The dog was barking again. It was another beggar outside. She’s cripple and a widow with six kids and her elderly mother to care for. She’s the third one in the last hour.
As I’m talking to her my phone is franticly buzzing in my pocket. It’s someone else calling for financial assistance. I’ve already gotten calls about five other calls this morning from other people with problems. There’s the guy who lost his job, the farmers who don’t have seed to plant, the in-debt mom trying to pay for her kids’ schooling, the twins whose mom died, the guy who lost three family members in one week, and a seemingly never-ending stream of people who are sick. They all need my help.
And do you know what I’m feeling at this moment? Annoyance! Oh sure, there’s a lot of pity. I have shed my fair share of tears over people here. And only due to the Spirit of the Living God bound to my own is there a “but for the grace of God go I” conviction that I should help.
So I help. But do you know what? Only a few minutes after I finish with the crippled, widowed mother of six, the dog starts barking again . . . only this time I don’t go out. I’ve had enough. “I cannot do this,” I think. “I cannot help everyone.”
It reminds me of a story Jesus told in Luke 11. . . Let’s say you’re in bed one night. You’ve had a hard day, you’ve finally got the kids down and you’re finally asleep in bed. Then, around midnight, the dog starts barking and someone starts pounding at your gate. You look out the door and you see your friend. He calls to you and says, “Hey man, I just had some family stop in unexpectedly. Everything’s closed, do you mind if I borrow some food from you to host them with?”
What are you going to do? asks Jesus. Nothing! The kids are in bed. You were asleep! You will say, “Get out of here, man! I can’t help you right now!”
But you know what? says Jesus. Even though you won’t help him just because he is your friend, if he keeps knocking on the gate and making that dog bark, you’ll help him with anything he needs just to get him out of there!
Man, Jesus knew people well!
Then, Jesus says the famous words, “I’m telling you, ask and you’ll get something, look for it and you’ll find it, knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives, everyone who looks finds and everyone you knocks will have to door opened to them. Dads, if one of your kids asks you for a sandwich, are you gonna give them a scorpion instead? If they ask for a cookie are you gonna give them a copperhead? No! And you guys are terrible fathers! But even so you know how to give gifts to your kids. So how much better do you think the God who created and keeps the world running is at giving you what you need, especially his own, life-giving, empowering, Holy Spirit?” (Luke 11:5-13)
Let me just confess. Most days, I am not a very good father. I am one-hundred percent more like the guy who won’t be inconvenienced until you annoy the living daylights out of him. Again, one of my primary emotions these days is either exasperation or annoyance. Thank God he is not like that. He has the audacity to say, “Eh, bother me whenever you like. Everyone . . . EVERYONE is welcome. I’ll always give, always find you, and always open the door to you.”
In years past, even when things were bad here, I could review the people in my life and unconsciously think, “Whew! Everyone else is doing ok.” Well, not so this year. Literally, there is only one person I know right now that it does not weigh me down with grief to pray for them. This year has been hard for everyone. And these words literally came out of my mouth yesterday. “It’s like everyone I know needs God to help them in some major way.”
Me writing this, and most of you reading this, have so much historically unprecedented wealth and security that it has taken a year like 2020 to make me realize that every single one of us wake up every day vitally in need of God’s help. The fact that one of my primary responses to the suffering around me is annoyance and self-pity is proof positive that I need Jesus’ help (or I will continue as a pretty terrible person). We will never know the pain and suffering that people in a place like Madagascar deal with day to day. Yet still, if God does not help each one of us, we will die without his life-giving Spirit in us. We think social distancing is bad; we’re all in danger of being separated from those we love and the One loves us Himself, if we do not ask God to help us.
It’s true, I get overwhelmed with all the people who need my help. Especially because, as Jesus points out, I’m not all that special. But he is. And I need his help. We all need his help. And thankfully, because he’s not like you or me, he’s never annoyed by that.