“Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.” ~ Galatians 6:2(MSG)
What do you picture in your mind when you think about a turtle? What are characteristics that are commonly associated with this creature? There are some answers we would all immediately respond with but with more thoughtful consideration we would acknowledge various other behaviors, limitations, liabilities and short comings.
In focusing in on these, there seem to be many correlations between the life of a turtle and the life of one who lives with mental and emotional limitations and shortcomings.
The first of these would be moving slowly. For many who struggle, they feel left behind and they are keenly aware of the impatience of others with their slowness. The truth for many sufferers is that, no matter how much they are pressured or prodded, they are unable to move any faster. The next analogy of the turtle and the one who is struggling is how they both withdraw into their shell for protection and to escape to avoid pain. When they are overcome with fear, they go into isolation. David Jeremiah in his book A Bend in the Road writes, “Problems tend to isolate us. I am the kind of individual who is certain to turn inward when the problems come. Like a turtle, my head snaps quietly back into the protective shell.” For many, this is the case because they’re in the most danger and are the most vulnerable and susceptible when they emerge from the shell and expose themselves. There is a difficult balance because, as with the turtle, they must come out in order to survive.
Another parallel between the turtle and the one struggling is how defenseless they are. Those who suffer are like a turtle that’s been flipped over and is often unable to right itself without outside assistance. If the help is not there they may not survive. Have you ever heard stories of how mischievous and cruel people place a turtle upside down on a fence post and stand back and watch it struggle to right itself? For many people who are struggling, they may also be in that position due to cruelty, abuse, insensitivity or neglect. Another danger for the turtle is trying to cross a busy road. A struggler may often feel endangered and at risk of being run over and crushed by the pressures, stress and busyness of those in their lives.
The last comparison is thinking about how the shell is inescapable. The turtle must bear the weight it carries on its back. For the one who is hurting, they all too often have no choice but to carry the heavy weight or burden that is in their life. The life of a turtle can be very fragile as can the life of one who struggles to survive life’s everyday challenges.
Let’s be aware of those around us who are suffering and, like the turtle, need someone to help flip them over and get them back on their feet.
“We are to fulfill the law of Christ, which is a law of love. Love obliges us to be compassionate. So why don’t you find somebody today who could use a hand? It will give you an opportunity to lighten the load of another and lighten your heart at the same time.
Prayer: Today, God, everyone I encounter will be bearing some burden. Help me to discern what those are and which ones I can help carry.” — Joni Eareckson Tada
Reflections on LIKE A TURTLE
Our world has become such a busy environment with a hectic pace. When trials and tragedy strike, it seems as if everyone else is still going on the merry-go-round at full speed and we just got spun off and thrown into the dust. We cry out for a helping hand to get back on but no one seems to even hear us, much less respond and help us get back on the ride of life. We wait and watch for an entrance. We try to run and get our speed up so that we will be going fast enough to take hold but we have been injured and we are not at “full speed capability.”
Everyone is so busy laughing and talking and enjoying the ride that they don’t even see us as we are running alongside, trying desperately to catch up and be part of the ride once again. Those on the merry-go-round are caught up in the fun and adventure. They do not mean to be intentionally cruel as they ignore those who cannot get on, but the cruelty is almost as painful as if they were doing it on purpose. The result is the same…the ride goes on and those who are injured can’t catch up and join the group any more.
Every now and then someone will hear a cry and look up to see the one struggling to get back on. They may even say “Hey John is trying to get on…let’s slow down and give him a hand.” All too often the others who didn’t notice John don’t want to stop the ride. They are having too much fun and they have only a limited ride time. Someone else can help John. In fact, they are certain that someone else will help John but they just can’t be bothered to stop for John today. So the concerned person shoves down that conviction that he should help and stays with the group because, after all, he doesn’t want to be thrown off trying to help John. That wouldn’t help anyone! And he is afraid of being left out and ignored himself.
Galatians 6:9-10 says “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Are you taking advantage of opportunities to do good? Hold out a helping hand.
Prayer for the hurting person:
Help this person who is feeling trapped in his life to look to You for strength and encouragement. Give him the courage to come out of his shell and seek the companionship and encouragement he so desperately needs to survive. Help others to be watching and waiting to help and let Him know that You see, You know, You care for him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer for the helper:
Slow me down to see the “turtles” you have placed in my path who just need an encouraging hand to right themselves in this hard and cruel world in which we find ourselves. Help me to not only notice those in need, but help me to be willing to respond and to show love and concern in tangible ways. Remind me to pray for them and to let them know that I am praying for them and that I genuinely care about them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.