The doorbell rang and the members of our small Bible study group instantly were on the alert. Our pastor had informed us that a young woman had approached him, asking about a women’s Bible study group. While he said he couldn’t divulge the details, what he did tell us was that she needed a group of women to show her support in a rough time of her life.
We weren’t sure what to expect when the door opened. The woman at the door looked in at us with a mixture of trepidation and caution, but also with purpose. As she entered the room where we sat around prepared for our study, she politely smiled and acknowledged our greetings and introductions.
Not wanting to inundate her with questions, we just asked her some basic things about her family. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of her children and we could see that being a mom was very important to her. She didn’t breathe a word about any husband though and we wondered what story was behind the sadness that radiated from her.
“Cindy” (not her real name), easily settled into our Bible study routine. She proved herself quite knowledgeable about Scripture and gradually as the evening went on she volunteered a few more comments and answers to questions. As we said goodbye to her that night we wondered if we would ever see her again. Reading her was difficult as she was a pro at keeping her feelings hidden and her private life secure. Did she enjoy her time with us? What could we do to make her more comfortable? How could we be God’s arms of love to her?
We all sensed that there was a deep secret lying hidden in Cindy and we wondered how we could help her. Knowing that revelations would come gradually and in God’s time, we prayed and asked for guidance to be avenues of healing in Cindy’s life.
As I talked with other Bible study members through the week we pondered about the courage it took for Cindy to come to a private home for a Bible study group from a church that was not her own. We knew she was an active member at another church in town. Why did she want Bible study with us and not people from her own congregation?
The puzzle didn’t grow any clearer in the coming weeks. Cindy kept coming and continued to be actively engaged in the study of God’s Word. Although we continued to be puzzled as to what Cindy’s background might be, we had to trust that God would open up her heart and spirit in time. Cindy continued to exhibit great joy when she talked about her children and we drew her out more and more. We learned she was a social worker who dearly loved her job and the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet to those in need.
At the end of each Bible study session we gathered for prayer, using requests from each of our study members. At first Cindy refused to volunteer any prayer requests. In time she brought forward a few, mostly about her children.
After many weeks together, Cindy still hadn’t opened up. Her reserve caused her to appear detached at times. We hoped we were doing some good being together, but we had to wonder. What would it take to get her to trust us? What had happened to her that caused her to focus inward and not let the world in?
Finally, one day, our Bible study topic created a spark in Cindy and the floodgates opened. We listened in shock as she said she was married to a man who was an active church member, but she had taken her children and ran away from him and lived in hiding for a time. Why? Because this man was abusive and it was no longer safe to stay.
Most of our group members has long term, healthy marriages. We groped to find the words to minister to a woman who had seen things in life we couldn’t possibly understand. After admitting what was going on her life, Cindy backed off and her closed demeanor was back. How could we break that wall of reserve and help her to heal?
In the weeks that followed we gradually learned more of Cindy’s story. She described the harrowing night when things became so dangerous that she took her children and left, not knowing if she ever would be able to return to her home. Our eyes filled with tears as she talked about putting her car in hiding so it wouldn’t be discovered and how difficult it was to keep going to work and church when things were so upset in her life. Eventually Cindy even shared details of the abusive incidents she and her children had experienced. Again our eyes filled with tears. How could anyone hurt such a dear woman and her children?
When the shock wore off, care and compassion kicked in. We did what we knew best – to surround Cindy with love and help her on the road to healing. Knowing that Cindy wanted to move forward, we didn’t bring up her past abusive situation unless she chose to speak about it. As we became more informed about what living in an abusive relationship entailed, we knew the best thing we could do was to help Cindy make a success of her life of independence.
Is there a “Cindy” that God is putting in your path? I hope that her powerful story incites you to take action and make an impact on a struggling person’s life. Many people need our care, minus the judgment. Cindy flourished partly because we took the time to understand her situation and learn to see things from her perspective. Getting into her world took time and patience but it was worth it to see God work healing in her.
Many people are feeling hopeless in these trying times. Pray that God will lead you to someone who needs ministering to. If you feel at a loss, as we did at first as to how to help, remember that being our Savior’s loving arms is what is most important. God will help you do what is needful. Sharing God’s Word in meaningful ways, offering physical care, and listening with our hearts and minds are all important components in helping those who need encouragement.
Our troubled world needs the hope that only Christ can give. How will they know if we don’t step up and get involved?