There is a difficult problem in that committed abusers will seek to load their victims up with impossible burdens and expectations. It’s a game. Then, even after leaving abuse, a victim may have a massive volume of external and internal balls to juggle. It may well be impossible to manage it all. Talk of peace in that context can hurt. So for those who are suffering in this way, how can you navigate? For those who are watching on, how can you help?
Psalm 131 invites us into a sacred space with God. It’s an invitation, not a requirement. A place where even though the practicalities of life are still real, God sees, and is all powerful. He will not berate you for not being able to achieve the impossible. He is an ally.
My heart is not proud, Yahweh,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore. 1
I am thinking of people right now who just can’t lighten their load. There is no magic wand. They are continuing to suffer. I don’t want to hold out some spiritualised false hope that they will wake up tomorrow and everything will be fine, or at least bearable. It may not.
For victims: if you can make some choices to decrease the load you are carrying, and they are acceptable choices, then great, go for it. It’s not always possible. If you are exhausted from working multiple jobs to stay ahead of bills, I’m guessing you would love to lighten your load. You might be able to name dozens of things that aren’t getting done, or perhaps can’t remember any of the extra things you have on your list because you are too tired and traumatised for your memory to work properly. If that’s you, may I affirm: your life is bona fide difficult, and you deserve praise and help if you want it, rather than criticism or guilt.
Honestly, this includes your devotional life, and emotional life. Trauma affects people’s relationship with God and with themselves in different ways. If you have trouble connecting with God these days, because of the number of hours in the day, because you feel hurt by him, or confused, or some other thing: God is not stupid. He sees the context of your life. He gets it.
What about for those looking on? How can we be good friends? Helping will probably cost. But Proverbs reminds us: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”2 Let’s do all we can to avoid pouring vinegar. We can do that by respectfully engaging with the person who is suffering to find out what kind of help they might really love to have. They might even say none. They might really appreciate “cheering up.” Or, someone to cry with, or complain to. Or money, a meal, some company, help with housework, time alone. They might prefer very specific offers, like, “Can I bring you this specific meal tonight?” Or they might want much more control than that, like, “Would you like some help? What can I do?”
When we engage with people with empathy and respect, and listen well, we have a much better chance of helping in helpful ways.
I hear this psalm as an invitation to come and sit with God, in a safe space. To know that he sees us and our situations clearly. That he has mercy. But we are also called to weep with those who weep, and many of us will have capacity to help lighten another’s load so they, too, can enter into this sanctuary.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Jesus’ choices was his move to enter into human life. To have empathy. To be treated with deep injustice. He incarnated. He entered into our world as an act of love, and mercy, and compassion. As best as humans can, we are called to do the same for each other.
I imagine the whole decision making process among the Trinity, when they agreed on Jesus’ upcoming incarnation and crucifixion, could perhaps be paraphrased as something like, “Those guys aren’t going to get there without our help. Let’s cut them some slack.” Quite sure those were not the exact words used, but Jesus did say later, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”3 And then he followed through.
Steve WadeOne of the most beautiful aspects of Jesus’ choices was his move to enter into human life. To have empathy. To be treated with deep injustice. He incarnated. He entered into our world as an act of love, and mercy, and compassion. As… Click To Tweet