I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”
I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain. But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else? For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.
In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi. It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)
Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.
Why only two and not four?
During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism. While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested. Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.
It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting. I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished. They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation. Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.
God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting. Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain. He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting. If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from.
It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt. Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I. I’m sure you have as well.
In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting. Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.