During my time here at SMI, I was really challenged with the idea of comforting this neighborhood. Seventeen students gathered to use our talents to not only physically help the city of North Philadelphia, but to also give spiritual support and hope for the spiritually lost. But who are we to do that? These teams are mostly of people that were not from around the area. I can personally say that I do not understand even half of the struggles that they were going through. I never was afraid of losing my father, losing the house I lived in, or getting caught up in the wrong crowd. So who am I to tell someone that God will make it better?
I distinctly remember one household that I was allowed to give a health screening to. My team and I gave this lady a health screening, and slowly the team started to realize how insecure she felt. She had no security in what she had because she had experienced everything being taken away before. I sat there trying to comfort her and telling her how God can use her struggle to make something so beautiful. I asked her if she was ever thankful that she went through a struggle because it either made her stronger or taught her something. Her answer was a flat out no. I honestly didn’t know what to say because I was given the grace of God to see how God shaped my struggles for something beautiful, but she was too sad in the moment to realize that. I kept on trying to think of the right Christian answers to say until our translator chimed in and said something I will never forget.
He said, “You probably have heard that God is good and everything that we are trying to say before, haven’t you?”
Our translator continued by saying, “I know you probably know the right answer because everyone tells it to you, but know even more that you aren’t alone. You can always give me a call when you feel overwhelmed or just need to rant about what is happening in your life. I know that sometimes you just need to get it off your chest and know that there is someone that cares and wants to listen.”
She started crying like a burden had been lifted off her shoulder. It was then that I realized that there was nothing I could have said that would have changed her heart, but it was a small act of love we were showing and our willingness to listen to her story that got her to open up to us.
That is when I remembered how I wanted other people to react when I was hurting, and how I was just as guilty of shoving God in front of people’s faces and expecting it to change their heart. I felt so ashamed that the very thing I was trying to label others for was the exact thing I was doing. I was humbled in that moment to realize that love speaks louder than words, especially against my own words. Only God’s love can touch the heart of people and only God’s words can reach the lost to come back home. Here I was thinking that God was trying to use me for what knowledge I had when I found out later that God just wanted to use me to show love to someone that felt so alone and helpless, just like how I felt last school year. He wanted me to sit with this grieving woman, and I am so humbled and privileged to be used by God in the greatest way I could have.
So I challenge you, readers, to really wrestle with the idea of comforting people. Everyone is different and some do need the truth fed into their lives, but some people just need a friend. The most important part of it all is to walk with the person and be with them side by side. I wish I could have offered the same kind of comfort to the lady as my translator did, but I knew I couldn’t walk side by side with her because I wasn’t from the area. But there are people around me, on my campus and even closer friends, who need comfort and someone to walk with them. What is stopping me from investing that time to show Christ’s love and be used as His instrument? What is stopping you from grieving along with someone that is hurting?
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Claudia Cho. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org