By Brenda Black
Giant trees uprooted. Branches strewn across a freshly cut lawn. Leaves and twigs litter a stretch along either side of the highway about a half mile long. No news will cover this small swath of a summer storm's havoc. No volunteer help will come from two states away to saw through fallen timbers or rake scattered leaves. Only a few homes are affected. No big deal.
I don't know the folks who hunkered down inside their old farm houses and heard the howling winds rip over their homes. I have no idea how many years ago they planted those lovely trees, full of bloom and beauty. So, whether the damage came by tornado or straight line winds is irrelevant. If it only ravaged their few acres and missed a nearby city far more populated doesn't matter. The gaping holes in the ground once filled by sturdy roots still leave scars. The fear brings real tears, regardless of the scope of the storm.
Usually only news of big, bad stuff that impacts multitudes is brought to the forefront. In the meantime, every human endures their own small storms; winces from their own scars. Every one of us is broken or uprooted in some way. And each time, it is a big deal – to the broken one and to the One who heals brokenness.
I passed those storm-hit homesteads early one morning. By evening, when I drove by, headed the opposite direction, I noticed a contrast between neighboring properties. Obvious clean up at one and nothing at the next. A big fallen tree in one yard transformed in a matter of hours into stacks of firewood with the help of friends and family. Scattered limbs became brush piles through the work of many. Next door, the yard remained covered in shattered remains. No activity. No help. No change.
Inevitably, storms will slam into our lives. The mess they leave will demand our attention. We can go it alone and take longer than necessary to clean up the clutter. We can call for help and hasten the healing. Or we can ignore it and let it lay in our lives and wilt and wither or slowly rot and kill the green grass underneath.
Honestly, there is no excuse in the body of Christ to ever endure the hard things alone. Often, the best help comes from someone who's been through a similar storm and knows exactly what you need to pick up the pieces. Jesus calls us to be His hands and feet, His heart and His helper. He also calls us to reach out and receive. It's a two-way street.
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)
That's heavenly advice. And it comes in pretty handy when neighbors are in crisis. Harmony makes the work easier. Sympathy soothes an aching heart. Love just makes the world a better place and certainly covers over a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). Compassion goes a long way in a broken life because we just need to know that someone cares and understands. Somehow that makes it possible to press on and shapes the family of God into the Father's image.
The final act is humility. Living in a world with hurt may call on us to sweat a little and haul some wood or we may need to sit and listen and pray unselfishly. You can't care about the trial in someone else's life if you are consumed with your own real or imagined tragedies. Sometimes, the best medicine for brokenness is to help somebody else mend. You just might find your small gesture is a very big deal in the middle of someone's storm.