The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.
This poem has been running through my mind as some of our dearest friends are walking through a valley of suffering (and I have a few sorrows of my own, too). Being beneath the harrow is a painful place, and the last thing people in that place need is to be preached at from a position of smooth safety.
How then do we show care? I’ve said before, when someone is suffering you don’t have to have experienced exactly the same thing to be capable of care. Any person softened by sorrow is able to show care.
Here are several things that especially comfort me when life feels bad. The first one is a prayer of faith. I would rather have one faith-filled prayer than a hundred prayers resigning me to doom. James 5:15 says the prayer of faith will save the sick; and while that verse is talking about the physically sick, I believe the prayer of faith will do the same for those who are sick at heart.
The second gesture I find comforting is compassionate presence. Just being close, supporting me with small assurances of love and friendship. The life of Jesus was all about being fully present and fully compassionate to those who surrounded Him.
Sometimes when life looks especially dark, I need someone to be a spiritual mentor for me–a follower of Jesus who can help bring me to Jesus. Not because I can’t come to God myself; I absolutely can come to Him at any time with anything. But sometimes when I am weighed down and weak, I cannot find the strength within myself to call on Jesus.
Here’s an illustration from my experience. Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed with life, and I could feel the anxiety ratcheting up and up. My brain and heart locked up and I could not find my way through the maze of sorrows and stresses. Before I knew it, I was sitting at the table with my head in my hands, crying.
Will came to my rescue. “What is bothering you?” he asked, jotting a list down on a piece of paper while I talked. When I finished naming my troubles, he asked, “Can you bring these things that you told me to God?”
“I can’t!” I said through my tears. Will took me on his lap and prayed for me, then he led me through praying about each of my troubles he had written down. By the time we were done, I could feel the anxiety slipping away. At his urging, I took the kids out for a walk (such lovely weather!) and by the time I came home, my heart was at peace.
What if Will had treated me the way the butterfly treated the toad–with sweeping judgment, brash assumptions, harsh correction? Would that have helped me find Jesus? Instead, Will offered faith-filled prayer, compassionate presence, and spiritual mentoring, which was exactly what I needed.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of Christ’s body of believers is the shared suffering. You hurt, I hurt with you. I hurt, you are right there to feel it with me. The butterfly is beneath the harrow with the toad.
If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NASB)
Have you ever experienced the pain of tooth-points while others preached to you from their safe perches? How do you experience care from others in Christ’s body? Do you have a friend who needs your prayers and presence today?