Last year my pastor preached a sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). For most of my life, I have looked to the example of the Good Samaritan in the story, seeing him as an illustration of how I should live. But last year, after having gone through a season of suffering, I began to identify with another person in the story- the man who was robbed and beaten. Maybe you feel robbed of health or a dream or hope. Maybe you were robbed of a relationship. You feel beat down and you feel like someone came and stole all of your joy, and there you are, laying on the side of the road- waiting, hoping, praying someone or something will show up. You might not even know what you need, but you know you need something.
It’s hard in the midst of feeling defeated to know what to do. And the enemy tries in all ways for you to think you are alone and that all is taken from you, after all, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, ESV). From my experience, can I encourage you with two thoughts, that I hope you find helpful?
1) Pray for courage to ask for specific help, both practical and spiritual. Many times people want to help; they just don’t know how (or, if you haven’t told them you are suffering, they might not even know you need help). This is especially true if your suffering isn’t something others have experienced, or, if in your suffering you are like me, and you put walls up that can make it very hard for people to know how to help you. It takes a very bold and fearless person to not let the walls we can intentionally or unintentionally create in suffering deter them from being a Good Samaritan, so we must try to give others grace. And this requires courage on our part to speak up and say, “I need more help than I am getting.” For me, looking back, I know I should have asked for meals and more companionship during my season of suffering. I was not eating and losing weight quickly and having people bring me meals would have been a huge help, especially during the day when Chris was at work. But, many times when people asked me generally if I needed anything, I said no. I didn’t want to inconvenience people, or I thought they should just “know” what I specifically needed, or I was scared that I would contaminate them if they entered my house. So, I suffered more alone (and hungrier) than I needed to if I would have had the courage to say, “Yes, I do need help.” Once I had a friend help me realize this, I did get more practical help and that is when I started to get better.
2) You are not alone; pray for God to help you believe this. Although you may feel robbed of all else, you are never robbed from the presence of God. There is nothing that can separate you from His Love (Romans 8). When you are suffering, there will be arrows coming at you saying things like “God is not faithful” and “He is not near.” It can feel, at times, He has abandoned you. But this is a complete lie. There is nowhere or no one else you can go to receive the help, deliverance, and comfort to meet the deepest longings of your soul that are there for you by God through Jesus Christ (John 6:68; Ps 40). If you believe in Jesus, it is a promise of God that he will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:10). Yes, one of the main instruments God uses to show the love of Christ to us is the church, and that is why we need the body of believers. But sometimes, when it feels like there aren’t any Good Samaritans around, we are tempted to feel completely abandoned. However, when I look back, I see that those times of feeling alone are what God used to bring me to a greater belief that He is truly walking with me every step by his Spirit (John 14:16-17). This is why we need the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It is in Him that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). So pray that God would help you believe and hold on to His promises. Sometimes I pray when I’m anxious, “Lord your Word says that you promise [insert any promises revealed in His Word]; I’m going to trust that you will prove that to be true. Help me believe.” I prayed the words found in Mark 9 a lot during my suffering – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
In this season of Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, God with us. The beauty and power of that reality is never so amazing as it is in a season of suffering. It’s the message that we truly need more than anything. Jesus entered into the pain and suffering of our world and experienced the deepest of suffering himself, all so that we could be in relationship with the Father through Him. What it cost and what was purchased through this process was complete and final and this helps me believe that he isn’t just going to stop being there for me. He knows. He really does know all about suffering and pain because He entered into it freely, willingly, with joy, and in complete obedience.What a comfort that is as we seek to be boldly honest about our true needs and courageously seek to enter into the suffering of others ourselves.
Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In our suffering, we are moving toward restored Hope. So let’s enter into each other’s suffering, let’s let other people enter into ours, and let’s give God all the glory for what He accomplished for us and the work He is doing in and through us, as we walk this life with Him, Immanuel.