“For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2: 20 & 21(NAS)
The definition of view is: what is seen from a particular point, outlook or perspective. Viewpoint is frame of reference or context.
San Francisco is one of the most scenic, panoramic, and beautiful cities in the world. If you visit though, your attention is almost immediately drawn to Alcatraz Island which sits in the middle of San Francisco Bay only one and a half miles from the shoreline. It is in clear view from many vantage points in the city.
In stark contrast to the magnificence of the city is the foreboding nature of this former prison. If you take the tour of Alcatraz, you are immediately struck by how dismal, gloomy, and repressive the existence must have been there. You are shown how the prison cells were purposefully designed so that they did not adjoin an outside wall, hindering them from having a view of the city. It was even worse for those who were placed in “the hole” or sent to the dungeon. At each level there was more isolation and more sensory deprivation. Over the years, the psychologically damaging effects of various types of solitary confinement in our prison systems have been studied. Bill Varoskovic writes that in one of those studies it was found that, “even if they know the solitude will eventually end, the situation can begin to feel hopeless. A disconnect from the world can also occur because they know outside of their confinement the significant people in their lives are moving about without them.”
There are wider lessons to be learned in regard to those in our society who, for a variety of reasons, are isolated from those around them. Autumn Glenister writes, “humans are social animals and the effects of being isolated from other people can be extreme and traumatic. Isolation is felt by a lot of people who are free in the world but do not have much contact with people. This can include the elderly and people suffering from depression.”
Are we aware of those all around us who are not physically in prisons or dungeons but because of various life circumstances may feel like they are trapped in a very dark, enclosed and isolated place? For a variety of reasons, their view of life around them is obscured by a “dark cloud” that has descended, hindering them from seeing beyond the immediacy of their painful circumstances. Carly Frinter who, as a student, wrote in a paper titled The Effects of Solitary Confinement & Social Isolation on Mental & Emotional Health: “I have sometimes gone for hours and even days with very minimal human contact. As a result, I experienced anxiety, depression, and a feeling of being disconnected from the world around me, even though I had complete freedom to go wherever I wanted.” She poses these questions: “Can people retain their humanity without the constant affirmation of their humanity through positive contact with other human beings? How do human beings’ behaviors and thought processes shift when the human beings around them refuse to accept their shared humanity?” For some, these times are temporary and relief comes after a short period of time. For others, these times stretch on and on with little or no lifting of the “cloud” they are under. What they need is someone to come alongside them who can describe a vivid view of hope, relief and reassurance that they are not alone.
A segment from The Window by G.W. Target gives a picture of the above situation.
“Two men were confined to hospital beds in the same room. Both men were seriously ill and though they were not allowed much diversion – no television, radio, or books – their friendship developed over months of conversation. They discussed every possible subject in which they both had interest or experience, from family to jobs to vacations, as well as much of their own personal histories.
“Neither man left his bed, but one was fortunate enough to be next to a window. As part of his treatment he could sit up in bed for just an hour a day. At this time he would describe the world outside to his roommate.
“In very descriptive terms he would bring the outside world inside to this friend, describing to him the beautiful park he could see, with its lake, and the many interesting people he saw spending their time there. His friend began to live for those descriptions.”
The story ends with the death of the man by the window and the other man moves by the window to find out it actually faced a blank wall.
So we’ve looked at the frame of reference of those on the inside looking out but what about those on the outside looking in? Charles Swindoll writes that, “Isolationism is a human tragedy. For fear of poking our noses in someone else’s business or getting involved in something that could backfire on us, we have trained ourselves not to stop, look, or listen.” This creates an out of sight, out of mind mentality. The idea is that someone is easily forgotten or dismissed as unimportant if they are not in our direct view. Dr. John Townsend, in his book, Where Is God? describes “unintentional hurts” as being caused when we are unaware of how deeply our actions affect others because we are self-absorbed or out of touch with what other people are feeling and experiencing.
Are we even able, in our own strength, to come alongside someone who needs to be connected and describe to them a vivid view of hope, relief and reassurance that they are not alone? Sheila Walsh answers that when she writes: “We don’t know what is going on in the lives of those we brush shoulders with every day. Only God can give us eyes to see, and ears to hear, and the grace to be the fragrance of Christ where life has turned sour.”
This type of love, sensitivity and awareness can only come from Christ in us!
“God has someone in mind he wants to touch today. He has grace available for this person. At the same time, God is looking for another person to serve as his conduit. You have a chance to extend the magnificent grace of God through what you say and do. You are a pipeline, an aqueduct through which He keeps meeting needs of the moment in the lives of others.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada
Reflections on THE VIEW
When I think of the story of the Good Samaritan, not only did he respond to the man in need but, in order to respond, he had to actually see the man and his need first. When I read Joni’s quote, it addresses the fact that God wants to meet the needs of those who desperately desire His touch in their lives today. However, the other side of that coin is that God wants to use each of us every single day in the lives of those he has placed in our path. The question is, am I watching for the ways that God wants to use me today?
Another question then arises…Am I asking God what He wants me to do today, or am I presenting Him with the agenda that I have already formed and asking Him to bless it? It is so easy for us to get caught in the trap of planning our ministry activities instead of seeking God day by day, hour by hour and even minute by minute. We should be walking so in tune with His Holy Spirit that when God brings the person across our path that He has planned for us to touch with His love, it is a natural act in the power of His Spirit. When God is doing it, His love flows out to them at exactly the time they need it and in the way that best meets their needs. It is not something I need to worry about or plan. It is more a matter of building margin into my day, so that when God leads, I have the freedom to follow that leading. Those “heavenly appointments” are the most rewarding ministry “activities” that we can ever have because God’s presence and leadership are so obvious that it almost feels like no effort at all is required. On the days that I seek His leadership in that way, the pure joy of seeing later that God used me to help meet the needs of someone else is both humbling and exhilarating. There’s just nothing like seeing God work and realizing that He stoops to use people like us in order to conform us to His image and to meet the needs of those He loves.
How many opportunities are we missing by not walking in His power and seeing what He sees?
PRAYER for the Hurting Person:
I need you today. Thank You for loving me and sending Jesus to not only save me from sin, but to intercede on my behalf at Your throne of grace. Please send someone today to share Your love with me in a real and tangible way. Help me to remember that You truly do love me and that Jeremiah 29:11 is true…You have a plan for me that includes a future and a hope. I love you Lord. Thank You for loving me first.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
PRAYER for the Helper:
Help me to see what You see. Help me to listen to the still small voice of Your Holy Spirit and to respond promptly and compassionately when You tell me to do so. May I be aware that, but for Your grace and mercy, I could be the one Who needs that encouraging word or deed today. Help me to obey with a joyful spirit, grateful that You have chosen to use me as your instrument of love and grace today.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.