By Reg Ames
There he was. Joe (not his real name) was a couple of footsteps from me. Because his back was to me, I momentarily thought to step behind the wall to prevent him from seeing me. It was not that I was afraid of him. It was just that I didn’t want to talk to him. Two or three weeks prior, he had verbally ripped me up. He had accused me of something which I still have no clue what he was ranting about.
These words hurt me. “I don’t want to have anything to do with you! What you said on the phone the other day was disgusting. Get out of here!”
Here is why his words hurt. For almost a year, I helped him with some problems in his life. He had major financial woes. Credit card debt and medical bills. He was trying to make payments on all of these until, one day, he faced reality. He was unable make any monthly payments. His savings were gone. Credit cards maxed out.
A mutual friend worked with Joe to work out resolutions to solve his medical past due balances. I tackled the credit card problem. It took about a year to get Joe’s financial mess cleaned up. The result removed a huge burden of worry and stress from his back and he found some peace of mind. But Joe has other challenges.
Physical, mental, and emotional issues plague him. Working again with the mutual friend we initiated ways to help Joe cope with his burdens. We both began praying for him. We talked to him about prayer and learned he believed in prayer but understood very little about how to pray.
God helped us to help Joe start a daily prayer life and Bible reading. She helped him pray the prayer of invitation for Jesus to come into his heart. I started a Bible study series about Jesus with him. He really enjoyed the studies even though his mental challenges made it difficult for him to grasp the truths of the Gospel.
You see, Joe’s mind struggles to distinguish good from evil, truth from lies, and God’s word from the Evil One’s lies. He also has difficulty conversing with people because he can’t think of words to express himself. He seldom is able to complete a sentence. That frustrates him very much.
So, now you can see why I was offended by his verbal assault on me. I also felt the pain of losing a friend. Please also understand that Joe is a troubled man. I really wanted to help and get back on friendly terms with him.
Back to the beginning. Instead of slinking away, I said, “Hi Joe.” He turned around and said, “Oh hi, Reg. How are you?” I replied something about being quite tired. He said he had really been struggling with loss of energy and also how discouraged he was that doctors had not been able to help him. Joe said, “I just don’t understand. No answers coming from anyone.”
He then said something very meaningful. “I just read the Bible in John about how He brought the water.” I later figured out that he was trying to tell me about John the Baptizer baptizing repentant sinners in the Jordan River. Then Joe said, “That’s my only hope.” (meaning Bible reading).
The next morning I enjoyed a special devotional time. I prayed for Joe and thanked God for mending our relationship.
Then, something hit me! I saw that Joe had unknowingly given me a profound message. It isn’t about me! Nothing is about me. It is all about God and other people. I realized that God had guided me and kept me from reacting to Joe’s verbal attack. God helped me understand that my first concern should be about Joe. Retaliating against him would only make Joe’s life more miserable.
Prayer for Joe changed not only Joe, it also changed me. Isn’t our God GREAT!!?