The Bible makes it clear that the life of the Christian is to be marked by caring for others. We are called to live an “other-oriented” life. So how do we demonstrate that we care for others? My experiences as a pastor and a husband have taught me that it is more about making contact than finding a cure.
My greatest teacher in the school of life has been Kim, who is my wife and my best friend. I simply can’t count how many times she has come to me to share some situation she was dealing with—whether as a mother, a sister, or a friend—and the only thing I could think of was declaring the appropriate “cure,” so I could cross that issue off my list and get on to the next thing. In other words, I was quick to find the cure without ever taking the time to really connect and make contact! And more often than not, all Kim wanted me to do was simply listen and connect, rather than offering up some lame cure.
Caring is about contact far more than it is about a cure. You see, in God’s economy, we are to be the tangible evidence of His care, and the only way we can be that evidence is by making contact at a heart level with others. I call this the ministry of the presence. Sometimes the best ministry we can ever do is simply by showing up. We demonstrate that we care for others by simply being there for them!
Those of us who are familiar with the book of Job tend to think of Job’s three friends as “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2), who were long on opinions and bereft of any empathy. We often forget that immediately after Job lost everything, his friends were there for him—they simply showed up and shut up and let God use their contact as a ministry of caring.
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)
In their seven days of silence, Job’s friends were wonderful comforters! I think many of us hesitate to go visit a Christian brother or sister who has just experienced some personal disaster, such as a death in the family, because we feel like we wouldn’t know what to say that would be wise and godly and comforting. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to say anything! Just sit there and listen and love them with Christ’s love. Job’s three friends were doing great until they started to speak!
Kim will tell you that early in our marriage I was very much like Job’s friends . . . after their seven days of silence. I had an answer to every question she wasn’t asking and a cure for every ill that needed no cure. I have learned the hard way—and through my wife’s gracious, patient ministry—that we can express our caring far more powerfully by making contact rather than finding a cure!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!