I believe the Holy Spirit brings people to mind for a reason. Sometimes I take it as a sign that God wants me to pray for them or to reach out and see how they’ve been. Other times, it’s God’s way of telling me that we’re about to cross paths for a very specific reason. Like a few days ago when I thought about a family friend and, before I had a chance to pick up the phone, she called me to say that she was at a convenience store and one of the employees was thinking about coming to Chicago.
“A woman I know has stage four colon cancer and her local doctor told her that she has maybe six months to live,” my friend said. “She’s too young to just give up and is thinking about coming to Chicago for a second opinion.”
“Does she know who she wants to see?” I asked.
“Someone told her about the Cancer Center of America but she doesn’t know when the doctors there can get her in.”
My friend was hoping I would help the employee with transportation once she found a doctor who could see her. Imagine her surprise when I mentioned that I had the number for an amazing colon surgeon programmed into my phone.
My daughter Katie was with me a short while later when the colon surgeon’s nurse called me back with instructions to pass along to the person in Nebraska.
“After she calls the main number to register, have her call the cancer center to schedule an appointment,” the nurse said.
When I got off the phone, Katie mentioned how nice it was that I was helping a person I didn’t know.
“I’m just doing what I would want someone to do if I were in her shoes,” I said. “Everybody deserves hope.”
“Literally,” Katie said with a smile as she reminded me that the name of the person at the cancer center who was waiting for the Nebraska woman to call…was Hope.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
Every once in a while I come across an article that I love—or learn so much from—that I want to share it with E V E R Y B O D Y. Jennifer Slattery’s post where she shares another author’s thoughts on the difference between easing someone’s burden and unnecessarily taking on another person’s load is one of these articles. According to Sherri Wilson Johnson, a burden is something that has been placed upon us without any wrongdoing on our part (like a birth defect or growing up in an abusive home). A load, on the other hand, is something you have picked up on the road of life and chosen to carry, even though it has made your way harder.
We must never do for others what they should be doing for themselves, yet too often we fall victim to our own tendency to be overly helpful and understandably frustrated when loaded down people take advantage of our niceness. When I think of the countless times that I have rescued someone from their own insubordination, I am appalled by mine. Galatians 6:5 tells us that “each one should carry their own load” yet over and over I find myself ignoring this command, not just at my peril, but also someone else’s.
“We’ve all made mistakes and can sympathize with people who are trapped in a sinful place.” Johnson commiserated. “It is tempting to swoop in and try to pluck this person out of the muck and mire. However, it is not always an easy thing to do nor is it the right thing to do. If this person is stuck or if he is like a stubborn mule, fighting your every effort, then sometimes you must leave him to his own devices. Turn him over to a reprobate mind. Take off your sandals and shake off the dust.”
I am tired of sweeping up after someone else’s stubborn choices. Aren’t you? Galatians 6:7 tells us that “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” so let’s stop getting in the way and take Hebrews 12:1 to heart as we throw “off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and run the race that was meant for us, NOT another sinner, by easing other people’s burdens without taking on unnecessary pain.
When my 14-year-old asked me to drive her to school a few days ago, I immediately told her: “No.”
Katie is notorious for dragging herself out of bed so late that she and her sister barely make it to the bus stop in time. This morning was no different and I was not about to rearrange my schedule to ease hers … until I walked downstairs, took one look at the food on the table that would go uneaten, and decided to show a little mercy instead.
“If you make your bed before coming down for breakfast, I’ll drive you to school.”
“Really?” Katie asked, clearly relieved.
The one person who wasn’t happy was Hollie. Having called me a pushover on several occasions for going back on my word, she couldn’t see that holding a grudge is counterproductive to demonstrating God’s grace. Life is full of trade-offs; and sometimes we have to choose between sticking to our guns and standing for others who are unable (or unwilling) to help themselves.
Never was this more clear than in the scene from last week’s episode of The Middle where Axel shut his fingers in a door and needed his brother, Brick, to free them. Axel’s on-screen predicament made me think of the time I accomplished a similar feat while living in Nebraska. I can remember like it was yesterday: The girls were playing in the front yard; Bill was working in the garage; and I had just walked outside to see how everyone was doing. For some reason, the trunk of my car was open and I decided to close it from where I stood on the passenger side of the vehicle. Without thinking about how my right hand would be impacted as it rested on the top of the car’s rear quarter-panel, I awkwardly reached over with my left to push the lid down and felt a bone-crushing pain the second it locked into place.
Feeling a lot like Flat Stanley as I looked at the tiny opening that half of my thumb had disappeared into, I called out to Bill for help. Unlike Brick—who took his time responding to Axel’s cries—my roommate was quick to free me from the grip of my latest mistake.
Whenever I think about what would have happened if he had not been there to pop the trunk, I thank God for saving me from the unbearable pain and possible loss of my thumb.
James 2:13 says that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” I used to think that this verse was more about conviction than evangelism; but now I realize that people need love the most when they deserve it the least. And if we want to have the mind of Christ, we first need to adopt the attitude where those who make their beds don’t have to lie in them because mercy triumphs over judgment every time.