I’ve known Trevor and Karen for a couple of years. They aren’t married, but they have two children together.
Karen was adopted from the foster system when she was ten years old. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t struggle with alcohol or substance abuse.
Trevor, on the other hand, is the youngest of several siblings. He grew up in a loving home, but he also suffers from drug addiction.
I appreciate this couple because they are open and honest.
Most recently, they came to one of our ministry’s pizza lunches. I hadn’t seen them in a few weeks and wanted to catch up.
They were both quiet and stared down at their plates when they talked. I learned they’ve been living on the streets and that both of their children had been placed in foster care. Trevor can’t hold down a job because of his drug habit, and Karen refuses to find work until Trevor gets his act together. She’s tired of carrying him.
When Trevor spoke about himself, I noticed a tremendous amount of shame.
He’s nearly 40 years old, and his life is a complete mess. He didn’t mean for things to go this way, and he doesn’t want them to stay this way forever.
He wants to find a job, work hard, and provide for his family.
But shame is a terrible motivator, it’s paralyzing.
So Trevor has no idea what direction to go or what step to take next.
I want to confess something.
When people like Trevor and Karen share their stories with me, I start to doubt the power of the gospel message.
In fact, I almost immediately start thinking of worldly solutions for their problems – nearby rehabilitation clinics or factories looking to hire.
But I’ve learned that a person doesn’t have to be unemployed or addicted to drugs to be lost.
Which means sobriety with a job isn’t the answer.
I had a friend in college whose mom had a saying:
“If it cries, hold it.”
Think about that for a moment. It’s simple, but powerful. A minimalistic thought packed full of meaning.
When we were babies, crying was just crying. But as we grow, crying takes on different forms. And we use phrases like “acting out” to describe our crying.
“Bill got really stressed at work and he started acting out with pain pills.”
It’s so easy to ignore the crying of the lost. I’m certainly guilty.
And if we don’t ignore the crying, we start analyzing. “Well, you know, Bill had a rough childhood, this was bound to happen.”
I think Jesus is looking for people who are crying.
If you get a chance, read the entire 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
The chapter is one in which Jesus tells three stories about lost things being found.
A sheep, a coin, and a wayward son.
None of the stories include details as to why the thing (or person) became lost.
It just happens.
The point of each story is that someone wants to find what’s been lost.
Of course, each story is really about people. And the characters who have lost something represent God.
And God is eager to recover those who are lost. Not to punish or scold, but to embrace.
Each story ends with a huge celebration when the lost becomes found.
I shared the gospel with Trevor and Karen. I told Trevor that Jesus has forgiven his sins, and that he wants to take away his shame.
He believed me and said he wants to learn more.
I think that means God is planning a party, because, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7, ESV)
If you know someone in the throes of sin and pain, don’t condemn or analyze.
Because God is waiting for their return, he wants them in the family.
And he may be asking you to help them find their way home.