I'm out of town this week and some fantastic guest bloggers are stepping in for me! Today is Jailer, a pastor I "met" through my dad's blog. Jailer's blog is called The Philippian Jailer. In this blog post, Jailer shares an important lesson he's learning as a pastor.
Because the readers of my blog come from a wide range of belief systems, I'd like to give a heads-up that this post is very specifically Christian in nature.
The Brokenhearted: “You’re Going To Need Some Empathy”
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve received notes from two old friends and readers of my blog who’ve been “crushed in spirit.” Both have been abandoned by their spouses in recent years, and have since held on tightly and forlornly to the hope that patient waiting will yet bring their sweethearts home. Shelly writes of the pain:
I am trying to cope with life without Bill. I was hoping he would need me again but that's not the case. I'm praying God will show me what's next. I am waiting for His answers.
Steve’s note is even more heartbreaking, and more personal. His wife Kelli suddenly left him, as well as her son Jimmy, and even her elderly mother Lucy. His letter is both a cry of the heart and a gentle rebuke:
If you are going to pastor your flock, you are going to need some empathy. [Mrs. Jailer] will never leave you after twenty years of marriage, like Kelli left me (and right when I needed her the most). I can read the posts, and I can hear what you guys are saying, but I can't respond because every day I become a little more numb. The very first thing I ever asked God for—and apart from His salvation, my most precious gift from Him—is gone. I cannot go to church, because I cannot bear to sit there alone after [I sat for] so many Sundays with her next to me. When Jimmy leaves me, it will also be time for Lucy to go, and then I will be alone. She will not give up. I too, will not give up, because I know God hates divorce, and I know He brought us together. So I just wait for her to come home. This has been a very cruel four years.
Steve’s words cut me to the core … something has indeed happened to me over the years to rob me of the sincerity of heart with which I used to “mourn with those who mourn.” It’s difficult to express in words more plainly than I said to Steve, so I will simply share them with you:
My dear brokenhearted friend,
You are right when you suggest I lack empathy. To be truthful, I have been observing that I also have grown increasingly numb over the years. Perhaps for me it has been the burden of responsibility or the seduction of ease rather than the pain of a broken heart, yet it is real nonetheless. Please forgive my callousness....
My God and my Savior, I entrust to you my brother Steve, who loves you and whom you have held in the palm of your hand these many years … in whom you take joy beyond our comprehension, and whose tears you have shared … whose broken and contrite heart you have promised to bind up and be close to, and whose crushed spirit you will save....
I ask that you would make me a better friend to him, and that I may again feel my heart break with his pain....
I ask you knowing that you have promised to hear and answer.
I ask you also, dear readers, to join me in prayer for Shelly and Bill, and for the healing of their families (I’ve changed their names, but trust that God knows them). Pray also for me … that God in His mercy would restore to me the empathy and depth of feeling I used to have and share so freely.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Ps 27:13)
The Philippian Jailer
Thank you, Jailer, for sharing your heart with us!