Chapter 17: Falling in Love with the Human Race
So, those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
Whatever we as Christ-followers do, whether good or bad, we represent Christ; unfortunately we do not always present God in our actions. When we do not conduct ourselves in love, we are conveying to people that God is unloving. When we operate with impatience, we are saying God is not patient. We need to become very aware of how we come across to others so that we do not give Christ a bad name. Perception is reality and it is, indeed, God’s name on the line, not our own.
I was speaking the other day to a dear friend who is not a Christian. He commented to me that he has been tossed aside by many “Christians” when they felt like he was a waste of their time; meaning, when he did not convert to Christianity, they walked away from him. That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard, yet I hear and see it all the time. In my past, I too have been guilty of this as well. It is unfortunate that Christians, unknowingly, push people away from Christ. That is not their intention, I’m certain, but it happens all the same.
We need to begin to fall in love with the human race just as Christ Himself is in love with us. Once we begin this process, ministry and witnessing will come with much greater ease. We will realize that the work of getting people to come to Christ is not our burden, it is God’s. Only God can change a heart; it is His completed work extended through His people.
Our part, contrarily, is to walk in a genuine love for people no matter from whence they come or their external appearance; no matter if they come into the Kingdom of Christ or not. Our job, as it were, is to walk in supernatural love. It is love which will woo them to Christ, not browbeating them and condemning them for not believing when and how we think they should. We never know when the moment will come where someone will admit that Jesus is real, valid and vital. Who are we to say, “You’re taking too long. I’m done with you”? In fact, if we are in tune with Holy Spirit as we ought, God will instruct us as to when and if we are to part ways with someone.
We Christians seem to be on a mission to convert people instead of on a mission to love people. Love will usher conversion, not our attempts to persuade them by force. I recognize most mainstream Christians have not been taught how to love with the supernatural love of Christ. Love is certainly a choice and it is something that must be taught through the discipline, instruction of and surrender to Holy Spirit. Children love naturally and automatically, they do not need to be taught. Nevertheless, as children begin to grow, love does not come so readily.
We become a people wounded and bruised by the world in which we live. Because of this, even though we become a born-again believer, we must learn how love looks through the perspective of God instead of the eyes of the world. The world’s love is conditional and superficial; it’s the kind we see in movies and hear in songs. It comes and goes like the wind. The world’s love is fluid, God’s is concrete.
I John 2:6 (NAS) states, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” That is a powerful statement! Jesus walked in love whether He was correcting, healing, encouraging, serving, teaching or being crucified for sins He did not commit. Jesus walked in supernatural love from Heaven. As mentioned earlier, even Jesus’ correction was filled with love, for He purposed to help someone come out of sin, not to make them feel guilty and condemned.
God’s supreme supernatural love is forever, enduring, unconditional, steadfast – it never changes. “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us: but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us,” 1 John 2:18-19 tells us. Without Philadelphia, brotherly love, we have nothing and are nothing in God’s sight. We will all be known by our love.
Question #3: Financially, having a chronically ill child is a burden and, when I have so many appointments and need to be with my child, I leave my job to care for a child. How do I deal with feeling like I am not contributing to the financial need as I struggle?
This is a tough one for anyone dealing with the financial burden of a chronically ill child. Personally, we would have gone bankrupt many times over had it not been for the grace of God moving through family and friends. Not only was Sophia ill ten years, I too had to deal with my own physical illnesses centering around autoimmune disease, which of course compounded the financial dilemma. Even when I wanted to work (and I love working!), it was out of the question. For one thing, I could not leave Sophia, and the second thing, I could not have done the work even if I had someone to care for her needs and get her to and from doctors’ appointments. It is a huge strain feeling as though you have nothing to contribute.
My solace and resolve with the matter came when I finally released the burden to the Lord. It sounds like a trite thing to say as though “Oh, just give it to God” is an easy thing to do. It is, in fact, not. It isn’t a matter of faith, or at least it wasn’t for me. Rather, it was feeling like I was utterly useless in the arena of contributing to the welfare of the family. Michael was left working ridiculous hours in the attempt to make ends meet. I would be embarrassed that family and friends, of necessity, would have to pitch in to help financially. That alone was disturbing to me, not that we had to accept charity as I’m all for charity, but that we had to receive so much of it. Once I looked at things differently, I was at peace.
I had to stop looking at things as, “Poor Michael, he’s so put upon with the burden of a sickly child and wife who cannot contribute.” I began to see through the single vision of God. I allowed Him to help me get over myself and recognize His grace and mercy through it all. Michael didn’t feel the way I did, so why should I? I could finally see that Michael was appreciative that I would give my time to properly nurture our daughter, to forfeit making more money for the purpose of meeting our child’s needs. When people would give to us, it wasn’t because they felt obligated, but because they love us so much that they willingly gave of their own so that we would not do without. This is biblical! I had to completely alter my fleshly way of seeing so as to become awakened to a heavenly perspective. God’s hand has been upon us since the beginning. I had to learn to value my role in taking care of our family. Michael was fine with dealing with the financial end while I stayed home taking care of everything else.
A mother, or in some cases, a father, grandparent, or other caregiver, must allow themselves to see their own worth and value their contribution to the family unit instead of feeling “less than” simply because they do not directly contribute financially. It’s all about our vision. It’s all about perspective and perception. Just because we see it one way does not make us accurate in our limited assessment. We must get over ourselves, get over feeling sorry for ourselves as though we don’t matter or that we are not as valuable to the family as the financial contributor. It’s actually very self-centered, prideful in fact, to feel sorry for ourselves and feel less than worthy. If we are doing what we need for our child, we are doing our part. In fact, we are freeing the non-primary-caregiver to go and make money so that they are not burdened with what we do.
Hebrews 13:3-6 reads, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them. And those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” Look at it this way in accordance to Hebrews 13: your child is, in a sense, the prisoner in his or her own body. They are ill-treated by their illness. In this, we must be free from the love of money so that we can join them in their imprisonment so as to aid them. It is more important to help than to make money. “Do not be afraid,” is our direct instruction, because the Lord has not abandoned us. Our rest and our peace is in the hand of the Lord.
Question #1: How do I handle watching other healthy children who easily forget about my child; those kids who move on and don’t look back. There are days when it is just too much as a parent and I want to escape from it all, but I know I can’t because my child cannot so I just continue feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad.
As a parent of a child who was chronically ill ten years and, though recovering, still has bad weeks here and there, I can attest to the frustration and deep sorrow a parent feels watching healthy children live their lives with no thought of your sick child. I can’t count high enough to recount all the times I would be in church or around people with healthy, thriving kids and feel so compelled to cry aloud that I could scarcely contain my sorrow and utter agony. It isn’t that we want the well kids to be ill, rather we desire for our own child to have the freedom to run, grow, and thrive like their peers.
There is truly an inexpressible pain a parent feels watching their unwell child day in and day out with no signs of improvement. If one is not careful to self-adjust, jealousy can set in quickly. For those who know the Word of God well, you are aware that jealousy is a murdering spirit. It will annihilate the best of relationships, yourself, and those around you. Most parents don’t equate these feelings to jealousy but, if we are honest and if we look deeply enough into our soul so as to access the root problem, it is jealousy at its worst. I defer to I Corinthians 3:3 which reads, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrels among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”
Most liken this Scripture to different circumstances, but I believe it aptly describes the root of a parents’ problem when we feel such things. It is veiled jealousy in so much as it doesn’t at all feel like jealousy. It feels more like just wanting the best for your kid. This is how jealousy attacks – it is disguised as love. We want so desperately for our child to be well that we begin, in our heart of hearts, to pine after wellness. This pining, per se, comes from pure motives yet morphs into sin, the sin of jealousy. Believe me, I have experienced this first-hand and it is ugly! I’m not generally a jealous person so it took me quite by surprise when I felt it so strongly the first time. If I’m being completely candid, the spirit of jealousy stems from pride. Allow me to explain.
When you or I are in a situation we do not understand, do not like, and is altogether gut wrenching, after a while, pride says, “You and your child deserve better. God is not in love with mankind as a whole, and definitely not you or your child personally. If He were, this would not be happening. How can such a good God allow such heartbreak and agony?” The thing with which I had to come to terms is that, if I am to tell the absolute truth about the matter, we all deserve hell because of the sin-sick nature of mankind. Anything short of hell is a bonus, at least so far as I can tell. In other words, anything less than hell is God’s intense mercy on me, my child, or anyone else on planet Earth. I recognize this can sound harsh but, I promise you, this is how I had to bring myself back to reality and by “reality,” I mean God’s truth v. my skewed perspective of how I believe things should be.
I like to reference Job in these matters. Job suffered and initially blessed God. He lost everything except his nagging wife. Eventually, he suffered intense bodily afflictions. By chapter 30, Job was complaining about his poor estate. Chapter 31 shows Job defending his integrity. By chapter 32, the young prophet Elihu rebukes Job as led by Holy Spirit and this goes on several chapters. By chapter 38, God rebukes Job intensely because of him defending himself and demanding the counsel of the Lord so as to question Him. Chapter 42:1-6, the last chapter, Job is humbled in the presence of the Lord and says to God, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear me now, and I will speak. I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job repented. This is crucial to understand in any case of intense, long-term suffering of any kind. Job plead his case expecting God to “fix things” due to how well and long he had served the Lord. This point of view was ungodly and wrong in every way. In the end, once he repented the situation (surrendered to God’s holiness), his life was Spirit-filled instead of based on “things he didn’t really know.” In the end, life was better than before the trial started. God had a plan Job could not see or understand at the time. All God wanted him to do was relent, surrender, and watch and wait for God’s supernatural hand to move.
What is my point? As parents, we want the best for our children. When, in our exhaustion, we get caught up into the emotions of the situation, we cannot see clearly. More specifically, we cannot see God clearly, even though we say with our lips, “I believe. I have faith in God.” Too often, we say it out of habit, but not truly from the heart of faith. We are frequently so irritated that God isn’t healing our child as we believe He should or fast enough, we completely lose perspective. By “perspective” I mean heavenly perspective. We are to set our minds on things above and not things of this earth and illness itself is of the earth. Our focal point is wrong. Other healthy kids as a focus is incorrect. Our child not healing fast enough is not the correct focus. We are to be sober and vigilant in our communion with the Lord. The only way to combat the jealousy is to request of the Lord a change of perspective instead of constantly begging for a change of situation. Playing the comparison game in our minds is terribly misguiding.
It is completely natural to want our kids to be like normal, healthy kids. I feel the same way. However, normalcy should not be our goal. Holiness and God’s perfected will in every matter should be. God has made us supernatural in His image once we receive His Spirit. My favorite author, Watchman Nee, said something to the effect that God’s people are usually too quick to beg to be well when, all the while, we should have the patience to see what God is doing in the trial, and he was a man of severe ongoing suffering. I agree. The body in which we dwell is flesh, which means it is flawed due to the entrance of sin into the world. Some bodies hold up better and longer than others. I have no explanation as to the selection of who is who. What I do know is that, as a parent specifically, we get terribly caught up in the emotion of dealing with our children and, in our emotionalism, we miss the hand of God. We pray the wrong prayers or with the wrong motives, though we are sincere.
For me personally, I had to regularly and repeatedly take my eyes off my child, off other children, off what I believed should happen and when, and begin to praise the Lord for His goodness and mercies which are new every day. What I am saying is not for the novice Christian but rather for the one who desires the perfect will of God in everything. It doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions, that we don’t ever feel frustration, sadness, or irritation. It does mean we must filter all our emotions through the Spirit of God. We must inquire of the Lord, “What should I pray? What should I do or not do? Reveal to me how to rest amid this horrific storm. Father, I believe, help me with my unbelief. I trust You with my life and the life of my ill child. I thank You, Father, that You are more in love with my child than I ever could be because they are Yours first and then mine secondly. Father, orchestrate my footsteps. Lead me to the right place so that I will properly do my part as a parent, but help me relinquish the other parts which are not mine to fix. Thank You that those other children are healthy and do not know the anguish of my child. Help me to set my mind on things above, to meditate on Your Word night and day, to be sober minded and vigilant in Your will above my own, to see as You see, to respond in accordance to Your righteousness, to cast down imaginations and strongholds, and every high thing that exalts itself above the name of Christ in my life, and to think on whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and of praise. I surrender this situation to You completely. Thank You for the rest which only You can supernaturally provide for my soul. Selah.”
Chapter 9: Strangers and Prisoners
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:47, NAS)?”
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…(Hebrews 13:1-3).”
Do you remember the question, “who is my neighbor?” Well, here it is again. Not only are we cautioned to love our brothers (which can often feel virtually impossible), but here we are encouraged to do the same with those outside our brethren. Are we who are extending love to those within the body only doing so at the least possible level, or are we pushing ourselves to go beyond our borders and love those without? We never know to whom we are showing kindness or hostility; we don’t know who may be an angel among us.
And more than that, what if they’re not an angel? What if they’re just some random person who needs kindness, a comforting word, or God’s love expressed to them? We are not to choose whether or not we love our brothers or love our neighbors or strangers or prisoners; we are to love all people at all times, even when admonishing someone.
I love the line in Hebrews 13: “…since you yourselves also are in the body.” Prisoners are a passion of mine because I recognize the undisputed fact I too could be behind physical bars if I had remained married to my first ex-husband. Someone was going to get hurt somewhere along the line! I could have been pushed to do something untoward given the demonic nature in which he operated. Any number of things and circumstances could have led me down the wrong path and caused me to do something prison-worthy. No one knows of what we are capable until a situation arises.
Furthermore, there are people not behind physical bars but behind internal bars, chains, and other barriers. “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them” states Hebrews 13. We are in the body therefore we could do something stupid at any moment should the flesh get the better of us. In this, we must all be compassionate toward those who most folks deem unsavory. We would be wise to remember how our flesh acted prior to surrendering to Christ. I am painfully aware I must surrender the nature of my flesh daily. Just because I live in a fleshly shell doesn’t mean I need to be driven by it, though it genuinely wants to take the wheel of my life.
Those who are externally or internally imprisoned are so because, somewhere along the line, the flesh got the better of them. Neither you nor I are exempt. Have compassion. Have mercy. Lend prayer. We never know what stranger or prisoner may be an angel in disguise, but don’t be motivated to kindness because of that as if to think, “I don’t want to mess with an angel!” Perceive everyone as someone in need of the same love Christ extended to us in our time of need.
Chapter Sixteen: Bearing One Another’s Weaknesses
This is a subject near to my heart as it has been grossly misinterpreted by most. Have you ever had a loved one in dire need of assistance and, since you want to ‘bear their burdens’ according to our Lord’s instruction, you get dragged into their chaos and feel more burdened than they? It happens all the time. We think we’re doing right by people when we engage in their problems and we wear ourselves out trying to help when all we do is feel as bad or worse and no one gets actual aid.
We must keep the ‘bear one another’s burdens’ in proper perspective with the fullness of the Word. To be sure, the only way to accomplish this daunting task too big for mere mortals is to first be a person who casts their own cares upon the shoulders of Christ. We must learn to, and I quote, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
If we cannot care for ourselves in such a manner allowing ourselves to be burden-free through Christ, how can we consider attempting to help someone outside ourselves? We will only further exacerbate our own problems and theirs. It goes back to the question, “Why worry?” If I as a minister, wife and mom cannot cease worry about my own, what good would I be to another? How could I rightly say to one in need, “Trust God” if I’m not doing it myself? I can teach others to pray with power and authority, faith and praise because I first practice it myself with my family. I first must surrender before I can call someone else to surrender.
When I do this, I can indeed help bear another’s burdens because I can, with ease, lead them to the Christ who bears my burdens. Then, we are both free of burdens. Burden-bearing is about no one but Christ alone, the one bearing the entirety of the burden. All roads lead to Christ and Christ is the only road to God the Father, the quintessential burden-bearer.
In summation, the first step in bearing another person’s burdens is to make sure you, first and foremost, have cast your cares upon Christ. Then, and only then, will you be equipped with the power and presence of Holy Spirit so as to lead them to the One who can lighten their heavy load.
My personal self-evaluation: If my yoke is hard and my burden is heavy, I have not cast my cares upon Him and a recalibration is required. With all I’ve endured with mine and Sophia’s health, when things became too hard and heavy, I consult the King and resubmit my troubles to the trouble-checker. At that, I immediately experience the relief of such heaviness and go on about my day. I deal with today as tomorrow has enough troubles of its own and will care for itself.
“Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NAS).”
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves (Romans 15:1, NAS).”
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (Romans 14:1, NAS).”
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble (Hebrews 12:12, NAS).”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).