Embracing others who suffer adversity is about caring enough to take the time needed in being a true friend to another. Embracing those living with long term disabling conditions is how we include others into our presence, regardless of disability, and it is about showing forth the Love God has filled us with. It is about being present with one another in the midst of adversity, bearing one another’s burdens. It is about listening and not pushing one’s own agenda onto someone already suffering. It is about thinking of how another feels and what they may be experiencing in the midst of living in the daily grind of their illness. It is about being a consistent presence by the giving of ourselves to another, if it is only in sitting beside them quietly, listening intentionally to their struggles, and discovering ways we can enter into their world.
In our purpose to connect to others, having a sensitivity in attempting to understand is key to how we can center ourselves in reaching out to these persons, letting them know, they are valuable, and that they also have gifts to offer the world, along with the fellowship they may be part of. All persons have intrinsic worth and it is up to us to allow their voices to not only be heard, but to allow them to be themselves within a group of believers.
It not about getting them ‘healed’ or having to ‘fix’ them, or requiring them to bow to our dogma. It is not having them as our ‘ministry’. It is certainly not about excluding them, rejecting them, or making them feel on the ‘outside’. Yet this is often the response persons enduring long term chronic conditions (mental or physical) receive from good intentions of Christians. They often feel as though others are silencing them to a tomb of suffering, when they hear callous statements such as, ‘do not glorify your afflictions’, or ‘do not dwell in your misery’, or they hear clichés or platitudes being thrown at them, as if these can bring a foundation where they can gain strength.
Like all of us, children and adults with disabilities have a great need to belong. A caring friend can be a lifeline to those who often feel isolated and alone. Support and encouragement can make a huge difference in the life of one who must endure on-going difficult symptoms, limiting them in ways one never takes into consideration. Validating not only their feelings, but also them as a person is necessary. We as human beings gain a much needed internal strength from one another when we center our lives having Love as our internal measure in which to respond to one another.
We walk a thin line in not wanting to enable dysfunctional living, so setting up boundaries are important in how we go about addressing persons dealing with chronic conditions. We can be empathetic in the way we approach others and in the ‘how’ of our interactions, along with modifying the ‘tone’ of our words.
We can strengthen them in both their Faith and determination in the ways we do or don’t respond to them as persons. We can lift another up without further enabling any sort of cycle they may be in. God does Heal, but we must not make this the primary goal whenever we come into contact with a person living with a chronic condition. Relying on Godly Wisdom is vital as He can lead us in these paths of questioning, doubting, and wondering when we come face to face with someone who must endure great suffering. We must quietly listen to God’s voice and then follow His leading regarding any response we may give towards praying healing with a person, and do so making sure we have the person’s full permission.
Let us consider one another and think of ways we can be kinder, nicer, more tolerant and accepting of those whose life is one of struggles. “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 Whether it is a warm meal, a card mailed, an encouraging scripture, a kind word, flowers given, a sincere prayer, or just being with them in silence, we are sharing in our humanity and the need to bond in connecting to one another, when we do acts of kindness.
In Luke 14, Jesus taught the religious leaders of his day that in the kingdom of God we should embrace and befriend those with whom we would not normally associate in our social settings.
In fact, He gave us a new guest list for dinner parties: “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” (Luke: 14-13). These are people that society has marginalized or relegated to places of lower social status.
Jesus specifically indicates in this passage that one sign of true spiritual maturity is welcoming the marginalized. May we all step out of the box of what has become acceptable in the ‘church’ and walk into the lives of those kept on the ‘outside’ of Christian circles through biased and prejudicial attitudes. (Luke: 14-14). We need to be careful to not judge harshly as this ostracizes persons, causes divisions, and only builds towards strife, further making one feel not included.
Jesus told us in the Scriptures, “You must Love the Lord your God, with ALL our Heart, with ALL your Soul, and with ALL your Mind. This is the first and Greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your Neighbors as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Love seems to be a priority with Jesus, and should it not be so with us too? Let our hearts mirror this Love that Jesus came to earth to manifest. That in All our relationships with others, that our Love would be the internal drive, motivating our responses, in both actions and words. May this Love Reign Supreme in our hearts, for then we are fulfilling the Greatest commandment given by God, that we should show this Love as the Priority in All our relationships, and through All our interactions with one another.
Lorraine Taylor – Lay Minister
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