I've Got Your Back
by sean terry | june 7, 2021
When I was younger I loved watching a show on television called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. It was an American comedy of repurposed footage from a Japanese game show that originally aired in the 80s. What made this show so fun to me was the contestants making their way through obstacles courses that were designed to send them flying into pools of water. The spiritual sequel to this show in America is Wipeout.
More often than not the contestants on this show would take some hard hits. I’m talking about flips, falls, spins, trips, and blunt force trauma. Every episode ended with a segment called "Most Painful Eliminations of the Day." I found it hilarious! It reminded me of the Three Stooges, infamous for putting themselves through an endless series of pratfalls and jabs for our entertainment.
But something changed when I fell and broke my back. I used to laugh when I saw those kinds of videos. But now I wince! Just imagining how painful some of those falls must be leaves me cringing. When you end up with a serious injury, suddenly you become painfully aware of how easy it is for something like that to happen to someone else.
We don’t truly understand something until it happens to us. Perhaps we judge others for their wayward children, thinking they failed as parents, until our own children become rebellious. Or maybe we think someone is just a miserable grouch, until we learn just how hard life has been for them and they have a lot of reasons to be unhappy. There are countless examples of things we would probably change our opinions about if we just knew a little bit more of what’s below the surface.
I remember years ago visiting a friend in the hospital. But while we were talking with each other I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the old woman that was resting in the bed on the other side of the room. Every few minutes she would hit her call button to have a nurse attend to her. It made me wonder if she really needed all that help, or she just selfishly wanted attention.
Fast forward about a decade and I found myself in a hospital bed, feeling completely helpless. I couldn’t even get up to use the bathroom without any help. It required multiple people to pick me up and move me whenever I needed to get an x-ray or MRI. I would even call the nurses every few minutes to ask them when I was gonna get my next dose of pain medication. Of course they never failed to take care of me, but I had never been so desperate before! So it dawned on me that, yes, that old woman probably did need all that help, and she really did need all that attention!
Empathy comes from knowing exactly how someone else feels. Sometimes you need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you can comprehend how hard what they are going through is. Fortunately for us, our God did this! Jesus came to earth and lived as we do, so he knows exactly what it is like; the temptations, pain, and everything else that is unpleasant.
God will cry with us in our pain (John 11:35). He promises that He is collecting each one of our tears (Psalm 56:8). He has compassion for us (Matthew 9:36) and wants us to cast all of our anxieties and cares upon Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). In fact, He draws even closer to us when we are brokenhearted and crushed (Psalm 34:18).
God doesn’t always support our beliefs and opinions, but He is always for us as His child. What if we took this approach to each other? We are surrounded by opinions on things that divide us; science, theology, politics, society, medicine, music, movies, and education.
But what if we could empathize with someone because they are just like us? Each one of us is made in the image of God and needs help once in a while. It is so important for us to love someone in a way that they can be certain of one thing: we have got their back! As I’ve gotten older, I have seen many people wander from the narrow path into lifestyles that lead to trouble. But I still care about them, because sometimes I have gone that way too.
I can safely say I will never look at a pratfall the same for the rest of my life. Maybe I will still find them funny at times, but I can’t undo what has already been done to me and in me. I wouldn’t wish my back injury upon my worst enemy. What is something that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy? What is something in you that cannot be undone? What is something that could happen to someone else that would instantly fill you with compassion for them?
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.