Be the Brave Compassionate Friend (Feel the Pain)

Mark 9:14-29 tells this story of this father who cared for a son who was tormented by seizures and by a spirit of self-destruction. The boy needed constant watching because he would throw himself into fire or water to self-harm. This father was “on” all of the time to keep his son alive. This father was desperate to save his son and desperate for rest himself. So he brought the boy to the spiritual leaders for help.

This is how the story opens. We see these spiritual leaders arguing about how to help the boy. Instead of helping the boy or the father they are spewing their wise words to offer advice and point fingers. They probably offered some platitudes and a drive-by prayer. But they never entered into the pain of the father or the boy. They showed little compassion. Even the disciples of Jesus removed themselves from the pain of the father and the boy by entering into the knowledge debate.

Meanwhile the father is desperate. These spiritual leaders didn’t understand his pain.

Jesus enters the holy church huddle and says, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” V. 19.

Yikes. Not what anyone wanted to hear.

But then Jesus turns to the father and shows compassion asking, “How long has this been happening?” V. 21.

Finally the father feels heard. Feels seen. Like there might be some hope.

With just that flicker of hope the father cries out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” v. 24.

Hardly a profound statement. Hardly a bold declaration of faith. Or is it?

We are a mix of fear and faith.

This is exactly how I feel when my heart is smashed. I believe God is for me but right now I believe God has abandoned me.

This is why platitudes don’t touch my pain. This is why drive-by prayers are appreciated (because I do believe prayer changes things) but I am also so overwhelmed in my pain that I don’t see the end of my pain. I am a desperate mess and I need someone to see this mess with me.

Has anyone ever told you that your pain is too loud? 

Do you feel like you are one who people avoid?

People avoid you—or really your pain—because:

  1. They are not comfortable with pain. It makes their world uncertain.
  2. Their own doubts about God are triggered. To see your pain triggers doubts that God is cruel.
  3. They want to use some sort of invulnerable magic to take away your pain. When that didn’t work, they are uncomfortable.
  4. They minimize your pain.
  5. They believe you cannot be angry at God. That we should not question God.

All of these are not helpful when you just want this pain to end and to know that God did not abandon you. Can someone see you in this?

We need this gift of people who are not afraid of our pain. I wrote a book to help you become that kind of person. There are 3 pages of a list that is very helpful. We have enough holy huddles of advice and finger pointing.

To be this kind of friend to me means you are not afraid of your pain either. The Bible says that God places words and commandments for kindness and decency upon our hearts. Why are these words placed upon our hearts and not into our hearts? It is because we keep our hearts closed by being busy or tired or distracted.

So the holy words are placed on top of our hearts and there they stay until that one day when my heart breaks and the words fall in.

I am not afraid of your pain. May you find people in your life who are not afraid of your pain and who will carry you through until you can declare bravely, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”


New Bible Study:  Trust Issues with God With Video

Life is unfair. When the unfair thing happens, we look for a reason, a solution, a purpose, justice. These are all things we expect from God. When God doesn’t deliver when we expect or need him to, there is a gap in our understanding of who God is. This Bible study is to help you fill in that gap with trust over suspicion by exploring the truths of the Bible, both individually and in a group setting.

Order here: