Have you ever really considered what it means when you say a simple phrase we all throw out there everyday? On average, how often each day do you start a conversation or recognize someone’s presence by asking any variance of, “How are you?”
Recently we had a communion service at church, and the congregation all went and stood at the altar to partake of the elements together. After the service, as we headed back to our seats to gather our things and leave for the day, I simply asked a friend, “How are ya?” I didn’t even realize the implications of what I asked until after he looked back at me and answered, “I’m alright, I’m alright.”
You see, what you don’t know is that on December 26th, this friend and his wife lost their twenty-one year old son in a car accident as he was headed back to work a few hours north of us. I had the privilege of taking part in the funeral, but in doing so I was given a front row seat to see the grace of God in action.
I received word of their son’s death around five o’clock the night of the accident, and I instantly knew that I had to call them and offer whatever I could. The funny thing is, in six years of ministry, both full and part time, I’d never had to make the call before. So when I called and this friend answered the phone, I suddenly thought, “Oh, Lord; what am I to say?” I offered my family’s sympathies, and stated that if there was anything, anything at all that I could do, that they shouldn’t hesitate to call. When I said the same to his wife, her only thought was to pray for the family of her husband, as many don’t know the Lord.
I mentioned having a front row seat to grace. I sang or joined in singing two worship songs during the funeral, the second was Amazing Grace. At the end of the funeral the pastor delivered his message, following it with an invitation to follow Christ. Three responded to serve God, either for the first time or as a rededication of their lives. When my friend’s wife heard that some had responded (by showing of hands while heads were bowed and eyes closed), she broke down in tears. Her thought up to that moment was only for the saving grace of some soul, and the fulfillment of that prayer released the floodgates of both joy and sorrow in one great outburst unto the Lord.
So two weeks later, my friend looked at me with watery eyes when I asked him a simple question we take for granted on a regular basis. After he answered, I just patted him on the back, reassuring him that he can go on, and that he is not alone.
Today I read an e-newsletter I get from Dr. Gary Smalley each week. Here is a small portion:
Does Anyone Care?
When people are in pain, they tend to withdraw. They feel nobody can understand their pain and nobody cares. However, there is One who understands and cares.
Something drew Peggy back to church after many years of absence. She was not prepared for the emotions that stirred inside her that day. During the sermon she grappled with how much God loved her, and, despite her struggles, she began to sob uncontrollably. Suddenly a sympathetic hand stretched out and took hold of hers. It was a small, delicate hand and she noticed it belonged to a very petite older woman. How could this tiny woman’s hand be so strong? she wondered.
She realized that the strength she felt in that hand was not the woman’s alone. The current of love she felt carried God’s strength. The harder Peggy cried, the harder the little woman hung on.
Finally the church service was over. The woman said good-bye and slipped away. God was very real to Peggy that morning, as though He were sitting right next to her, holding her hand. He was.
Next time you greet someone or casually pass them by with a quick “How are ya?” will you wait and see if you can be God’s hand to someone in need?