What can I do?

It’s been quite a week just gone. It started with a visit to an ageing relative suffering with Dementia; I’ll call him Winston, because that’s close enough. Winston is 86, was widowed last year, has all his own teeth and physically is in pretty good shape. As is typical of someone with his condition, Winston is great when talking about anything that happened a long time ago, but not so good with recent stuff. Each time I visit we run through the same ‘introductory’ Q&A, but the one thing Winston always wants to talk about is “this God you believe in”. He’s not a Christian, although a man of great integrity. Winston can be quite cynical, but most of all I get the sense he really wants to believe.

Then a couple of days later came the sad news we’d been expecting; a great friend lost her long battle with cancer. She’d fought the disease for nearly a decade, bringing up twins, loving and caring for her husband, tirelessly working for charities that supported others who suffered from the condition and always, literally always, with a smile on her face. She inspired, encouraged, loved and lived selflessly throughout all the time we had the great privilege to know her. I’m not sure where our friend was with God, but she demonstrated so many Christ-like characteristics it always took my breath away.

Just the next day I went to visit Brian, that’s his real name. Brian has stage 4 bowel cancer and is under the care of the local hospice. He’s been discharged by his oncologist and is receiving palliative medication at home. I say at home; Brian immediately insisted I take him to the pub for some ‘proper’ medicine! Over a pint of one of Shepherd Neame’s finest ales he explained how scared he was, how he prayed every night, how he had so much he wanted to do, to see, to experience and that this rotten (not the exact word he used) cancer was not going to stop those things happening. A local politician for most of his life, Brian is still consumed with a desire to help other people; during the short time we spent enjoying a pint (okay, maybe it was two) he spoke to three different people about issues he was helping them with. Like our friend, Brian may not have made a commitment to Jesus yet, but it’s clear that in his creation he has inherited characteristics that can give us a glimpse of God.

I’m sure many of us could tell similar stories of people in our lives; people that we love, that we care about and most of all people that we long to come to know and love Jesus. Crucially people for whom time is particularly precious. 

The week’s events have led me to ask some questions. How do we respond as men? What can we do in situations like these? Of course, there are no ‘one size fits all’ answers, no utopia we can create. Equally I’ve learnt that we have to put aside our tendency, as blokes, to want to fix stuff, solve problems or find resolutions. In many cases there is very little we can do but so much we can be. We can be present, making the time we spend with people focussed and intentional; we can be prayerful, offering to pray with or for people; we can be a friend; one that journeys and yes, we can, in humility, be more like Jesus.

When we encounter the nature of God, as I feel certain I have this week, we reflect that nature. By His grace we travel a path of transformation, we live as men impacted by the truth of the gospel (2 Cor 3:18). As hamstrung as we might feel in situations like those I experienced, it’s worth remembering that God sometimes calls us simply to ‘be’.

Image Credit: Life.Church