For too many months, my anxiety about large-scale problems in the world has blinded me to a reality much closer: People dear to me are quietly carrying significant personal burdens. All this time they’ve been dealing with chronic problems in their families, their health or their work. They’re doing the best they can, but things don’t always get better. Their anguish doesn’t leave much room for generalized anxiety. (Anguish is a present-tense, almost-physical pain that can strangle body and mind. Anxiety imagines a dread-worthy future.)
They may think that people like me—consumed by worries about politics, the environment or the economy—are unaware of their troubles. They observe how greed, pleasure or anger/hate can distract any of us from seeing need and offering assistance. The burden-bearers are left to face their persistent problems invisible. Alone. They respond to “How’re you doing?” with something like “Can’t complain….” They may think that sharing their worrisome loads doesn’t always help. So they don’t say much.
My anxiety-driven blindness to others’ unspoken struggles brings me back to a familiar Scripture passage: “We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1 KJV) Even though I don’t consider myself all that strong—advancing age has begun to reinforce that lesson—I still have enough empathy, skills, time and love to listen well, walk alongside and assist those who are weighed down by life. (It’s also possible that those burden-bearers can see my infirmities and help me shoulder them!)
That Scripture text finishes this way: “Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did.” (Romans 15:2-3 The Message)
I don’t want to remain blind to others’ anguish….
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