A year ago the Lord unexpectedly placed caring for broken families on my heart. As a planner I had all kinds of new ideas forming in my mind about what I could do to serve others.
Thursdays were typically “my day” due to its clear schedule. I could stay home, go make-up free, wear lounge clothes, and sip coffee. My favorite day of the week. It was also the only day I had free to be able to add something to my plate. So I surrendered that day to becoming about Jesus instead of about me.
I began to pray that He would show me where I could serve. I looked into several different opportunities in our area, but nothing seemed to fit. Then one morning I got a message from a friend who wanted to come over to talk. I do not do well with unplanned visits, but I felt the Lord whisper that if I wanted to love hurting people I should be able to love my own friends first. My friend arrived and poured her heart out to me. Life was messy for her (marriage, parenting, finances, decision-making, etc.), and she needed someone to listen and care for her. And so that’s what I did – I listened. I didn’t know what to say. I am not quick with wise words. So I simply invited her to come to church on Sunday.
It dawned on me later that our initial visit was on a Thursday. She was the one who God had sent me to love and serve. He had answered my prayers. We began to meet every Thursday for the next few months.
I jumped in with all hope and excitement certain that the Lord was going to do quick miracles and make everything better. Little did I know that her coming into my life would change me and challenge me in ways I would have never imagined. God joined our lives together, but instead of miracles of healing I became educated in fulfilling the call of Romans 12:15b, “weep with those who weep,” and 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”
God joined our lives together, but instead of miracles of healing I became educated in fulfilling the call of Romans 12:15b “weep with those who weep.”
One similarity between the Bible’s history and ours is this: God rarely unfolds events the way I would, and His timing is often much slower than I would like!
Whether it’s a friend, sibling, parent, co-worker, neighbor, spouse, or even your own child - we all have messy people in messy situations in our lives. Walking alongside and loving them can be tiring, painful, frustrating, and sleep depriving. Why can’t the Lord just make everything better?
Jesus In Messy Places
While reading through Matthew’s Gospel recently the Holy Spirit unveiled my eyes to how consistently Jesus was surrounded by messy people.
And they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them. – Matthew 4:24
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. – Matthew 8:16
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. – Matthew 9:10
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36
And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. – Matthew 14:35-36b
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:13-15
Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, lame, sick, blind, mute, demon-possessed, little children. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it??
Not once did He turn them away. Not once did he complain. Not once did He throw His hands up in the air and proclaim, “This is too much work!”
Not once did he complain. Not once did He throw His hands up in the air and proclaim, “This is too much work!”
Jesus did withdraw to quiet places for prayer and communion with His Father, such as after hearing news of John the Baptist’s beheading: “Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself” Matthew 14:13a.
Surely on this occasion He had a right to be alone to grieve and pray, right? I mean, give the guy a break. He deserves some time away to process what just happened. But look what happens in the second half of the same verse: “But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns" Matthew 14:13b.
Don’t you just want to roll your eyes for Jesus? “Come on guys! Leave Him alone.” If it was you wouldn’t you have said to come back later? But what is our Redeemer’s reaction? “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick” Matthew 14:14.
Putting aside His sadness, Jesus looked on the people and felt compassion for them. And when He had a good excuse to send them away - it’s dinner time! - Oh no, Jesus has a different plan: “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” Matthew 14:15-16.
God in human flesh, with capacity for physical and emotional exhaustion, did not turn away an opportunity to love messy people. He brought and taught the steadfast love of God to our broken planet.
Loving In Messy Places
So how are things going with my friend?
Our Thursdays together lasted months, and now it’s been over a year. There have been good days – days of growth, signs of hope. But things are still very much messy. And it’s exhausting – for her and for me. I thought God was going to do miracles months ago and here we are still seeking, still waiting. Have there been times when I wanted to give up? Yes. Have there been times when I wonder what on earth God is doing? Definitely.
So where do we turn on the days when we feel like throwing in the towel? We look to Jesus who knows what it is to love no matter what. We remember how He loved while He walked on earth. And we trust His promise of strength to endure through the stormy days: “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
We remember, most significantly, that we are messy ourselves, but Jesus does not walk away from us.
"For WE OURSELVES were once
slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy,
hated by others
and hating one another.
when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
He saved us" Titus 3:3-5
And when we feel like throwing up our hands and saying – how will they ever be saved?? What does Jesus say to that? “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
So keep praying! Keep walking alongside the messy people in your life. Let their circumstances bring you to your knees before the Savior who has walked in your shoes. Be thankful that you get to love like Jesus. There will be days of weeping as you walk through the valleys – and one day, whether in this life or the next, the Lord will lead you beside still waters with them. And on that day there will be much rejoicing with all glory and praise going to our Father in heaven!
by: Gen Johnson
Gen eagerly worships Jesus within the RSBC body through gifts of leadership, hospitality, and faith. She is married to Dan and together they parent four great kids.