By President Randall A. Bach
“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us”Mark 9:22, ESV
A dad had brought his mute son, who was given to violent and injurious convulsions, to Jesus (Mark 9:17-27). Although it would be faulty to ascribe demon possession to all people who evidence such symptoms, in this case Jesus recognized, identified, and called out a demon to deliver the boy. But first, Jesus asked how long the son had been experiencing these episodes. The dad explained that it had been from childhood, adding details to describe how painful and destructive the episodes had been.
Who knows how old the son was at that time? Likely, the dad had been caring for him for years, and there is no mention of the boy’s mother. We can only conjecture, but it appears that all the caretaker load was perhaps upon the dad, who was desperate. He had exhausted the limited options available to him to help his son. He had nowhere else to turn, and he saw hope in Jesus.
Take just a moment to role play with me. First, place yourself in the position of the dad. Allow yourself to feel his desperate need to help his child. Now let your heart feel the fear about what will ultimately happen to your child, the anguish because of how much pain he or she is experiencing, and the frustration at being able to do absolutely nothing to help him or her. Desperation is the definitive term. You are ready to try anything and listen to anyone who might offer even a glimmer of hope.
Then, picture Jesus walking into your life. He asks a caring question about your child. Then picture yourself asking Jesus if He would take compassion and do something to help. Desperation can lead to boldness, no matter your personality.
One more role play. No, you can’t pretend to be Jesus, but you can picture being the one to whom a desperate person appeals for help. Can you identify with or feel inner responses like these? “I’m busy.” “I can’t help everyone.” “I have done my part already.” “This is not a convenient time for me.” “I take care of my own, and others can do the same.” Can you feel what it would do for your heart if you reached beyond inconvenience and other circumstances to help that suffering person?
Frankly, I have been in both places. I’ve been the person who has so many reasons why he can’t help and the person who chose to step out of comfort, busyness, and whatever other excuse to help someone who was hurting. I feel blessed by the latter and convicted about the former. Truly, you and I cannot help every hurting person in the world. We are not responsible for all that weight. All we can do, and that which we can do, is obey the Holy Spirit.
Notice the father’s plea again: “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” There are three components to this phrase:
- If you can do anything
- Have compassion
- Help us
The father did not demand specifics. The words “if you can do anything” provided latitude for a response. The junction between “if you can do anything” and the desired action was the heart, the center point of compassion. Frankly, you and I need to allow our hearts to first be responsive to the Holy Spirit. Action will follow if we are obedient. The heart leads to action, so we need to allow the Spirit to lead our hearts.
The number of needs is overwhelming. You and I cannot possibly minister to all of them. However, our response cannot be “Since we are not able to minister to all of them, we will minister to none of them.” What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today? Who is He placing in front of you? Who is He touching your heart about helping? I confess that I can allow all those justifiable reasons for not helping to act as a guard on my heart. We do need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), but guard it against the enemy of our hearts, not the Holy Spirit. We must swing the door open wide to the Spirit of God.
Lord, please forgive us for the times you wanted us to help a hurting person but we declined. Sensitize our hearts to hear and listen to the voice of your Spirit. Help us to see people instead of looking past or turning away. Help us to hear instead of covering over. Fill our hearts with compassion that is compelled by your Spirit. Show us what the “if anything” role is for us. Thank you for your mercy and grace in our lives. Thank you for opportunities to be your extended hand of the same to others.