The curious thing about the note is that the reason behind it isn't clear any longer. Maybe it was about something — or somebody — pinching my life situation at that point in time. Or perhaps it was just a great story I wanted to be sure not to forget. (Yes, I clearly have a great filing system and memory! I went six years before finding and doing anything with that piece of paper.)
Dave told about a soldier in Iraq who had received one of those notorious "Dear John" letters that wreak so much havoc in the hearts of young men far away from home. To make it even worse, the writer ended her note dumping the fellow with this cold request: "Please return the photograph I gave you just before you shipped out. It is the favorite picture I have of myself, and I want to use it with my engagement announcement in our local newspaper."
He was devastated and couldn't hide it. When his buddies finally got him to let them in on his pain, they came to his rescue. They pooled all the photos of girlfriends and wives of the 175 guys in his company, dumped them into a shoebox, and sent them to the girl with this note: "Linda, please find your picture and return the rest. For the life of me, I can't remember which one you are."
Now that's how friends pull together in tough times! They rally. They look for a way to lift broken spirits. They do something to help their friend put it behind him and start looking to the future. They may even turn it into a victory of sorts.
Okay. Maybe that group of guys went to an extreme and turned rallying to their buddy's side into a form of revenge. So I'm not recommending a strategy — just a principle. Somebody in your life is carrying a heavy burden today, and it is possible that you will know about it before the day ends. Maybe you know already. And with that knowledge comes the opportunity to be helpful.
Don't feel responsible for fixing it; you almost surely can't. Just be willing to listen. The Bible calls it weeping with those who weep, and sometimes the tears are quite literal. It may not need to go that far. Sometimes it is enough to restore a person's confidence and will to keep going to know that somebody is interested enough to put something else aside for a few minutes and listen. If the situation is private enough to allow it, you can pray over her pain or confusion.
"Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed," wrote Paul. "Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived (Galatians 6:2-3 MSG).
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