” the devastation is overwhelming!”
How do we process catastrophic events when we feel helpless to understand the suffering, much less do something about it?
I felt that way after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 – 16 years ago today. I felt that way last month when the severe storms hit Texas. Now Florida is being flooded and facing high wind damage. This storm is not over, as it travels north and west, so the wide-ranging effects are still pending.
What should my response be as Christian, as a person who feels deeply for those who have suffered and those who are suffering right now?
Have you ever thought – What can I DO ?- feeling for those who are suffering is not enough!
Jesus had been teaching and healing people who were following him. There was a huge crowd and it was getting time to address a real need – the physical hunger of the people.
John recalls it this way – John 6:5 –
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
I think this story has a powerful message for me when I am faced with an overwhelming need.
First, Jesus recognized that the people were hungry, and He didn’t send them away. In Matthew’s account of this same story – one of the disciples suggests sending the multitude away to get food for themselves.
- I must recognize what the need is – not “send them away”.
Secondly, Jesus looked around for what was available right there at that time. A boy had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Bless his mother for packing his lunch! Bless that boy for not eating it ahead of time! Jesus took what was available.
- I must use what I have available to meet a need. I should not respond like Philip did and bemoan the fact that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” I must not think that my contribution is too small to make a difference.
Thirdly, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for those two small fish and those 5 loaves of bread. God multiplied. God was in charge of the results!
- I must be faithful to offer what I can. I should be thankful with what I have to share no matter how small it is. God is faithful to accomplish His will, even multiplying a small offering if He wills.
I am praying for all those suffering around us. I am asking God to show me what I have available to share. I am thanking God for all He is doing and will do in this time of devastating loss.
I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”
so – I only vacuum when we have company?
Out of the mouths of babes….
I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.
This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married. I had gotten all these wedding presents like –
- dinner ware
- silver ware
- cloth napkins
- matching glasses
So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)
We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.
It was raining.
That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.
So much for the lovely table setting.
The dictionary defines hospitality this way –
- Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
- synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmth, kindness, courtesy, generosity,
Just look at those synonyms!
Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.
I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.
AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.
Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.
I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.
It is the attitude of her heart.
I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmth, kindness, courtesy, generosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.
It is an attitude of her heart.
A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.
It did not go well.
But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.
Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.
It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.
It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.
II John 1:12
“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”
Face to face –
this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.
Then our joy may be complete.
“There are no words to describe the horror of the last few hours…..” “I don’t have any words to describe…..” Phrases like these were repeated over and over as individuals tried to communicate their reactions to the devastating shooting that took place Friday at an elementary school in Connecticut. Yet, as my husband pointed out – these people kept talking. They were saying they “had no words”, yet they kept using words.
I realized – it wasn’t that they didn’t have any words – it was that they didn’t have the right words.
We have all been in that place of experiencing something and being at a loss for words. Our ability to communicate thoughts and feelings sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Many species can share information, but we have the ability to synthesize information and therefore communicate on a deeper level. Until our vocabulary lets us down. There was nothing to say – words were inadequate to express the pain of that loss.
Are there “right words” at such a time? The death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a critical illness, all these are situations that make us want to offer words of solace and hope. Yet it may be that there are no “right” words at these times.
I remember entering the home of my life-long friend after a terrible accident that claimed the life of her 18 month old son. I had no words. I fell into her arms and we hugged and cried. There were no “right” words – we wept and held on to each other, then sat holding hands – just needing to be in touch. I went home that night to my precious 18th month old daughter. My friend and her husband were left overwhelmed by the aching absence of their little son. All I had to offer at that time was my love demonstrated by my presence.
“God will work all things for good…..” “God is in control.” “God’s love will comfort you”. These are truthful statements – yet they are not comforting in light of the reality of the loss. They instead cause questions to arise – if God is in control – why did He allow my child to die? Wasn’t it “good” to have my child here with me? I wouldn’t need comfort if my child was still here!
Clichés and “pat answers” are not words that help when facing grief and suffering. I have had friends tell me that the most beneficial support was being there – not any words that were said.
The right words may be needed later – but expressing loving support through one’s presence and prayer is more valuable initially.
We do need to listen to one another. Many of us process situations by expressing verbally what we think and feel. Listening to those who are grieving provides an outlet for their grief and also a chance to remember the loved one who is gone.
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
7 a time to be silent and a time to speak,
We don’t need to be so concerned about having the right words as being the loving support God wants us to be. May we recognize when to be silent and when to speak.
I follow a blog by Ruth Rutherford. This poem she wrote touched me – these were the right words for me at this time. – check it out – http://ruthrutherford.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/when-sunlight-fades-lord-have-mercy/