I could see the sadness in her eyes, so I asked her if she wanted to talk. At first she was reluctant, but I just sort of hung around, giving her extra time to decide … or, more likely, to measure how far she wanted to trust me. Then she started to talk. She only covered the 'highlights' of the past few years, but it was more than enough to break one's heart. Her story included disappointments and frustrations, sudden and then chronic health issues, failures from those who should have been the most dependable, and tragedy. All of this before she reached her thirtieth birthday. She finished her story by saying that she was not finished … there was much more of the tale yet to be told!
I was thinking she had given me more than enough to pray about, but my thoughts were not those of my Lord Jesus. Not that much later, in a slightly different location, I heard another narrative of struggles and dilemmas. The details were totally different than those in the previous conversation, but the story was just as challenging … It was Heartbreak Hotel, part 2 … and this second 'star' was just a decade older than the first. Then, less than 24 hours later, I received word that a close, life-long friend had been placed in hospice care.
My initial prayer was, "Dear Lord, please move me across the street to Happiness Hotel. I am overburdened with heartbreaks. I just want to run and have fun!" Then I thought of how sad and lonely this world would be if we all chose to function that way. Our calling is to "carry one another's burdens" (Galatians 6.2) and not to run away from them.
Of course, my 'burden' is far different from what my three friends and their families are dealing with. My role simply is to pray for them, and to assure them of the loving presence of Jesus through all of life's trails. To tell them how his forgiveness … his grace … his loving-kindness … is being poured out upon us all throughout our earthly journey. Our role is to stand with one another as best we can, with the knowledge and assurance that he gives purpose to every moment of life and eternity with him to all who believe.
Jesus is saying to us all "Come to me, all of you, who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11.28-30) With this invitation Jesus would move us from the Heartbreak Hotel to his Harvest Hostel … a pleasant and comforting place to be before he leads us to his Heavenly Home. His yoke is easy and his burden light for us because he does all the heavy labor. In each and every situation in our life's story he shoulders up next to us, humbly positioning himself to be the answer to our every prayer.
I know Jesus will take care of my three friends, and I pray that he will use me as one of his instruments of peace in their lives. As for me, well it looks like he is giving me a day to spend in learning and prayer. Of course, the story might be totally different by sunset.
And what about you, my friend? Is he, perhaps guiding you to a new location today … perhaps carrying you from the Heartbreak Hotel to his hostel? Or maybe he is calling you to be the third part of his transition team, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with Jesus and someone who is struggling? No matter what, he wants you to know that his "goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and that (as a child of our heavenly Father) you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23.6)