A Jew and a Samaritan walk into an inn. Ok, well the Samaritan walks. The Jew is carried. And the familiar parable in Luke 10 tells the rest. So often I relate to the Good Samaritan. And honestly, that seemed to be the main point of Jesus’ parable. At the conclusion of the tale, He asks the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36) And we all receive a very poignant message about the lifestyle of generosity.
Then there are those days when I may look like the Samaritan, but I feel like the victim. In fact, one of the most common struggles a chronically ill person encounters is that they don’t look sick. I can tell you that from experience, as well as from countless conversations with chronically ill buddies of mine.
And sometimes you even fool yourself into thinking maybe the outer appearance is telling the truth and you don’t need any help. You should be able to handle this. I’ve done that too.
Well this past summer I made an additional trip to see my rheumatologist. For the past 18 months or so, my wrist had become gradually more swollen and it was time to get that taken care of. So I went in for an ultrasound and a shot of steroids to reduce the swelling.
It was there that I looked into the eye of the monster that was slowly destroying my body. It is hard to explain, but up until that point I had never really seen evidence that my body was deteriorating. I had painfully swollen joints in the past, but even to myself I looked ok. And there were moments where I really felt ok too. But I was still sick.
In the ultrasound, my doctor showed me the literal, undeniable deterioration of my wrist. When I asked what caused the inflammation and fluid buildup her response was, “ That’s just your disease.”
“Oh, JUST my disease.” And we chuckled at the flippancy with which we now referred to my rheumatoid arthritis.
But something changed that day. When I felt my wrist, looked at it, I just couldn’t shake the knowledge that under that skin there was something toxic eating at me.
I went to pick up my children whom my friend had been entertaining at the zoo. God bless her. She prayed for me and over me. God bless her. The swelling went down. In a few days my wrist was tip top. And God and I had a little conversation about helping others. Did I want to be healed completely? You know it! But I had it in my heart that there was something larger at work than a miraculous healing. There was a ministry here.
Hurt people sometimes hurt people. But helped people also help people.
I wanted to be healed, but more than that. I wanted to be helped. Healing would come eventually one way or another, and maybe not on this earth. But the helping, that could happen immediately. And if that was God’s intention, then that was sufficient for me.
My disease is a constant reminder that there are a whole lot of people out there that look ok, but they aren’t ok. Not on the inside. And they need help too.
So what do the Samaritans do? Love. Serve. Help. Notice the Samaritan in Jesus’ story never healed the robbed man. He cared for him. He helped him.
None of us have a call to heal. Take that off your shoulders right now. You were never meant to carry the burden of healing- only the Great Physician can handle that. But you were called to help and be helped. Not because God needs a hand, but because in helping others you get to join in the marvelously detailed process God uses to care for His creation. You get a front-row seat to the unfolding of His plan for His people. It is a blessing to bless.
But here is one more important note: Maybe at this point your head is spinning because you can’t even conceive of helping anyone else when you can’t even help yourself. You are the Jew left for dead. You have been through the wringer of illness, betrayal, grief, or any number of tragedies. And for that there is no condemnation, only know this: you are being helped. Even when you can’t see or feel it, God loves you enough to endure your struggle right there with you. You are not encountering, in fact you CANNOT encounter, anything God hasn’t already overcome in your stead.
Read these words for you. In fact, make it personal. Read it aloud twice and substitute the parenthesized words the second time through.
“For we (I) do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our (my) weaknesses, but we (I) have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are (I am)- yet was without sin. Let us (me) then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we (I) may receive mercy and find grace to help us (me) in our (my) time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Sometimes you are the Jew. Sometimes you are the Samaritan. At all times you are the beloved child of God. Even in helping you are being helped to help. You have a God who carries every detail of the ways of man, and you will not slip through His fingers.
God, bless us and open our eyes in thanksgiving for Your almighty and all-merciful help today. May it give us joy that bursts the bonds of our struggles and frees us to serve others in Your name.