In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are told that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we may in turn comfort others in their afflictions with the comfort with which we are comforted by God. I remember reading those verses in the late fall of 2006 and praying, "Someday, Father, let me comfort others because of this."
Our world had completely imploded, and life as we knew it was effectively over. We had been horribly betrayed by someone we loved and trusted. Our family would never be the same again, and the large gaping spiritual and emotional wounds were very slow to heal.
But God is faithful, and He is truly Jehovah Rapha, "the Lord our Healer". He has done much work in all of us in the intervening years, and more and more I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the growth that He has brought through the suffering that began almost 8 years ago.
In the last several years, He has also begun to answer that long-ago prayer. He has provided opportunities to comfort and help others because of His comfort to us through these years. This morning was one of those times. I received a message from a faraway friend asking for help in comforting and helping another family whose world has been turned upside down by the shockwaves of sin.
As I typed a message in response, I prayerfully reflected on the things God used to help and comfort us during those early days, weeks, and even years (and to be honest, still today). I have always been thankful for those people God used in our lives during that time, but today I was blown away all over again by the sacrificial love shown to us by the handful of friends who were aware of the situation.
"Handful" is actually a literal descriptor...in the beginning, due to safety issues, there were five people who knew: two of my dearest local friends and their husbands, and a long-time friend who lived far away, but who listened often by phone and online.
We knew no one else who had walked this path. We searched frantically for resources on dealing Biblically with this type of trauma and came up sadly lacking. We were desperate for help, and we weren't even able to turn to our pastors until several months into the process.
My local friends Jodie and Kathy had no background or experience with what we were dealing with. They were as shocked and overwhelmed as we were, and yet as I said in a previous post,
"They held me up. God used them to literally keep me going when I felt like I couldn't take another step. They carried our burdens. They prayed for and with me when I couldn't pray, and they read and quoted and typed God's Word to me when I literally wasn't able to open my Bible."Not only that, they fed us when I wasn't capable of making a peanut butter sandwich, they cried with me, and they made me laugh when I really wasn't sure I'd ever be able to laugh again. They helped with childcare when I needed it, and helped bring a bit of normalcy to our lives when normal seemed a million miles away.
(Note: This post was started yesterday. I didn't finish/publish it, and this morning prompted more thoughts on the subject. Most of the post to this point is Saturday's thoughts. Much of what comes after this point is Sunday's thoughts. My apologies for any confusion that may cause.)
I said in my response to my friend yesterday, "...they slogged through the sewage with us...and they never once gave any indication that it was an imposition on them...they just loved us and hurt with us."
They truly, truly bore our burdens (Galatians 6:2). It can be very hard to listen...and listen, and listen, and listen, to a hurting friend, no matter the source of that hurt. However, this wasn't your garden variety hurt. Listening to this pain involved being dragged through the gutter of things that most of us don't want to think about at all, much less get up close and personal with--horrid, vile, evil stuff.
And yet they never faltered in being there for us at every step along the way. They got their hands dirty, at times going far beyond listening and helping with food and childcare, but actually becoming involved in the situation itself in ways that took them far, far out of their comfort zones.
This morning, Bro. Gary preached on John 13:1-4, where Jesus is preparing to wash the disciples' feet. He talked about Jesus demonstrating love and serving one another, and how we are to follow that example. He talked about the filth there on the disciples feet, and Jesus's willingness to get dirty and humble Himself to wash them. He asked some hard questions about serving.
As he did, I was reminded of this post I started yesterday, and I was overcome again with thankfulness for these friends who followed Jesus's example so beautifully in this area. We are rarely called to wash physical feet these days, but there are times when we'd much rather wash stinky, filthy physical feet than answer the call to meet the needs of those around us in true servant humility.
I have no doubt that given a choice, my friends Jodie and Kathy (and their husbands) would have much preferred a one time foot washing experience (even given a strong foot aversion involved :)) than the months and years of anguish they slogged through with us.
I am so convicted that in order to follow Jesus in servant humility, we have to be prepared to face things that are filthy and unpleasant. We have to be willing to lay aside our own comfort to meet the needs of those around us. Bearing one another's burdens is a command.
I am so thankful for the example of these friends (and many others through the years) in this area. I am so thankful for Jesus's example, which didn't stop at washing the filthy feet of those fishermen, but which went all the way to the Cross.
I want to be a foot-washing friend. What about you?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
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