I don’t always write my posts and upload them in “real time.” Last week, for instance, “Welcome to Jerkville, Population Me” was written and posted a few days before it actually appeared. WordPress allows me to post in advance, and while I don’t always use that feature, if I find downtime in my schedule, I may write a post and have it load at a future date. (I’m doing that with this post, too.)
The “Jerkville” post had already been uploaded when I received a subject-less e-mail. At first I thought it was spam (always include a subject, folks), so I let it sit while I attended to other work.
When I eventually opened that e-mail, it contained a sad story of dire need by a stranger who was reaching out to me for help. Always skeptical, I verified the e-mailer’s story with some third-parties. Once verified, I called every resource I knew to find a way to help. I talked with many charitable organizations, dropped e-mails to large churches in the area of this person in need, spoke on the phone with probably two dozen people, but I still have not found help.
I remember reading a story on the Web about a woman who suffered a stroke (or some other vascular accident) while online, but was able to type out a request for help. A doctor, fortuitously online in this chat room, engaged her. He was able to call an EMT to her place. She lived because of that help.
About five years ago, I decided to join an online forum on a well-known Christian site. Within a few weeks, I got sucked into a vicious conversation about singleness and money. One poster on the forum was a single guy who didn’t make much money, but wanted to get married. Several commenters continued to beat this guy up about how no Christian woman in her right mind would want to marry a guy who barely made more than the minimum wage. I could not believe the nasty things said to this poor man by supposed brothers and sisters in Christ (though I sure can now). The guy tried to defend himself, and I came to his defense several times. His posts seemed to get more frantic with time, and his online assailants just would not ease up.
Eventually, after about a week or so of this, he left a cryptic message. A few hours later, he wrote in that forum that he was committing suicide.
I came to his posted confession later that evening. Horrified, I spent hours trying to contact the forum Webmaster and the company that ran the forum. Eventually, I got patched into a hotline and directed people to the post. The response? “Sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do.”
I have no idea if that man killed himself. (He never posted again, though his assailants did. But not once did they comment on what had happened in that forum.) All I know is that no one else seemed to care. He was just some quasi-anonymous soul. Just another person. There are six-point-something billion of us on the planet, give or take a few.
It’s the “give or take a few” people out there whom I grieve for.
In talking about the plight of my e-mailer with various charities and churches, you could hear the flatness coming through the handset speaker. Just another person in need. One more family looking for a handout. I spoke with a pastor of a church in that e-mailer’s area and he said, “You gotta understand. Everyone’s poor down here.”
I spoke with a few benevolence ministries housed in suburban megachurches in the region of that person in need. They all understood the need because they’d heard it a thousand times before. But they said they couldn’t help. You could almost see the heads hanging low on the other end of the phone.
The charities, too, had people answering the phone with voices marinated in weariness. “If we help in that way, sir, we’ll set a precedent and 1,500 people will be lined up here tomorrow asking for the same thing,” one broken charity coordinator said with a sigh.
My copy of Lloyd-Jones’s Spiritual Depression, Its Causes and Its Cure stared back at me from my bookshelf, and I felt so sorry for everyone involved: the person in need, the charities, the churches, and even myself. Those people who face that kind of bottomless need…well, I don’t know how they drag themselves into work everyday. Knock out one tough case and two spring up in its place, a perpetual hydra of people saying, “Can you help me? Please, you’re my last hope.”
I haven’t heard back from some of the resources I contacted. The optimist in me says I will, but the typical Dan suspects the worst. “The poor will always be with you,” the Lord said. I think that’s one of the saddest set of words spoken in the Bible.
Here’s some words with more hope:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
To the charity worker who lives every day knowing that the need is always greater than the resources, I say this: “Never give up.”
To the church minister who goes out every day into yet another home filled with more need than a dozen churches could manage, I say this: “Never give up.”
To other Christian bloggers out there who also receive needy e-mails, and who struggle immensely with that responsibility laid in their laps for no other reason than that they write Christ-filled words of light in a dark world, I say this: “Never give up.”
To you, if you’re a person in a crushing situation, a well of despair, that threatens to drown you and every person you hold dear, I say this: “Never give up.”
The great revivalist Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The only time you can really say that ‘Christ is all I need’ is when Christ is all you have.”
No matter who you are, no matter how tired, broken, or weary, no matter how empty your pantry, know this: when Christ is all you have, you have the greatest blessing of all.
If nothing else, take away another thought from Ravenhill: “We must do what we can do for God before He will give us the power to do what we can’t do.”
So please, please, please don’t ever give up.