“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
Some people seem to thrive with or without other humans in close relationships, though the numbers may not be as large as might appear. Others can’t survive without an abundance of human companionship — touchy-feely relationships are essential. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. But God knows we need human companionship. “It isn’t good for man to be alone,” he concluded at the very beginning. Marriage. And church — we really do need one another even if some of us feel that more acutely than others. And yet, even missionary Paul felt lonely on occasion because members of his team weren’t there. Other members need to be on the alert to reach out to those who are silent in their loneliness, including special care for singles.
But as maturing Christians, we must also be proactive, taking the initiative to find and nurture friendships that are emotionally and spiritual satisfying to both parties. That’s one major purpose of church! If you’re strong and independent you may not feel the need so acutely, but beware! We really do need one another. Besides, others need you! And if you’re “people-addicted,” in some measure of pain without plenty of close relationships, don’t throw a pity party. Take the initiative to build mutually strengthening relationships.
Colin Green greeted me with a big smile and a cheery “Praise the Lord!” Praise the Lord? For what? Here she was, cooped up in the hospital room with that giant of a man she’d lived with for decades, now incoherent, uncooperative, belligerent, far down the terrifying road into Alzheimer’s.
“Why so happy?” I asked. She told me the story of how she found a despondent woman in the hospital corridor, a mother who had traveled from a distant city to watch her son die. Colin, forgetting her own woes, became a friend to her, and led that distraught mother to find hope in Christ. Both were inundated with unexpected happiness as they embraced and mingled their tears. But what about Colin? Bit by piece I dragged from her the story.
Last week her husband broke down the door of their small home to get out of his “prison.” Halfway across the front yard he stumbled to the ground and couldn’t get up. Colin couldn’t lift him, but she was reluctant to call 911 lest they find her beloved in his pitiable condition. He was incontinent and his clothes totally soiled. Colin pulled off his clothes, cleaned him up, and redressed him as he lay there, helpless. Then she called for help!
She spent the night with her man in the hospital, rescuing the nurses from his irrational behavior. The next morning, Sunday, her ne’er-do-well son arrived with bad news: “Mom, your house is going up in flames!” A few hours later I entered that bleak scene, received a warm embrace from that courageous little lady who called me her “family” and whispered in my ear, “Praise the Lord!”
Not everyone responds to trouble like Colin Green. And we need one another in difficult times for encouragement and sharing the burden. Some emerge from the storm better people, some worse. Why?
The crucial thing is not in the circumstances, but in our response to them. Faith in God keeps the circumstances outside, pressing us ever closer to God. We become stronger, better persons, more like Jesus. Unbelief lets the circumstances come inside and put a wedge between God and you or me, and we become a weaker person, less like Jesus than before, perhaps discouraged, despondent, even bitter, or at least a miserable, complaining person. Remember, though, it’s not the quantity or even the quality of our faith, but the object of our faith — a trustworthy God. He is the one who can transform our trouble into strength and beauty. And though this means of grace, difficulties is our least favorite, yet it can be the fast track to spiritual maturity.