I was called to the hospital to see a parishioner who had just been informed that she had an inoperable, malignant tumor. She said, as she reached for my hand, “I know that no one can take this from me, but will you hold my hand for just a moment?” I put my arm around her and we both wept. There are times when all we can offer another person is the gift of presence. But that’s a much needed gift. People often ask me what to say when tragedy hits a friend, and I point out that a lot of words aren’t really necessary. Just being there may be enough. Jesus said, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
The Christian faith, when it is expressed by the caring, loving spirit of people, releases us from carrying—Atlas-like—the weight of the world by ourselves. Our world today is in desperate need of “burden lifters”. Words are powerful, and one word can make or break a person’s day. When we’ve gone through some ordeal or some traumatic experience, we are more equipped to reach out to those who are hurting. It is said that everyone is fighting some kind of battle, so wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for encouragement. A good exercise is to try to encourage at least one person a day. We can become wounded healers and burden lifters just by our words or presence.
I was invited to Moss Bluff a few days ago to a “Celebrate Life” service at the Sam Houston High School gym. There had been three student teen suicides in recent months. The “Celebrate Life” service included a rock band, soloists, a dance group, words from local ministers, statements from bereaved parents, prayers, etc. It was a very moving experience, and uplifting as well. Hundreds of teenagers were there and heard statements like: “You are loved,” and “There’s help when you have bad days,” and “The program lists people you can call when you feel depressed”. I take pride in the fact that the event was conceived and planned by my son Steve, who had coached one of the victims. We are hoping this will give other school leaders ideas that will go far beyond Moss Bluff. It is said that most people who take their life, especially young people, don’t really want to die. They are crying out for help. If you are interested in more information, call Steve Blount at (337) 217-9027.
The early church leaders were concerned about those who were struggling. The people at Antioch had been troubled by those who had unsettled their minds with disturbing and destructive words. In the midst of an ugly situation, they chose Judas , called by Barsabbas and Silas, because they had risked their lives for the sake of their faith. These early apostles became the wounded healers and the burden lifters. What we do or say has more effect on people than we realize.
As modern life grows increasingly complex, many people seem to retreat to a simplistic religious mindset which discounts the harsh realities of life. Surely God must be detached from this often messy and even obscene world. Surely God is somewhere up in Heaven, and the best thing we can do is to get out of this horrible mess as soon as possible so that we can go to Heaven and be with God. I saw a sign recently that supposedly quoted God as saying, “Don’t make me come down there!” This line of thinking, however, badly distorts the witness of the Scriptures and undermines our hope for future possibilities, which gives us a taste of victory all along the way. The Scriptures remind us that we can either choose life or death.
There are times when everything seems to be a losing matter. No victories are in sight. “A new heaven and a new earth” seem very unlikely (Rev. 21:1). But as long as there is a glimmer of hope, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to Earth. It seems to me that Heaven begins now, anyway. The hop Jesus offered is a quiet assurance in the midst of outward turmoil. It is the sure confidence in God’s abiding presence even during the most distressing and horrible circumstances. So, let us go on lifting burdens where we can; knowing that there is nothing ahead of us greater than the power of God behind us. Let us remember that after the Crucifixion comes the Resurrection. Amen.