By nature most of us run from pain. We make plans to protect ourselves. We order our lives to experience happiness. We do everything possible to avoid anything that will remotely hurt or cause discomfort.
But when we look at the life of Jesus, he models something all together different. He reaches out and touches pain. He heals those who are sick. He dines with the outcast and hurting. He communes with the struggling and the broken. He steps into their distress. He visits them, and when doing so He ushers in hope, healing, and restoration to them.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction [distress], and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Maybe in running from pain we have become stained by the world? Maybe we have taken the lie hook, line, and sinker that to be happy is to be safe, physically and emotionally, and avoid all risk and sadness. But we live in a broken world full of loss and pain. There are highjacked dreams. There are widows. There are orphans. There are fatherless children. There are single parents. There are fractured families. There is sickness. There is death.
If we look at James 1:27 it says that we, the church, are to express and embody a religion that is pure and undefiled by visiting orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping ourselves from being stained by the world.
[Photo by Craig Thompson]
What does it mean to “visit”? It means to step towards them, to be with them, to spend time with them, to be present with them emotionally and physically. It means to take action, not sit passively by. It means to go.
“In their distress” means to step into their pain. Where there is affliction there is brokenness, chaos, and mess. When we step into distress we are choosing to sacrifice comfort and face pain head on. But as followers of Christ, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we can be His hands and feet of shalom and peace in pain and in chaos.
November is National Adoption Month, as well as the time at Fellowship when we highlight opportunities to support Department of Children Services and children in foster care. I would ask you to prayerfully consider where God might be leading you to enter in? Maybe it is adoption? Maybe it is foster care? Maybe it is supporting financially? Maybe it is sponsoring a child through Point of Impact in Honduras? Maybe it is ministering to single moms? Maybe it is mentoring at risk youth to break a cycle of fatherlessness in our city? Maybe it is ministering to the elderly?
We are not told to rescue. We are told to enter in. Only Jesus can rescue and transform. Only Jesus can heal and redeem. But we are to visit. We are to be available, to be His workmanship, His hands and feet, and His body to those who need it.
I can promise you, if you open your heart and ask Him where you are to visit, He will lead you. He will not let a willing follower sit passively. I can also promise as you enter into the pain of others something transformative will happen in you. You will be purified and sanctified. You will find gifts and deep abiding joy waiting on you. In their suffering, they have something to offer you. We need one another. It’s not about them needing us. It’s about us both needing Jesus.
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