It was dark, and the road was unfamiliar. A car came up very close behind us, headlights blinding us from the back.
“We’re just a carload of older women from church; that’s why we’re slow,” one person in the car joked. We all laughed at that, since two of us are still in our 30s. We then chattered on as women everywhere do—about our families, and ministries, and upcoming vacations.
As we neared the hospital our conversation slowed. Maybe my companions’ thoughts were turning to our precious sister, Charley.* I know mine were. What should we say? How can we show Jesus’ love? O Lord, show us the way.
I pulled around to the hospital’s side entrance and parked. We walked up to the door, rang the buzzer, and awaited admittance to the psychiatric ward. Soon the double doors swung open, and there stood Charley. She’d been in a deep depression for several months—so severe, in fact, that she hadn’t been able to attend church, shop for groceries, or even get out of bed some days. We each reached out and hugged her. When my turn came, she held on tightly, as if she were afraid to let go.
“Charley, we’re so glad to see you,” I whispered into her hair. “We’re praying for you.”
She nodded as she pulled away, eyes wet with tears. Turning, we went into a little waiting room off the hallway. Charley sat on the couch, and we all pulled our chairs into a semicircle facing her.
Talk was light at first. We discussed the choir at church that Charley loved to sing in, and of her stylishly decorated home. Then, as if a switch was flipped, she began to talk. The words poured forth—of her pain, her loneliness, her isolation. Her distance from us, her sisters, and from her Father in heaven.
Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’m in this blackness with no way out,” she sobbed. “I’m so lonely, and when I try to reach out for help, I only get ‘I’ll pray for you, Charley.’” Her voice was raw with pain. “I don’t need a trite answer, a cop-out. I need someone to actually come and be with me. To walk with me through the pain.”
I sat frozen in place. Had we reached out? Yes; several of us had visited, had called, had tried to minister. But somehow, when Charley had needed the touch of Jesus, she had felt isolation. When she had sought a shoulder to cry on, she had received platitudes. When she had desired help, I had been too busy.
The talk continued flowing around me. We each shared a promise from God’s Word that had personally encouraged us. Then we held hands in our circle and prayed for Charley. When my turn came, I asked for forgiveness. Forgiveness for not being there for Charley as I should have, for not reaching out those times I’d been prompted to, for letting down one of Jesus’ precious daughters.
Last of all, Charley prayed. Her prayer was broken, and I don’t remember most of it. But one part still echoes through my mind: “Lord, thank You for showing me that You still love me. I’ve felt Your love tonight reaching out to me through my sisters.”
So this was what Charley needed! Not women who knew what to say or had it all together. Just simple women who desired to be used by Jesus—willing to listen, to share a tear, to reach out and touch. Women willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus. n
* not her real name