I had just thrown some mousse in my cart that promised to control my curls when I came across a very overweight man sitting on a bench right next to the now closed pharmacy section. He glanced up at me with eyes that mirrored despondency and then looked right back down. His hair appeared unwashed and his clothes were wrinkled and disheveled.
For some reason, I felt the Lord impress on me to reach out to him. “Hi, how are you doing?” I pretended to be perusing the vitamin shelf.
He lifted his eyebrows and looked around as if surprised I would be talking to him. He then gazed absentmindedly at the few items in his cart and muttered, “It is one of those barely making it days. You know… the kind of just trying to survive days.”
My heart ached for him because I did know how one of “those days” felt like and I told him so. He seemed skeptical. So I explained about my brain surgery and how my life had been plagued with chronic pain and horrific neurological symptoms ever since. I explained that is why I was grocery shopping so late.
He let out a halfhearted laugh, “I grocery shop late at night because there aren’t a lot of people. I don’t have to see how they look at me.” As he wiped the sweat from his brow with his oversized t-shirt, I wondered how many people had snubbed their noses or how many looks of disgust this man had endured before he began avoiding people all together? When was the last time someone had engaged this man in conversation? When was the last time he felt worth something?
I struggled to blink back the tears that began to form. As we continued to converse he mentioned how nice it was to speak to someone who could empathize with what he was feeling. I tried to reflect the love of Jesus and reassure this man that he was important. That in his attempt not to be noticed, I saw him.
As I was driving home, these verses came to mind. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)
Jesus willingly experienced the gamut of human emotions; the fickleness and pain of this life so that He could relate to us. So that on those days when we are just “surviving,” we could find mercy and grace in our deepest moments of need.
I don’t understand why, but we tend to avoid God when we are going through a difficult time. Like that man hoping not to encounter anyone to avoid the pain of rejection, we sometimes distance ourselves from God afraid to cling to the only One who can help us.
The Samaritan woman at the well was going to gather her water during the hottest part of the day. With five ex-husbands and now living with a man she wasn’t married to, she chose to gather her water when nobody else would be there. She wouldn’t have to dodge the disapproving stares or pretend not to hear the judgmental whispers of the other respectable women.
But on one of those lonely water trips, she would meet a Man that had been waiting for her. A Man that would tell her everything she had ever done not in an attempt to shame her, but in an effort to free her with the words of living water. Can you imagine the implication that God Himself had sought her out had in this woman’s life? That while she was doing everything in her power not to be noticed, God saw her.
Guess what? God sees us too.
He intentionally allowed himself to experience our humanity so that He would be able to understand what we are going through. Our hope and healing come from Him.
The Samaritan woman’s story doesn’t end there either. She willingly shares the hope and healing she found in Christ with the rest of her village and because of her testimony many of those people come to know Christ as well.
Our stories weren’t mean to end the day we get saved either. God allows us to go through things, sometimes really hard things, so that we can in turn share His love in an understanding way with those who are hurting around us. It is when we understand that God sees us that we learn to see others.
Every now and then, I get a glimpse of the purpose of my suffering. Yesterday as I spoke with a man who needed a friend, who desperately needed to be seen, I am reminded of that purpose.
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