The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18)

A few years ago, I was deeply disappointed by a response from a Christian friend about another Christian family we both know.

This particular family has experienced unbelievable stress with their children, finances, housing, jobs, and illness.  As we were all reunited at an event, I had the opportunity to listen intently to this family’s story in more detail than ever before.  My heart broke for them.

Later that evening everyone gathered again to spend time together which included an exciting game of kickball.  Unable to attend because of my health, I later heard stories of the sweet memories from that night and renewed connections made.

While reminiscing with the friend I previously mentioned, I expressed my deep concern for this suffering family.  Her response, “I’d rather play kickball with people than get involved in their lives.”

Seriously?  Is that what God has called us to do?  Are we just here to kick a ball around, eat pizza, share a few laughs, and go on with our own lives totally detached from the suffering of others?

I get it.  People’s lives are messy!  My life is messy! Sometimes once we see the mess in it’s entirety our opinions about others are changed, usually for the worse.

Is it better then to sit from afar so that we can criticize, condemn, and judge the lives of others?  Well, I can say that the latter is much more convenient.

Furthermore, could this attitude of detachment be one of the biggest roadblocks in Christian communities, churches, and families?

I’m all for healthy boundaries in relationships, but I also want to serve in the way God intended.

The kind of sacrificial love it takes to involve yourself in the sufferings of others can be exhausting and frustrating.  But if we are to live as Christ lived, if we are to follow the example God set before us, then shouldn’t we be committed to help carry the burdens of others who are suffering?

Ask yourself the question, do I actively pursue my brothers and sisters who are feeling crushed in spirit?  Are their burdens also my burdens?

Or are they an afterthought? Additionally, is the motive of my service obligatory in nature?

I constantly have to question my own motivation when helping others!  Unfortunately, more often than not my heart is NOT in the right place.  I am selfish that way, and I need God’s help in that area.

Consider that those who are suffering are not an afterthought to the Enemy who seeks to devour and destroy them!

Yet, we as a church can potentially become so preoccupied with our own lives and our own criticisms of others that we allow the “brokenhearted and crushed in spirit” to become easy prey for our enemy.

As you probably know, my husband and I have adopted a total of seven children, five of whom still live at home.  Additionally, we fostered several other babies along the way.  We have quite an array of experiences to share from that time.

Since I’ve been chronically ill from a young age, we always questioned the veracity of what we considered to be our mission field of fostering and adoption.  The question in the back of my mind has always been, “Are we truly called by God to take in children when I have life-long illnesses that will cause my health to significantly deteriorate over time at a much more rapid rate than a healthy person?”

The answer has been a resounding YES!  In recent years, I’ve experienced such a decline in my health that it has made me question our decisions all over again.  At times, I’ve felt inadequate as a wife and mother which has led to me thinking our past decisions must have been a mistake.

I know that’s not true, but more importantly I realized something else.  While praying recently, I asked the Lord the following question.  What if the physical and emotional stress of our past decisions caused my health to deteriorate?  In other words, what if there is a cause-and-effect relationship?  And if this were the case and I could go back and change everything, would I (for the sake of not having to experience my present suffering)?  God’s asked me the question, “What if it did?”

What if my present suffering was caused by the sacrifices we made in following God’s call on our life?  What would I have done (knowing this ahead of time)?

With great earnestness, I have meditated on these questions, and God put the following Scripture on my heart.

“Greater love hath no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

Jesus showed the most profound act of love by laying down His own life for me.  He was obedient to God even unto His own death on the cross.  Why then, would I not be obedient in His calling for my life even to the point of sacrificing my health and comfort?  For decades, I’ve requested God to make me uncomfortable enough in this life so that I learn to be completely dependent on Him.  I realize now that my decision was made a long time ago – whatever the cost, I am willing pay.

As a family in Christ, my hope is that we will continually examine our lives in this way.  I am challenging myself and others to live according to the example God has set before us – by being the hands and feet of Jesus –  by helping the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit!

But be prepared, it’s going to get messy!