The world is full of people who need someone to come along beside them and care about their brokenness.
I was in my office at the church one Saturday morning working on a writing project when the phone rang. There was a very distraught individual on the other end of the line who began to tell me his story. He was a single father who had just lost his job because of his drinking. He had sent his son to live with relatives because he had no food in the house. Tom (not his real name) wept as he explained he was at the end of his rope and simply did not know what to do. As we continued to talk I began to realize this man was desperate and might even be contemplating suicide.
I invited Tom to come down to my office where we could continue to discuss his problems. We talked and cried and prayed. We talked some more. I called the local Alcoholics Anonymous group and got times and places for their meetings. He promised to attend. I gave him some food from our food closet and invited him to church. Honestly, though, I never really expected him to attend. I suppose years of working with alcoholics like Tom had made me a bit cynical.
I was indeed surprised when Tom came to worship the next day. I introduced some of the men in our church to our guest. One of them sat with him during the service and invited him to our men’s Monday night accountability group. Several weeks after Tom started attending our church and participating in the men’s group he made a public profession of his faith in Jesus Christ and I had the privilege of baptizing him. I no longer live in that community, but as far as I know Tom’s life was changed forever.
As a pastor with years of experience I have observed many people with many problems. I have seen numerous individuals destroy their lives, and the lives of loved ones, with alcohol, drugs, sexual addictions, and various other dysfunctional behaviors. While serious hang-ups and destructive habits have brought misery into many lives, I’ve known a multitude of others whose stories might not have been as dramatic, but were similarly disheartening. These persons were not bad people; sometimes there were simply bored with their lives. They were individuals looking for happiness, often in all the wrong places. Many of them dreamed they would find happiness some day when their ship came in. Sometimes the people I have known were middle-aged people who had begun to realize their ship was never coming in. That life was never going to turn out the way they expected. They dragged themselves every day to a job they hated and came home every evening to a house devoid of joy, living “quiet lives of desperation.”
And it’s not just people whose ship never comes in that find themselves unable to find the happiness and joy they seek in life. In 1997 a very successful surgeon performed bypass heart surgery on me. If he charged all of his patients as much as he charged me this highly respected doctor must have made what my father used to call a “tidy sum.” On the exterior this man seemed to have it all together. He had all the trappings of success. But something else was going on in this man’s life; I have no idea what it was, but something led this successful, prosperous, talented surgeon to take his own life.
In my many years of living I have known few bad people. I believe there are very few truly evil people in this world. As a pastor I realize that most of the people in my community are not wicked or unkind or even malevolent. They are not so much hurtful as hurt. The human condition is such that most of us are burdened by loneliness, anxieties, fears, unhappiness, anger, resentments, and jealousies. We live in a materialistic, narcissistic culture that encourages all kinds of destructive habits including addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and material goods.
We Christians have even tried to turn God into come kind of cosmic Santa Claus who will give us what we want. Never mind what God wants. Of course, at some point our spirit witnesses to the pain in our lives. Our Bible testifies to the incongruities and lies in our lives. And the Holy Spirit convicts us regarding the sin that trips us up (Hebrews 12:1).
The world is full of people who need someone to come along beside them and care about their brokenness. They need someone like the Christian men in Tom’s life who loved him and held him accountable. This is what making disciples is all about. We are a bunch of beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. We are recovering “sin addicts” encouraging each other on our journey to wholeness. We are a bunch of sin-sick, broken people learning to use the Great Commandments of Jesus (to love God and neighbor) to carry out His Great Commission (to make disciples).
QUESTION: Do you have someone like Tom in your life with whom you are sharing God’s love?