My husband and a friend had stopped by the local grocery store. Suddenly, spotting a homeless man, my husband’s friend jumped out of the car and said he would be right back. My husband watched his friend retrieve several bills from his wallet and hand them to the homeless man. No questions asked, no advice given. My husband didn’t say a word as his friend returned to the car but his friend said, “I would be just like that if it weren’t for my wife!” This man is a successful businessman. He is a genius with computers, an inventor. But he is also bipolar and without his wife’s dedicated efforts to help manage his medication, encourage regular counseling and connection to a mature Christian men’s support group, he indeed would be homeless and living on the street. He is grateful. Grateful for someone who cares enough to stay involved in his life even though it is very difficult and challenging. He is grateful his wife won’t allow him to “function on his own terms.”
Many of us are impatient and don’t understand those who continuously struggle and fail. I put myself in this category! I have to daily remind myself that…
I would be in the exact same situation
I often see others struggling with,
were it not for Jesus!
I struggled. A. Lot. Until Jesus reached out a hand and helped me up. I had to take that hand but He was patient with me, giving me chance after chance and then another chance.
When I didn’t recognize the hand of Jesus, He sent His people, people just like you and me, people like my husband’s friend. Those people were the hands and feet of Jesus.
My childhood family was dysfunctional due to mental illness. I often felt alone. Unloved. It caused me to do a lot of things I regret. Some of the consequences of those poor choices can never be removed. But they can be used. We don’t have to hide that brokeness. God can take even the broken pieces of our life and make something beautiful out of it. I didn’t know Jesus then. But today I believe He was there watching over me. Taking care of me.
At the end of my sophomore year in high school, I was suffering the natural consequences of a lot of bad decisions. I had to set out the fall semester of my junior year.
When I returned to school in the spring of my junior year I had to fit into a new class agenda and my whole friend group was basically on another schedule. A lot of them were still my friends, but I was different. So on February 9, 1972 (my 17th birthday) I found myself sitting alone at a lunch table in the school cafeteria. My friends were also on a different lunch schedule. I was feeling sorry for myself.
I was surprised and a little shocked when I looked up and saw Mr. Mathias standing beside my chair. He had a cupcake, with candles and decorations, in his outstretched hand.
“Happy Birthday Deb! Thought you could use a little encouragement,” he said.
Today the memory of this event brings tears to my eyes. That day I said thank you but didn’t know what to think. As a mature Christian, I know Jesus sent Mr. Mathias with the cupcake. Mr. Mathias didn’t give me a lecture. He wasn’t critical in any way. He was always kind, not just on that day but on every day. He simply just found a way to express kindness and acceptance and carried it out.
Mr. Mathias was my highschool history teacher. I was a good student and enjoyed his classes. He didn’t see me as someone who made bad choices or someone who had made one too many mistakes. He could see past that fact and see me for what I might become and he went out of his way to do even one small thing that would be an encouragement. He went out of His way to find out my birthday and plan something special for me. He didn’t have to do that.
What if when we saw someone struggling with sin, depression or homelessness – instead of being judgmental we see them either for what they used to be or what they could become – if they just had a little help and encouragement? Maybe they had a difficult childhood and can’t get past it. Maybe they fought in the military for your freedom and my freedom and experienced such horrific events that they can’t rise above it. Maybe they are college educated, had a wife and children and a good job but made a bad decision causing the family to fall apart. Or maybe they are like my parents who suffer from mental illness of some kind with no one to advocate for them.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith
need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter
and not just do what is most convenient for us.”
Romans 15:1 (MSG)
Maybe if we could extend the hand of fellowship to those who struggle or give them a little support, some of them would rise above their mistakes and get back on their feet. You may never know how a seemingly insignificant act of kindness will affect someone. Ann Voskamp says, “tender kindness is the truest kind of beauty.”
So the next time you see someone struggling just know you could easily be in that place if not for different circumstances. Friends, we should always joyfully be prepared for what we come across. We should ask God every morning to help us be sensitive to someone in need. Be prepared with some financial help, a cold drink, food, a smile, a pat on the shoulder or a kind word. Figure out how to show love. One of the best things may just be a listening ear. Even a cupcake will do!
“If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across.” Oswald Chambers
Share in the comments if you remember a valley or difficult time when someone was an encouragement to you!