Today you are going to meet people who are hiding great emotional and relational pain. They will typically smile and say a few superficial words, but they will seldom reveal their inner struggles … usually because they do not believe you would understand or really care.
As they walk away, you will have missed an opportunity to show compassion and point others to the life-changing love of Christ.
If you’d like to see how afraid most people are to reveal their inner battles, take two minutes to watch this scene from a movie called Marty, which earned Ernest Borgnine an Academy Award for Best Actor. (If the movie frame does not appear, click here .)
Like many people who have been deeply hurt, Marty seems light-hearted and jovial as he casually deflects his mother’s questions. But as she continues to press in, his great inner battle is slowly revealed, expressed by these words, “I got hurt enough! I don’t wanna get hurt no more.”
When his mother fails to understand the significance of that revelation and persists in pressing him, Marty finally explodes with a tornado of pent-up emotion, showing how deeply he has been wounded by repeated rejections over the years.
There is a good chance that you will meet a “Marty” today, someone who is concealing deep emotional and relational pain. The easy thing for you to do will be to accept his superficial light-heartedness and avoid engaging him at the level of his inner struggles.
The difficult but far more rewarding alternative is to be like Jesus.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), he discerned that she was a scorned outcast because she was drawing water during the heat of the day instead of in the morning or evening, when other women congregated at the well. When he tried to probe into her life, she side-stepped his questions and repeatedly tried to redirect the conversation.
But Jesus kept pressing in on the crippling issue of her life, gently uncovering the truth about her multiple affairs and divorces, and the resulting rejection of her community. As these painful facts came to light, he did not recoil or give the slightest indication of judging her. Instead, he graciously applied the balm of God’s love and forgiveness, holding out to her the thirst-quenching, pain-soothing, life-giving hope of the gospel.
Today you will meet men and women like Marty and the woman at the well. Pray that God would give you a heightened awareness to sense their struggles.
As they open up to you, be imitate Jesus. Listen patiently, draw them out, don’t judge or be deflected, embrace their pain, and, most importantly, hold out to them the love and forgiveness of God—for all of us need to know that he is in the battle with us.
As Philo of Alexandria wrote two thousand years ago, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
~ Ken Sande
If you would like to improve your ability to be more sensitive to the struggles of other people, see these posts:
- Men Lay Down Emotional Cards One at a Time  
- Can You Read Faces? 
- Seven Steps to Empathy 
To raise your relational skills to an even higher level, register for our 20-lesson online course, Discovering Relational Wisdom 2.0 .
- Have there been times when you were fighting great inner battles but were afraid to share them with others? Why did you feel that way?
- Is there anyone who with whom you can usually share your inner struggles? What qualities does that person have that makes you feel safe in sharing such personal information?
- Is there someone in your life who may be struggling with some difficult inner battles? If so, read the three blog posts listed above and
Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes, whether with a few friends or as a staff, ministry or church devotional.
© 2017 Ken Sande
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