When you stop to consider the amount of wealth in the United States it is quite amazing. Think about the luxury many of us get to live in and the technology that we get to use. The comfort and ease that Americans get to live in is not the way many people get to live.
It is quite interesting to me that in spite of our great wealth and ease of life, that there are many people who struggle with depression and other disorders. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) the percentage of Americans taking antidepressants basically doubled (6.8% to 13%) between 1999 and 2012.
Now there are many reasons for this, but one thing is certain: money and wealth cannot fix all our problems.
It is great to live in luxury, to be part of the first world and experience first world problems, but that doesn’t mean we will experience wholeness in our lives. The reason for this is sin. Wealth does not fix the problems sin causes in our lives.
Erwin McManus in his book Uprising wrote; “He [God] invites us to find our purpose and our healing in serving others.” (p. 144)
All of us are broken to one degree or another. This is why the self-help section at the book store is so large, we do want to find healing and wholeness, but we don’t know how.
I think many of Christians understand that their purpose is found in loving and serving other people. McManus correctly points out that purpose is key to experiencing wholeness in our lives.
On the face of it this idea seems to be contradictory to us. How can healing and wholeness be found in giving our lives away?
Conventional wisdom tells us that we need to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of someone else. Many people will even make this claim regarding the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” After all, they reason, you can’t love neighbor if you can’t love yourself.
That is a misapplication of the verse. Jesus isn’t saying we need to learn to love ourselves, as if he was a modern day pop psychologist, but rather, he is emphasizing that the love, respect, and honor you want to experience is what you are to give to other people.
We need to follow the example of Jesus:
As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14; NLT)
Jesus did not experience the brokenness that you and I have, but Jesus did experience the various emotions that are common to human life. In this passage Jesus heard the news of the death of John the Baptist, his relative and forerunner, and he is experienced grief. It is appears that Jesus wanted time alone with his disciples, but the crowds were determined to follow him. In a time of personal need, Jesus showed compassion for others.
Once again we see the paradoxical nature of the Gospel. Wholeness is found in giving ourselves away. Healing is found in serving others.
One of the huge consequences of sin is that it damages our relationships. We were created to be in relationships with both God and people, and the reason we are broken is because the relationships that we desperately need are damaged by sin. A lack of healthy relationships leads to broken and sick people.
So how do we build healthy relationships?
It begins by reaching out to people in love. This is the example that God has given to us. Remember God took the initiative to have a relationship with us, and that is what we must do. I think one mistake that we often make is to wait for people to reach out to us. The example God gave is that we are to reach out first.
By reaching out first, not only are we following the example of God, but we are also demonstrating our trust in God. We are trusting God to provide for our needs as we seek to love people and we are trusting God to bring healing and wholeness into our lives.
Now I don’t what to sound like there is no need for professional help: counseling, medicine, etc. I have benefited from talking to a professional counselor, so I know that they play an important part in our healing. Rather than down playing professional help, I want to point out the missing piece in our healing: loving service to others. The path to healing always includes reaching out to others in love.
Personally, the times I experienced the greatest healing are the times I removed the focus from my pain and started to care for others. Sometimes it has been as simple as praying for others and other times it has involved becoming an intimate part of another person’s life.
Whenever we show concern for others we stop being consumed with self and we allow our heart time to heal as we experience God’s love through our love for other people. God’s love is made most real to us when we are showing love to others.
Here is the thought I would like you to remember: Wholeness is found in giving ourselves away.