During the first couple of months of the shelter-in-place directive, I found my heart stirred by the magnitude of people who were out of work and how that would affect them and their families. I also became aware of people I knew who had become ill with COVID-19, and concern rose up in my heart for them. Then there has been all the heart-rending news surrounding racism and riots, and of those in the paths of hurricanes and fires; our hearts ache for them, as well.
So many people are needy around us. It is hard to fathom the magnitude of it. What can we do to help?
One day I heard a couple of words that I have not heard for a long time:
- Apathetic– “not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive.” *
- Complacent– “pleased, especially with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect;“*
About the same time, I was studying the Psalms again with a Bible-study group online.
In Psalm 107 we see an account, not of the world, but of God’s Old Testament people. At various times they had experienced:
- Wandering in the wilderness,
- Hunger and thirst,
- Imprisonment and chains,
- Oppression, and
- Being at their wits’ end.
Four times in this Psalm we read,
“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses.” (vs. 6,13,19,28)*
Did you notice the first word of that verse? “THEN”
They went through all those distresses for varying lengths of time, and when they finally were at their wits’ end (Literally “all their wisdom was swallowed up” vs. 27) THEN they cried to the LORD!
Notice that this Psalm does not record God as crossing His arms with an I-told-you-so look on His face, clucking His tongue and saying, “It’s about time!!”
Rather, in mercy, He delivered them when they cried out to Him (and will do the same for us).
As I considered all the grievous trials of 2020, looking at them and my own attitudes in the light of God’s word, I became aware that, too many times in the past, I have been so concerned for my own needs that I have not been as quick to notice the needs of others. (embarrassing, I know) I wonder how many would secretly admit that this is true of you, too?
As I read through this Scripture, I became aware of how often I identify myself as the needy when I read through the Psalms in verses like:
“But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction,” 107:41 NASB
It isn’t a bad thing to recognize our neediness, especially when we bring our needs to the Lord. But it’s so easy to feel the distress of our own needs to the point of not caring enough to think about the needs of others.
I don’t bring this up so we can beat ourselves up for our failures, but so that we can recognize where we have failed, confess our sin to God, and ask Him for help at doing better in the present and the future.
Would you ask yourself with me:
- Do I weep with those who weep as Scripture commands?
- Or do I stay in my own little corner, my own comfort zone, and walk by people in need without even noticing them?
- What would I want if I were in their shoes?
- Wouldn’t I want to be noticed, prayed for, loved, and treated kindly?
Could it be that our apathetic and complacent attitudes, even if not done on purpose, are grievous to the heart of a compassionate God?
Could it be that we had gotten ourselves so entrenched in our “normal”, a normal that was not pleasing to God, that it has taken the collective trials of 2020 to shake us out of that normal, which we would not otherwise have relinquished, so that we could grow in the area of compassion?
Could it be that we have been following the American dream instead of the plans and purposes of God, who loves all people equally?
Could it be that we have been blind to our shortcomings and needed our eyes to be opened and our hearts to feel for others instead of just for our own little circle?
We are all human, and we will all fail. But just as a baby who is advancing into toddlerhood falls and gets up again, so should we. Note that the toddler’s mommy or daddy are excited for their sweet baby’s progress, not upset that the baby fell again. Would God love us any less than a loving human parent? I think not. (He understands our weakness and knows when we are really trying.)
In the book of Revelation Jesus spoke to the seven churches of Asia, and His words can still speak to us today. He had words of praise and also words of exhortation for what needed to change.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” Rev 2:4,5
“‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:16,17,19
As we get before the Lord, may we ask Him, have I really been the needy whom you promise to protect, or have I been a different kind of needy, self-centered, complacent and apathetic to the needs of those around me, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to their cries, in need of repentance?
Perhaps our need today is not what we’ve been thinking it is, (i.e. getting back to normal). Perhaps our true need is Holy Spirit conviction, repentance from our apathy and complacency, deliverance from the evil one, and forgiveness of our sin.
The good news is that all of these are available through Christ Jesus! He died not only for our sins that we committed up to the point of our trusting Him for salvation, but also for all the ones we would commit afterwards.
Prayer: Lord, please convict us of where we have failed You. Help us to bring our sin to You, lay it at Your feet, and ask for Your forgiveness. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying for my sin so I could be forgiven. I praise You that You will abundantly pardon! Please lead us daily in a better way. Help us to start noticing and caring about the needs of the people around us. Give us the strength, courage, and compassion to know how to reach out and help others and to show them Your love and kindness.
Today I’m thankful that I can bring ALL my needs to God, and He hears me!
I’m thankful that He cares for my needs and for the needs of those around me!
I’m thankful for His Holy Spirit conviction and His forgiveness when we repent.
I’m thankful that He will hear our cry, forgive us, and deliver us from our self-satisfaction and our attachment to the status quo.
I’m thankful that He will help us to make the changes needed, that He is making us into the image of His Son, Jesus.
How about you? Have you caught yourself bemoaning the new normal? Have you been discouraged because the old normal is not coming back as quickly as you’d prefer? Have you taken time during this year to examine your heart in the light of God’s word to see if there might be some changes that He desires you to make? Which of the above are you most thankful for?