Last week, Bernie came to the church door. He showed up about five minutes before I was getting ready to leave for an appointment, and my first response to his arrival was, oh, no, not now.
Bernie had been drinking – I could smell it on his breath. He was sweating profusely and was a little bit shaky, though he spoke clearly without slurring. Bernie asked if I could help him, and I asked what I could do for him. He said he was an alcoholic, and he needed a ride to Hillcrest Hospital, because he’d been part of a 12 step alcohol program, and had “fallen off the wagon.”
I thought, OK, I can take him to the hospital on my way to my appointment. I was relieved he hadn’t asked for money, because we cannot give any money to someone who has been drinking.
In my five-minute ride to the hospital, where I dropped him off at the emergency room, Bernie told me he really loved Jesus, but was having a hard time staying off the alcohol. I told him that admitting himself to this program at the hospital was a good step, and that I was sure the Lord would help him. Bernie was clearly hurting physically, but seemed genuinely touched that I would help him in this small way.
When we got to the drop-off point in front of the ER, Bernie thanked me – almost excessively – for helping him. He reached over across the seat and wanted a hug. Smell, sweat and all, I hugged Bernie, and he hung on tightly for a moment as I assured him of God’s love and care for Him. As he stumbled away from the van, he called back for me to pray for him, and I assured him I would. And I did, as I drove on to my appointment – I did pray that Bernie would find help and find compassion from the Lord.
And the Lord spoke to me clearly that, despite my initial attitude, all Bernie really needed was compassion.
I watched as Bernie sort of stumbled into the ER at Hillcrest. I was ashamed of my initial attitude, and the Lord said to me clearly: all he needed was a little compassion. All he needed was to be treated with respect and dignity.
And at that moment, I knew God would have me bring this message to TCF this morning.
We’re in a time in our fellowship when we need this reminder - of the source of compassion, and of how God uses us as His tools of compassion.
You may have heard the phrase, “Been there, done that” – it’s the title of this message. It’s a phrase that represents the idea that someone has already experienced something. When someone says that to you, it means they have some understanding of what they’re discussing with you. In some ways, it might mean that they have sympathy for you, maybe even real compassion, if that’s what’s called for.
In the vernacular, it mostly means they can relate to you and your experiences, and admittedly, it’s often a dismissive way of expressing that, whether good or bad, they’ve “been there, and done that.”
In our Christian lives, in times of difficulty or suffering, it’s often helpful to talk to someone who can relate to your experience. Now, I’ve never been an alcoholic like Bernie, but I know what it is to be hurting, for different reasons than Bernie,
and more importantly, I know the source of real compassion, and real comfort.
His compassion and comfort are revealed in His Word. The Word of God is living and active, and it’s for this time and this place, whenever and wherever this time and place might be.
God can speak to us through His Word, just as clearly as I’m speaking to you, by using these words written almost two millennia ago.
2 Cor. 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
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