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Touch first, then truth. Presence now, prayers later.

Years ago, while traveling down a remote, country road, I came across an upturned car. Peering inside, I saw a terrified sixteen year old girl, in shock and bleeding. “I can’t feel my legs. Please help me,” she pleaded. Her lower body was pinned under the steering wheel. “I’m going to pray for you right now,” I said and bent a knee, asking for God’s help. About the time I said “Amen,” another guy arrived and immediately crawled through broken glass and twisted metal right up to that poor girl’s side. He held her hand, refusing to leave until the ambulance arrived, even though gas flowed in a steady stream down the asphalt. They managed to free her and then whisked her away to the emergency room.

Spiritually speaking, I did a noble thing that day. No one would disagree the situation called for prayer. Looking back, though, I realize in that moment she required a brave Samaritan not a prayer warrior. She needed someone to enter her crisis, risking the dangers that came with it, more than someone to start the prayer chain.

I’m afraid we Christians in general are pretty bad about that. When people suffer a life wreck – the loss of a loved one, a broken marriage, a destroyed career, a wayward child – we’re quick to pray (“Dear God, be with them…”), share a verse (“We know that God works all things together for good…”), or offer a pithy saying (“God never closes a door…”). Yet we’re slow to jump into the mess and offer practical, tangible aid. Sometimes that means we watch kids, give money, cut grass, sit by a hospital bed, or clean house. Other times it means we do nothing but just be present and listen.

Our record isn’t so good when it comes to letting the suffering grieve, hurt, or get angry either. We offer spiritual triage, assuming it will jumpstart them on the road to recovery, yet are offended when it’s not appreciated or the recovery takes too long. One day, just before Christmas, I was let go from my job as a campus pastor at that time. The mother church faced a financial tsunami and had to make cuts somewhere, which, of course, threw our one-income family into a tailspin. Many assured us of their prayers, shared Romans 8:28, and even reminded us about the God-never-closes-a-door thing, which we appreciated. But the most meaningful encouragement we received came from a text sent to my wife. It said, “We were so sorry to hear Brad was let go. Wow, that really just sucks.” We knew God was with us and that He’d take care of us, but we needed time to deal with the anger, the fear, and the uncertainty that comes with being human. Having someone acknowledge what we felt was comforting.

I’m not dissing or dismissing the spiritual necessities, not at all. The prayers and the Scriptures and even the wise sayings that have brought inspiration and healing for centuries are a huge deal. The suffering want them, though, not at first and all at once but in small doses over time. Like the little gal in the car wreck, they need touch first, then truth. Presence now, prayers later.

What could have been a tragedy that day years ago ended well. I found out later she completely recovered. If I could go back, however, I would have crawled through the wreckage myself. Thankfully, God used it to teach me a lesson or two.

Article by Brad Shockley, Pastor of Pleasant View First Baptist Church

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