I stubbed my toe, not just any toe, but the baby toe on my right foot. Usually, it wouldn’t matter; I’d shake it off and move on. But this toe I broke about a decade ago. Then a month after that, I broke the “little toe” on my left foot in the same way. To my amazement, doctors do not place your foot in a cast for a broken toe. Instead, they recommend taping the wounded digit to the adjoining phalange for support until it heals.
I remembered that pain the other day when I smacked my toe. I marveled at how God created the foot with its five toes, the balls of your feet, an arch, and the heel to act as one unit. When one part of your foot aches, the entire foot suffers.
The Bible teaches us the same lesson in 1 Corinthians 12, it says,
“For the body is not one member, but many.If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not, for this reason, any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not, for this reason, any the less a part of the body.If the whole body were an eye where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”
God has designed the church body to act in the same way. Yet, sometimes we form bonds with those of similar circumstances and forego opportunities to form relationships with those we have nothing in common.
I noticed this in my early thirties when I battled the fear of singleness. Each year I remained unmarried brought sincere sadness and sorrow upon my heart. I wanted answers and hope. Thus, I asked two older women from my church to disciple me. But to my surprise, each of them refused my request because “we had nothing in common with each other.” They have husbands and children, and I had no one, so they did not believe they could help me. I kept my mouth shut and accepted their rejection.
Now when I think back at that situation, I wished I had challenged the ladies to think about it again by asking, “What did Jesus have in common with the sinners and tax collectors?” (See Matthew 9:9-10) Nothing. Yet, he had dined with them. Later, in the same chapter, Jesus healed the woman with a hemorrhage and brought back to life the Synagogue official’s daughter. Neither person had any commonality with Christ—yet, he served them because they were believers.
Now, I can’t say what is/was in the hearts of those women, but if we serve others based on our shared experiences, then we are missing the whole point of being one (church) body. Mutual trials do not make us qualified to share the gospel, nor does it provide a greater context in counseling. If we advise on shared events, then the Bible loses its power and it no longer acts as a guide on how to face life’s difficulties. Instead, “recipes for success” in parenting, marriage, overcoming depression, illness, etc., become individual acts, and we live autonomous from God.
Now, there are times when someone comes to your attention who suffers from something we cannot relate to, and the most helpful counsel to soothe his or her heart escapes you. What do you do? Well, here’s a wild idea: read to them. Last year I read the biography about the marriage between Susie and Charles Spurgeon, called Susie, by Ray Rhodes Jr. In the book, Rhodes states that Charles often felt depressed. After a long day when Charles felt weak and discouraged, Susie read to him. She found that reading calmed his spirit and allowed his mind to rest. That time also benefitted Susie and created a beautiful bond between them.
Reading the Bible or a book about suffering to someone not only fills your mouth with words of hope, but it provides companionship and unity. Therefore, the goal is not only to attempt to serve but to take responsibility for the lives God places in our paths. As Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, as we have an opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”