heart full of sorrow. Her emotions swelled just beneath the surface, though she worked fiercely to contain them.
She had tried everything to find happiness. Her face softened slightly remembering the admiration and accolades of others in years past, as she made her way up the corporate ladder. She wasn’t shy about admitting her lifestyle of partying, indulgence and extremes.
And still, as she described in hushed tones, nothing had ever taken away the hole inside her heart. Awakening halfway through her journey on this earth, Rachel felt as hopeless and empty as ever.
Rachel is not alone…
His name was Joe. Just Joe. Overwhelmed with anguish and despair, he awoke one Wednesday morning with a sense he needed to drive to that barn-church out in the country. He said he didn’t believe there were accidents in life, yet he didn’t quite know why he was here.
He was new to the area. His business was failing. He wasn’t good with people, never had been. His children were counting on him. The pressure he felt was overwhelming and he could no longer see a way forward. Maybe they would be better off without him, he thought.
He said he didn’t believe in God. Was actually against God. Against church for that matter, too. The church had let him down, hurt him in the past. He swore he would never go there again. As he pondered, It seems strange that something would tell me to drive to a church today.
Strange wasn’t exactly what I would call it. I would call it divine. I would call it God.
My friends, there is a world that is suffering all around us. Suffering with a kind of pain that brings them to the edge. They are suffering from a host of disappointments, losses, and heartaches. They are suffering from every imaginable illness—mental, physical, and spiritual. They are suffering.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so lost in my problems, my insecurities, my circumstances, that I become blinded to anything outside of my distilled, myopic fog. I guess most of us do in our way. We miss altogether the myriad of panicked, broken individuals whose hearts are quivering for someone to see them, to notice them, to bring them relief.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to encourage each of us to be more aware of others wherever we are – whether in the grocery store, the hair salon, the PTA meeting, or the sales office. There are three things we in the body of Christ can do bring healing to a broken, desperate world.
Yes, my eyes are usually locked on a screen, whether I’m walking through a parking lot or sitting in the doctor’s office. Most of us get pre-occupied—with a project, a task, a to-do that needs our attention in that very moment. Sometimes if we’re honest, we don’t want to look up. We like the safety, the anonymity. We’re in such a hurry, we really don’t want anything to distract us or intrude upon our plans.
I’m so glad the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) was looking up. Perhaps if he had been on his phone or sending a text, he would have missed seeing the man laying along the side of the road. I have no idea how many opportunities I have missed because I was too pre-occupied to see others, to see anyone really, in my day-to-day routine.
I wonder what might happen if we each took a moment, just a moment, to see those who are around us? I wonder what might change inside of us if we began to prioritize the present moment instead of our dreadful agenda? Would we see a whole big world out there in a new way that begins to blow our minds, that threatens to shock and astonish our protected, safe sensibilities?
Take a moment this week to look up. Tell me what you see.
Make Eye Contact
If we were honest, few of us are intentional about making eye contact anymore. Eye contact connects us to others in a way we’d prefer to avoid. Connects two worlds together in the space of a moment. Requires us to step out from the safe confines of our heart and notice another’s.
We know people today are more isolated, more alone, more disconnected than ever before. We know that loneliness and depression are rampant. What a ministry of compassion to notice others instead of looking past them, and welcome them into your world. To allow them to be seen and noticed. To feel a moment of human connection. It seems small, but sometimes the smallest acts have the greatest impact, whether we ever see the results or not.
Wherever you are this week, take one opportunity and make eye contact with someone else. What did their eyes reveal?
Start a conversation with someone. About anything or nothing, really. Just find a person or two that you can choose to engage. Ask a question. Make an observation. Nothing controversial, condemning, or political, of course. Ask them about their football jersey. Make an observation about the weather. Ask them how their day is going. Ask them how they are doing. If you really want to be brave, ask them what they are struggling most with these days. Lean in just a little. Yeah, just a little… and listen.
You don’t have to make a moment into something it is not. You don’t need to force a connection or create an agenda. Just allowing ourselves to be present in the moment creates an opportunity for a divine appointment to emerge. Our job is simply to make ourselves open and available to ourselves, to God, and perhaps another human being.
I need to add, for some people this comes naturally. You are more than likely an extrovert and find engaging with others delightful, natural, and energizing. For the rest of us who are introverts, this can seem overwhelming and panic-attack-provoking. I know. I’ve been there. It’s okay. Just take baby steps.
Yet the more we can see the impact of small, simple gestures, the easier it is for us to step outside of our comfort zones and make contact with a world that is hurting. We don’t have to go to Africa to feed the hungry. They are right here. They are all around. They are children of God and they are starving to be seen, to be heard, to be loved.
Start a conversation with someone, anyone this week. Ask a question. Smile. Bless them. What did you hear?
Look up. Make eye contact. Engage.
That’s how we in the body of Christ can be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are suffering. Because those who are suffering need us to notice.
Lisa Murray, M.A. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Franklin, TN, with an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a graduate degree from Trevecca University. In 2007 Lisa founded the Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN, where she not only works to help individuals, couples, and families, deal with the complexities and challenges of life and relationships, she also treats a full spectrum of mental health issues. Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com. Connect with Lisa on Facebook: Lisa Murray, author, or on Twitter: @_Lisa_Murray