Find your way to move toward the hurting. Don’t assume someone else is checking in. Don’t assume someone else will send a meal. Don’t assume they’re overwhelmed with messages and visits. When the trial comes — when sickness falls, when the job disappears, when the marriage collapses, when a loved one dies — assume God plans to meet one of their many needs through you.
Recently, our family was staying with a family we love when they suffered a miscarriage. The wife had just finished her first trimester. The baby would have been number six for them, their second son, a boy they all loved deeply without meeting him. The family wept for hours.
Now, I could say more about the quiet and common pain of miscarriage (my wife and I suffered one early in our marriage), or about what I learned about grief as I watched this family lose this baby together, as a family. But one of the things that struck me most was how the church showed up and loved them in their loss. Because we happened to be staying with them that week, we saw more than most would ever get to see.
The ears were the first to come, leaning in and listening well. But the feet weren’t far behind, arriving early and ready to run errands. Then came the hands, carrying flowers and Starbucks drinks and donuts for the kids. And with them, the arms that wrapped themselves tight around the family and wouldn’t let go. The noses followed, with some of their favorite meals. The mouths were slower than normal to speak, but came with meaningful words of courage and hope. And sprinkled among the rest were the eyes, attentive and filled with tears.
A Hundred Roads to the Hurting
The tangible love we witnessed exposed a profound oneness in that unusual church, but the expressions of that love were anything but uniform. Some came right away; some the next day; some later in the week. Some could swing by for only a few minutes; others stayed longer. Some just dropped something off with a note, to give the family space to rest. Some brought food; others brought an iced macchiato or a taro milk tea. Most of them cried.
It’s hard to describe how unusual and heartbreaking and beautiful the whole scene was. This church had learned how to grieve together, to carry each other’s burdens, to show up in hard moments. So where does this strange, otherworldly love come from? From a strange and generous kind of people.
The apostle Paul saw a scene not unlike the love my family witnessed. He writes to the church at Corinth,
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Corinthians 8:1–2)
The apostle is calling the believers in Corinth to give to the desperate needs of the embattled church in Jerusalem. He’s asking them to find their way to move toward the hurting, even if, in this case, the hurting are eight hundred miles away. To help inspire their generosity, he shows them just how much God can do when a church leans into suffering.
Unlikely Help and Generosity
The churches in Macedonia were not doing well by worldly standards. They were afflicted themselves, bearing the pain and weight of their own hardships. And not just normal affliction, Paul says, but severe affliction — the kind that cuts deeper, spreads further, and lasts longer.
And in the midst this awful affliction, making their valley even scarier and more upsetting, they were running out of money. Again, this wasn’t typical poverty; it was extreme poverty, some of them perhaps putting hungry kids to bed, their hollow eyes searching for hope that tomorrow might be different. Can you hear their parents pleading, through tears and stomachaches, “Lord, give us this day our daily bread”?