"What happened here?"
We went over it together. I had been by the spot late the afternoon before and seen only the usual foot high field of grass shaded from the afternoon sun by the line of oaks and wild cherries along the west fence. We had a few gray clouds that evening, as we do nearly every afternoon and evening in the summer, and maybe a quick shower, but no thunderstorm. Once the evening deepened into pure night, all was still and warm and humid—nothing unusual at all. It may be five acres, but the distance from the house near the eastern side and the pines on the west is not really that far. How had this happened without us knowing it?
Obviously, a small eddy had blown through the pines, and sixty feet above ground it was stronger than you might imagine had you been standing beneath. I have seen those eddies before. Sometimes they stir up the dust out in the field where there is no shelter from the trees, but where the trees are thick, they stay aloft. For it to tear large green limbs meant it was a strong one, but also localized. Spread out it would not have done any damage. And so it left us with a neat pile of limbs that Keith hauled to the fire pit for the coming fall.
When these eye crises first began to hit me, my whole world turned upside down. I couldn't keep house or cook, I couldn't teach Bible classes, and I had to close my music studio. Eventually I missed three months of assemblies because of the pain and the appointments and the surgeries and the medication schedule. When I did make it back and the announcements began I had a bad moment or two. That week was a baby shower. The next week was a wedding. In two weeks was a potluck. My poor little me self said, "How can they keep on having fun like this? Don't they know my world is a shambles?"
Of course that didn't last, but it did come to the surface. When you are having your own personal storm, you wonder how anyone else can remain unaffected. Don't they see how miserable you are and how dire the situation? Don't they care anything about you at all? Something selfish inside you wants everyone to cry with you. Maybe that's where the old saying comes from: Misery loves company. I was having my own little storm in a localized area and it wasn't affecting anyone downwind. Or so it felt.
Okay, so where do we go with this? First, I am reminded of the injunction to "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" (Rom 12:15). We are all to share in one another's burdens. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1Cor 12:26). Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Heb 13:3). Knowing that others care about what is happening to you makes the trials somewhat easier to bear.
But there is always, as I said above, the selfishness that must be overcome. I may be having a storm in my life. That does not mean that anyone who does not know about it and act like the same storm is ruling their lives doesn't care. Too many times we act like we have been specially set up to judge others in how they offer their compassion and help. If it doesn't come when I want and the way I want, they are unloving. And that of course, can lead to the excuse so many use for leaving the church. "You didn't come visit me when I was in the hospital. The elders didn't call, the preacher didn't hold my hand and pray over me, none of the members sent me a card." Yet, when pressed in the matter you will usually find out one of two things: the problem wasn't ignored; it was unknown because it was not shared. Somehow everyone should just "know"—if I have to say anything, they aren't caring enough. Or, "no one" is a gross exaggeration.
And it also insinuates that because no one helped me the way I expected and thought they ought to, that I am now excused for any bad behavior. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:18). That passage seems to imply that one of the purposes of suffering is so we can learn to help others who are also suffering. That's what it did for the Lord I claim to be following. I am supposed to be learning something here, not judging others. And if I really do learn it, then it becomes my responsibility to do better than the ones I think left me high and dry--not castigating them or using them as an excuse for my own bad conduct, but showing them the way.
Once my mind cleared that morning, I knew that others were affected by my storm. They came in droves with hugs, welcoming me back to the assembly. They had sent me off to difficult surgeries with hugs and money in my pockets for the expenses. They had fasted and prayed during my scariest operation. They had taken turns carrying me back and forth to the doctor after Keith ran out of leave time to do it. That is usually the case when you let your brothers and sisters know your needs, when you share your fears and troubles. If no one knows you are in a storm, that's your fault entirely. Don't let a few moments of self-absorption steal the joy of brotherhood.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)