We often rush to sympathise at the first sign of tears. Lend a shoulder, extend handkerchiefs and utter smooth words. Words about silver linings and end-of-tunnel lights.
We lavish our attentions and prayers on the obviously overwhelmed and visibly vulnerable, and we forget that the absence of tears is not equivalent to an absence of pain.
In an age where eyelids barely flicker in the presence of exposure and over-sharing is the order of the day, we tend to pass by that which is not immediately obvious.
This generation rarely asks “How are you?” except in passing, and the speed with which we continue on our way leaves the hearer pondering: “Why.”
No question mark.
We have come to expect announcements and, therefore, we neglect to ask because we have come to believe that anything worth knowing is posted in Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds.
There are silent sufferers who would say much if they could figure out how to articulate their thoughts in the midst of their storms. Storms that threaten to rob them of life and sanity but take their ‘voice’ instead.
If you tried to walk a mile in their shoes, you would find them a tight fit.
They remain voiceless, not because of faulty vocal chords, but because they fear they will not be truly heard. If only there was an expression of interest that conveyed the rumblings of compassion on the move.
Where would we be if Jesus waited for tears to fall before he could be moved to action? What if He never asked the man at Bethesda, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6, NKJV)
This man lay paralysed for 38 long, hard years. The person who had brought him there was nowhere to be seen, and he had resigned himself to his fate.
I have no man.
Isn’t that how it often appears when the rubber hits the road?
He did not ask Jesus to watch with him for the very next ‘stirring’ of the pool. After all, why would this stranger be willing to do what his own acquaintances would not? In my mind’s eye, I can see the shrug that must have accompanied his matter-of-fact response:
Sir, it is what it is… story of my life.
As a student of prophecy, Jesus knew His own day would come. His own familiar friend would lift up his heel against him (Psalm 41:9) and, in his hour of need, his closest friends would flee (Psalm 31:11).
He confronted apathy with hope, because redemption is always possible, even in the darkest hour.
“Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
Somewhere in the darkest depths of human misery, a light dawned. Life-giving, circumstance-changing words from the Creator produced vibrations that affected more than his auditory equipment. Atrophied muscles awoke and his first step was one of obedience.
He arose, took up his bed and walked.
But it all began with a question. Someone chose to look beyond his resigned expression and ask about his desires. He saw Compassion Personified and was never the same.
The One who healed the paralytic at Bethesda calls upon his followers to continue His work, addressing the needs of their fellow humans. And it is important for us to understand that tears are not a good indicator of need.
Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, but tears did not come in his darkest hour. His pores gave up droplets of blood and his singular request was that his friends would watch and pray with him.
Will we also sleep while those within our sphere of influence suffer silently? Or will we remain alert and enquire how we may bless them? The care we lavish upon teary-eyed souls will by no means absolve us of our responsibility to the silent sufferers among us.
Today, step out of your cushy comfort zone and ask someone what you can do to bless them. Their answer may surprise you.
Be ever so abundantly blessed.
Featured image: Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)