Would you even recognize a wounded believer?

On “M*A*S*H” wounded soldiers were sent to triage to determine the extent of their injuries and level of care they needed to recover.

In my opinion, we need triage units in the church. Every time we send out a missionary, or a new minister, or an evangelism team, we send them into spiritual war zones … and unless you’ve been there, to that particular place and time and season, you cannot assume to know or understand the attacks that come against them during their “tour.”

Sometimes the attacks are physical… sickness, exhaustion, anxiety, and the like. More often the attacks are spiritual/mental/emotional in nature, things like doubt and fear and cynicism.

Some, thank God, return from the field relatively unscathed. Others return with questions, fears and doubts they cannot reconcile with church-as-they-knew-it before. Some suffer internal injuries and come home with “slow bleeds” that eventually endanger their lives. Others take direct hits … they return missing parts and pieces of their faith, of their doctrine, of themselves. And the church, in general, smiles and claps politely and expects all of the above to keep marching along in step with everyone else.

“There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people.”

Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. 1956. 

When a wounded Christian “acts up” (think about an injured animal, they tend to be cranky and prone to growling and biting and generally behave badly), our response as fellow believers is often to rebuke or reject, without asking “why” or “what” or even slowing down long enough to pray for the person or ask for wisdom in approaching him/her. Ever run into a Christian misbehaving? Maybe he or she is injured, hurting, and in need of help…

Sometimes wounded Christians simply withdraw. They may disappear from fellowship functions, stop communicating, or “suddenly” change social circles. Our typical response, as fellow Christians? A little presumption and a little assumption (usually in the form of polite gossip aka prayer requests) followed by avoidance.  Personally, this latest round has reminded me of the fourth grade…

During Christmas break that year, I contracted the flu. I don’t know what brand of flu it was, but it put me down for weeks. We were two weeks into the second semester of school when I was finally strong enough to return to class.

Not only had I missed an entire unit on fractions (which stump me to this day), I returned to find that the classroom had been rearranged into groups. Four desks per group. I found my desk shoved off in a corner, forgotten. I hadn’t been present, so I was forgotten. I well recall the sensation of not belonging, of being outcast and shunned, and all because I’d been sick.

How many wounded believers around us feel the same way? Cast out. Left behind. Shunned. Forgotten. Unwanted.

The point of this post? The next time you see a fellow believer “acting out” in ways you don’t approve or deem “Christian enough,”  or withdrawing from fellowship and communion with others, don’t take the easy road of presumption and judgment or mutual avoidance… step into your prayer closet and ask the Lord if there’s something you can do for that person. A kind word, a faith-filled prayer, a friendly gesture, or a well-timed question might make the difference between a fellow believer being in the body of Christ or ending up out of joint. Remember, one member out of joint causes discomfort for all!

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

Heb 12:12-13 NKJV

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