Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
One day and rather out of the blue, or so I thought, God began breaking my heart.
As a missionary, I was used to the term “God broke my heart for …” when it was followed by a particular people group or followers of a certain world religion. Typically, it's said to express a growing, God-given love and awareness towards a specific group. But, this was different. It wasn’t a “people group” - not really anyway.
God began breaking my heart for those hurting, for those battling ongoing health issues.
For the trembling hearts picking up the phone to learn about test results. For those who have cried out every last tear. For those who sit in waiting rooms, who search for answers, who monitor their diet and fear the reactions foods can bring, who struggle day after day behind average faces.
And, for those who have learned to trust God in the everyday at a deeper level than I have ever understood. They live each day more intentionally, celebrating the gifts. They don’t take for granted the health to exercise, to share meals, to learn and develop, to run and play.
This people group, this community of courage and comfort, has risen up around a once-oblivious me.
These are the people who now hug me and whisper, “Yes, I’ve been there. Keep searching for answers, and always trust God.” They pray with me as I wait for answers - words dripping in experience and understanding.
They show up in all places now. They are in the health food store as I debate about supplements. They are a long-lost relative who I haven’t kept up with. They are the friends whose ongoing health battles I have never fully empathized with, to my own shame. These are people far beyond me – ones who have already been treading down this path of unknowns, blood tests, and appointments.
To be sure, I’ve blundered my way through relating to these people in the past. I’m sure I sang out some simplistic line about God being in control and how I’m praying for them in the midst of their heartache. I’m sure I just didn’t really understand at all. I guess it’s not unlike the well-meaning missionaries attempting to minister in other countries and contexts; without understanding and empathy for the people, the best efforts to engage just seem naïve and awkward.
So, I’m learning to walk this road. It's teaching me a deeper confidence, a confidence in God’s goodness and sovereign control. I pray it’s teaching me to rest, to really rest, even in the face of difficulties and fears – because, hopefully, I’m finally coming to understand more deeply that I am secure in my Father’s hands.
And, I pray someday I can be the one, by God’s grace, who has empathy reflecting in her eyes.
I pray my heart, finally tenderized from struggle, breaks right along with another hurting soul. Because, I’ve experienced a beautiful expression of God’s faithfulness and steadying love in having others walk alongside me.
Maybe you’re the one being comforted or the one comforting another. Either way, eventually the roles will reverse, won’t they?
It’s part of taking our place in community with other souls. It’s part of learning to live out our faith with grace and love for each other because, simply, we need each other.
So often, God expresses to us His love through the words of another, His joy through the laugh of another, His peace through the prayer of another. Please know - God uses you, right there where you are, to comfort me, and her, and them, and him. Your life is valuable and necessary for real community.
And, I hope my life can bless you as well. I so appreciate all of you who read these thoughts tapped out on Front Porch, Inspired. Thanks for coming back, and thanks for your encouragement. Certainly, this journey is better together.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7