Where Does it Hurt?

The man collapsed in front of our house.

We didn’t know at first, but it was an unusually cool day in early summer and our windows were open.  We didn’t hear him fall off his bike, hit the ground, or cry out in pain.

What we heard was a voice asking, “Sir, are you okay?”

Hearing that, I glanced out the window and saw the stranger sprawled across the road, his feet still hooked onto his bicycle.  Rain had just started to fall, so I grabbed a jacket, umbrellas, and a blanket and joined the Good Samaritans who had stopped to help.

We did what we could: called 911, covered him to protect from the chill and held the umbrella to block the light rain.

Mostly, though, we tried our best to rouse him.  Did a car hit you?  Do you feel pain?  What’s your name?  How can we help?

Where does it hurt?

That’s the question we returned to so often.  Other than some scrapes on the hand and a small cut to the head, nothing was obvious.  No matter what we asked, how often we asked or how loudly we raised our voices, though, he remained unresponsive.

The chief arrived in his truck with lights flickering.  He placed his hands on the man’s shoulder and picked right up where we left off, “Sir, what’s your name?  Where does it hurt?  Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

Still, there was no response.  So, they loaded him into an ambulance and carried him off to the hospital.

Sometimes when we feel broken and hurting, it’s easy to identify the source of the pain.

We’re hurting because of a broken relationship, death, abuse, job loss, financial crisis, ministry struggles . . .  A physician could hold up an x-ray of our life and instantly reveal the brokenness.  It would light up on the screen showing the exact location with a line of fracture showing how far and how deep.

Maybe we’d even have a therapeutic solution at the ready to make the brokenness heal over time.  A bandage here, a cast there, a medicine or treatment . . . and then we would be whole again.

But there are times when we just hurt.  We feel inexplicable sadness.  We know we are broken, but the x-rays remain unclear about where or how.  Or, perhaps instead of showing a clear-cut fracture, they reveal shattered fragments in a hopeless messy state.

We ask each other all the time, “How are you?” and mostly we say, “fine” or “good” in an off-handed way.

What would happen, though, if one of us said, “I’m sad and I don’t even know why.  I’m feeling broken, tender, easily bruised.  My eyes fill with tears at the slightest provocation.  I’m like an endless source of emotion, just spilling all over the place and I don’t know how to turn off the spout or clean up the mess”?

That would be a conversation stopper.

There’s beauty in a God, though, who knows when “I’m fine” really means we’re not. We can’t fake it with Him.

Nor is our brokenness a mystery.  Maybe we ourselves don’t even understand our sadness, but He does.

When God first met with Hagar, the servant of Abraham and Sarah, as she ran into the wilderness after being abused, He asked her, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8).

Then He paused for her answer, and she had a reply at the ready.  “I’m running away from my mistress.” Simple as that.  Clear and precise brokenness and He ministered to her, giving her promises for her future and instructing her to return home.

Yet, when she desperately fled into the wilderness a second time years later, God asked, “What troubles you Hagar?”

Without a second of pause  . . . without her answer . . . without her breaking into tears and pouring out a confusing response of hurt and pain that just couldn’t explain it all, God kept talking, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is” (Genesis 21:17).

He asked because He cared.  Yet, knowing her crisis and her pain, He already had a ministry of provision and comfort for her at the ready without even needing for her to explain it all.

When you face this brokenness too hard to explain or describe, remember that you can bring it to him without a word.  He knows.  He cares.  And He is working to comfort and restore you.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it
(Psalm 139:1-6)

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

God, Are You Crying?

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

(Isaiah 63:9).

It was my third pregnancy and I sat across from my midwife at my 37-week check-up.  “I don’t think the baby has turned,” I told her.  “I think she’s still breach.”

I saw her face change from “easy-breezy check-up” to “let’s investigate this issue”.  She expertly prodded my massive pregnant belly with her hands and then popped the baby up on the ultrasound machine to be sure.  Breach baby.  Thirty-seven weeks.

Maybe the doctor will turn her, I thought?  Maybe she’ll turn herself (I hoped)?  Anything sounded good if I could avoid a C-section.

She said, “I’ll call you.  I need to tell the doctor what’s going on, but I’d start preparing for surgery.”

I trusted her.  During both of my other pregnancies, she had cared for me frequently.  She was a strikingly lovely woman, an inside-out kind of beauty, so open and full of joy.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back into small bouncy curls after a fight with breast cancer years before and it was so like her to pour herself out for others even during chemo treatments and cancer recovery.

Just as she promised, she called me later that day.  She treated me like I was the only patient in the world, taking more than 20 minutes to tell me how serious the baby’s position was because she was sitting on her umbilical cord.  How turning the baby could kill her and if I went into labor on my own, she’d probably suffocate.

C-section it was.

But she gave me great reassurance, how good the doctor was, how she had seen him work and knew he would take good care of me and I would heal well.  “Don’t be afraid,” she said.

That was the last time I talked to her.

The doctor delivered my baby via C-section and he was expert and wonderful and my daughter was healthy and beautiful and safe.  When I returned for my check-up weeks later, they told me that my midwife’s breast cancer had returned and she was starting treatments again.

Any time I had an appointment at the office over the last 3 years, I asked about her.  She popped into my head periodically, and I prayed for her and we prayed in my small group, as well.

She passed away this weekend.

It’s a part of the human condition on this broken planet to grieve.  I am sad for her struggle, for years and years of fighting, for losing the battle to breast cancer, for her pain, for those who worked with her, for her dear friends, and most of all for her family and her two children who watched their mother fight and then die.

This world of sorrow isn’t a place of God’s design.  It’s the mess mankind made through disobedience and sin, ushering in death.  One day, we have the opportunity to see what God’s perfect design is really like.  Heaven is the ideal place, where death, crying, pain, and disease have no place because sin has no place.

But here we are, facing sorrows in the here and now because good people die, people of faith hurt, babies don’t make it, children are abused.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, he was surrounded by mourners in the midst of their own loss.  Martha was weeping.  Mary was weeping.  The entire crowd was weeping.

My commentary tells me they weren’t just sniffling quietly into their tissues in the good old Western style.  They were “wailing” (klaiontas).

Seeing their distress, Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).

The crowd took it as a sign of Jesus’s own grief over losing a great friend and said, “See how he loved him!”

But is that why Jesus cried on the edge of Lazarus’s tomb?  He wasn’t wailing in the same way they were; he was quietly shedding tears (edakrysen).john11

Anyway, what was there for him to mourn?  He knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead.  In fact, Jesus was just seconds away from doing just that and watching Lazarus stumble out of the tomb still wrapped up in his grave clothes.

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

It had to be the sadness at the sorrow of others.  That’s why he was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled,” not when he knew Lazarus was dead or when Mary and Martha confronted him over it, but when he heard “her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping” (John 11:33).

He felt sorrow over their sorrow, sadness over their sadness, and compassion because they experienced death, loss, the grave, pain, and sickness.

In the same way, when Jesus saw a widow following behind the coffin of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'”  (Luke 7:13) before touching her son’s body and raising him from the dead.

This is the Savior we serve, who saw the sorrow of death, who faced it Himself, and who comforts us when life is hard, when loved ones die, when we grieve the loss of people, the loss of hope, and the loss of dreams.

Even though I know He doesn’t always intervene with miracles, resurrecting in the places we grieve, it’s somehow helpful to know He isn’t ignoring us either.  Jesus isn’t cold-hearted, looking down stone-faced and unmoved by our sorrow.

Instead, when we’re hurting, He’s moved by compassion for us and ministering to us with His Spirit.  He’s comforting those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I use the Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King