A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


September 26, 2017

What Should Be Our Response To Human Suffering?

    I realize this is a rather general question to be asking, but yesterday was the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey hitting Rockport, Texas and the suffering in that small seaside town is still so acute. And in the ensuing days, we have seen more suffering in Florida, and the Caribbean, and the situation in Puerto Rico has been described as "apocalyptic".
     In one month's time, there is a small semblance of order in Rockport, as the debris is beginning to be cleaned up and piled on the curbs, waiting to be hauled off.  But, there are no words to describe the amount of debris!  And the repairs of homes, if they haven't been condemned, is still weeks away.  Tent cities that I think must resemble those of the Dust Bowl era dot the landscape, while Relief Tents offering a hot meal and clothes have become a mainstay of the communities.  
Puerto Rico, last Wednesday
     As always happens in such disasters, it is the poor that suffer the most.  I look first-hand at Rockport, and view the images of Puerto Rico and some of the other Caribbean islands, and wonder, "Where will these people live? How will they survive?"  But, I also saw the devastation in the richer neighborhoods of Rockport as well. Some of those homes on the waters edge were completely destroyed, and they were retirement homes for people who fear they will never see Rockport the same in their lifetimes. So whether, rich or poor, suffering is no respecter of persons; it rains on the just and the unjust.
     And as the Bible says, we are to love our neighbors, --- all our neighbors. Why is that? The Bible says, "so that we may show ourselves to be the children of God".  So what should the response be of the children of God to all this suffering we have witnessed in the last month?  Certainly, giving of our time and money to alleviate the suffering are worthy acts of the children of God.  But it has been interesting to see the response of the Christian community to the suffering in my own backyard.
     As expected, churches were eager to help in those first couple of weeks after Hurricane Harvey struck.  Groups signed up to haul debris, and chainsaw crews were especially needed to clear property of the twisted oaks that were a hallmark of this hurricane.  Food and water were distributed in those initial days when both were scarce.  And I will say that the response from the Christian community outshone the presence of FEMA and Red Cross.
     But, here we are a month later, and there is still so much work to do.  Not only have people begun to be less motivated to lend a helping hand, but I believe they are experiencing what I would term "disaster fatigue" or "disaster overload".  There have been so many natural disasters that we have become numb to the need of our fellow man, and there is a sense that it is so overwhelming, or so far away, that we couldn't possibly make a difference.
     That is not to be the attitude of the Christian!  When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourself, He isn't talking about your next door neighbor, or the neighbor in your own city, or even the neighbor in your state.  Our neighbors are any fellow human being who has a need or who is suffering; regardless of whether we identify with them or not.  According to the Bible we have a responsibility to relieve that suffering.  It doesn't matter if we have a litany of excuses ... our job, our family, our finances, our time, or we think it's been long enough, the government is going to step in and take over.
Rockport, TX today
     How we respond to our neighbors' needs is a personal choice --- we can let this world numb our souls and hearts; or we can sacrifice our self-interest and put our neighbors' needs first.  As we've labored the past two weekends with groups of Christian friends, doing the dirty work of tree clean-up, it seemed like we didn't accomplish that much--- averaging visits to two homes each weekend until the heat and fatigue shut us down. But that's not how the people we served saw it.  They were grateful that people cared enough to just show up and offer to help.  My wise husband observed that if every Church in 100 mile radius made the decision to forego a Sunday worship service to go out and "be the Church" to the community of Rockport, the restoration would be accomplished in a fraction of the time.
     Of course, secular voices, like those suggested by USA Today, will tell you that the best thing people can do is donate money.  But I disagree. Yes, it takes money to provide the physical things that will restore people's lives. But, as witnessed by my first-hand experience, it is the willingness of a stranger to come to your aid; to lay a hand on your shoulder and tell them you care; to pray over them as you leave their circumstances a little better than you found them; and to ask God to keep them and provide for them -- those are the things that will feed their souls and strengthen their spirits.
     I know this may seem like a rambling piece of writing, but I just had to comment on the great need of the human race at this time ... that we love our neighbor as ourself.  We can have empathy and we should pray for them.  But we shouldn't stop there.  This is the time that the Body of Christ can shine brightest. I know in my heart that there are many Christians doing the work of Christ at this time, and I praise the Lord with gratitude and thanksgiving for their loving hearts.  The commitment to love our neighbor should be our priority in the world right now ... Let us be the Church as Jesus created us to be.

Mark 12:30-31, 34   "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these ... You are not far from the kingdom of God." 
     
   

3 comments:

  1. Pam, I was just replying to a comment on a post from my own blog and it is prophetic ( hopefully not overstating what I am seeing) that what you are seeing and Mark's observation also, that we as a family of God have become so dependent on money as the ministry needs that we have missed the weightier matters of love , mercy and compassion.Matt. 23:23
    I see the body of Messiah has tried to keep the outer looking pretty but inwardly we are filthy rags. I do not think that is overstating the gravity of our situation. We are more concerned with making sure our lawns are mowed and the dishes washed and our clothes are the right style than caring for the situation of the heart of man. [ and I am speaking of my own self. Not someone else. That was me a few years back. I had to be shaken awake for God to get my attention and begin to show me what is truly important. He had to stop me from fixing and fabricating and decorating and designing and making the outside of the cup look pretty and perfect while inside me, my whole life was consumed with making money and I Did Give more than anyone else in the whole church, but I was never giving that which God wanted from me - my life, my time, my heart)].
    I see God shaking and waking up His body today. Today we are rethinking what is important to Him. Today, we are realizing that the prettiest lawn in town and the sharpest dressed in church and the newest and latest car/truck/iPhone/iPad/yacht/vacation package are not what the BELIEVER is seeking. We are finding out there are few things worthy of our attention, really just One, and Mary chose that best part that Jesus told Martha, and that would not be taken from her. May we all re-evaluate what the best part is, because we food, clothing and shelter we are to be content.

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    1. I'm always enlightened by your testimony, and I hope readers take the time to discern your message. I see the description of yourself in so many Christians I know, and I am well aware that they are tired of hearing my discourses on leaving behind the things of this world, and seeking the kingdom first --- in other words, living this Christian life from Heaven's perspective instead of by worldly standards. This is a battle we all should be waging (including myself). So thank you for re-stating what I am trying to say in a more straightforward and honest manner. We need to keep this concept at the forefront of our message!

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    2. BTW, what is the address of your blog?

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