Life is a strange phenomenon. Being raised on a small farm, I learned early about life and death. As a small boy, I could easily discern if a puppy or baby pig was sleeping or dead. Later, I learned to scratch the bark of a twig with my thumbnail to see if the cambium layer (inner bark) was alive (light green) or dead (brown).
Sometimes I can look into people’s eyes and see that the glimmer of light and life is gone. When I see that, I am sadden, and compassion fills my heart. I want to help them; sometimes with a prayer, sometimes with a word of encouragement or a scripture, and sometimes I listen to their story. Ultimately, they need Jesus and I enjoy telling others where they can find life.
In my travels, I have encountered many beggars. There are many in the world. Once I was in a traffic jam in an eastern country and the stalled cars were a perfect opportunity for beggars. Coming alongside the driver-side of our car was a dirty, cross-dressed man (a rarity in that conservative culture). He had a beggar’s can for collecting a few scrapes of money. Our driver gave him a little money. I will never forget the look in his eyes—he was walking but his eyes were dead. I did not look away, but we stared at each other for a few eternal seconds. God allowed me to look beyond the exterior; for a moment I saw the abuse and pain he endured. He was pitiful. I could only send a prayer to Heaven for the Hell he was then living.
In Haiti, I have watched the poor men who push and pull a brouèt (large wooden wheelbarrow) through the streets for a few Haitian gourdes. I can only imagine the toll it takes on their body not to mention their spirit. When I see their breaking backs, my heart always breaks for them.
I have often looked into the eyes of Americans whose eyes were dead from the inside of their souls. I have seen some resurrected from the deadness and watched others with sadness walk away like a starving dog refusing an offer of a warm southern biscuit. We can only offer the life that is in Jesus. We cannot make them choose life if they prefer to remain dead. This is the heartbreak of ministry.
I don’t physically cry much but my heart can be a slobbering, snotty mess without anyone knowing.
If we are to do anything, we must offer the life that is in Jesus. There is no other. He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV). That is all I need to know; where true life is to be found and how to share it with others. He also said in the last sentence of John 10:10 (NKJV), “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
A few weeks back, our church buried one who we had drug over the line from deadness to life. He came into our midst broken, bruised, battered, angry, unkept, and with deadness in his eyes. He often had a rage in his voice, but we whispered the sweet love of Jesus. Often, we were beating the demons off him with the staves of the Word. We loved him when he was unlovable, we talked with him when it was inconvenient, we exercised patience and longsuffering, and we drug him over the line from deadness to life in Jesus. He came to Jesus and died at peace with God and an eternal hope that is sure. We celebrated his homegoing with tears and laughter while the angels of Heaven were giving him a parade.
I have officiated and attended more funerals in the last two years than in any other two-year span. Some of those who were physically dead, I was confident they were ALIVE with our Father. Some, I hoped so. Others, I was fearful of their destination though I am not their judge. Arriving home from yet another funeral, I would hang up my suit, catch my breath, and begin the work anew.
If your eyes stray across these words and you are lost and dead—Believe in Jesus, Repent of your sins, and LIVE in Him. He is the only true source of life here and in eternity. Look long and deep in a mirror; do you see life or deadness in your eyes? COME TO LIFE IN JESUS AND LIVE!
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt