When the body hurts

Sliding down a riverbank on a winter Sunday afternoon is great fun. Playing casual (very casual) hockey on a homemade rink with a group of friends (some in skates, some in shoes) somehow links a middle-aged body to a great Canadian tradition. And just like the proverbial parent is apt to say, "it's a lot of fun until somebody gets hurt." It was fun. And nobody got hurt—at least, not while we were playing.

In my case, the hurt began that evening and increased over the next few days—aches and strains, scratches and bruises, stiffness and fatigue aplenty. I've lived long enough to know that the predictable after-effects of recreation and indulgence do not merit much sympathy from any quarter. Such ailments must be endured quietly and independently.

But life is chock full of much greater hurts, much more lasting pains, much more grievous assaults on body, soul and spirit. And many miseries simply cannot be borne alone, a reality that provides the people of God with plenty of opportunities to shine.

The Christian thing to do is, first, to be alert to the wounds suffered by people in the ordinary course of living. And it follows, then, that we should respond with sympathy, empathy and aid. "Bear one another's burdens," writes the apostle Paul, "and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

I encounter hurting people in every area of my life—at work, at home, in my neighbourhood, at church, in my travels...absolutely everywhere. Sometimes individuals will speak about the burdens they're carrying, and often a kind word, a listening ear and a shared prayer will ease the pain. Sometimes a deeper and more sustained response is possible and necessary.

The pages of ChristianWeek are always filled with stories about people and ministries working to address the troubles of our world with a vision of a better way. They care, because Christ cared. And sometimes they themselves are the hurting ones.

To all we extend the succor that Jesus offered to those who were hurting during the days He walked among us. "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

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