Stand By The Suffering

Can I encourage you to reach out to someone this week who is struggling? … reach out and offer the hope of Jesus.

I’m a fan of a good bumper sticker. I like the clever bumper stickers like the one you might see on a Jeep, “If you can read this flip me over!”. I like the comical bumper stickers you see on an old beater, “Honk if parts fall off!”. I like the snarky bumper stickers, “I don’t care about your stick figure family.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the “My child is an honor roll student” sticker. I wasn’t an honor roll student so those stickers put a bad taste in my mouth. My parents could have displayed those stickers for my two younger siblings who were both in the top ten of their respective classes. But not me. I wasn’t even in the top one hundred, I was quite literally 101st in my class rank.

The other type of bumper stickers that occasionally bother me are the Christian bumper stickers. Examples include but are not limited to: “Jesus is my homeboy.” “If you died tonight would you be in Heaven or Hell?” “Do you follow Jesus this closely?” Ok, that last one is kind of funny.

In moments of deep pain, we need a steady hope. Paul describes such hope in remembering a season of pain in his life.

8We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I think that my issue with Christian bumper stickers is that they seem so shallow. A sticker can’t offer empathy or compassion. If someone is under great pressure, or beyond their ability to endure, or despairing life itself they need the hope that only Jesus can offer them. The hope of being delivered from peril after peril.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal with my bumper sticker?” My concern is not actually with the bumper sticker. My concern is with the lack of compassion Christians often have for one another. My problem is that we stop at the sticker. You’ve seen it too.

“How’re you doing today?” they ask without care.
“Not good.” The struggling replies.
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

And often that’s it. Not always, but too often. The church seems to not be able to engage in the pain of the world around us which is sad for this should be one of the identifying marks of the church. At least, Paul seems to think so.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Keep your bumper sticker but keep in mind that the hurting world needs more than Jesus, the homeboy. They need the Jesus who sympathizes with their pain. The Jesus who can enter into their pain. The Jesus who can bring healing. They need the Jesus who has suffered like they are suffering. They need Jesus, the Savior in whom comfort abounds.

Can I encourage you to reach out to someone this week who is struggling? I know in my own life that I can often think of people who are in pain. The reason I don’t reach out is due to the false dilemmas I create myself. They’re probably busy, they probably don’t want to talk, they probably… you can pick any excuse. Or you can reach out and offer the hope of Jesus. Let’s do that.

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