Clarence has many burdens. He has severe respiratory issues and walks with a cane. He lives in a rough neighborhood, known city-wide for its violence and poor conditions. It’s no secret that the apartment complex where he lives is a haven for drug dealers and the shadier segments of society. Clarence has a 9-year-old daughter. I don’t know if he’s ever been married or what happened to his wife, but I’m positive it’s a long sad story. When I spoke with Clarence the day before Thanksgiving, he was seeking help with food for the holiday.
As I pulled up to the apartment building on Thanksgiving morning with two boxes of food from our church pantry in the back seat, it was pouring rain and no available parking.
As I trekked through the rain, I finally arrived at Clarence’s apartment door soaked and winded. The first thing Clarence said as he began to cry upon seeing me was, “I’m so sorry you had to come in the rain.” We had a lengthy conversation, and I heard about the many burdens in Clarence’s life. He didn’t come across as complaining; he was just sharing about his struggles.
I shared with him about the church’s desire to show the compassion of Christ and the importance of developing the right relationship with God. We prayed together and as I walked back to my car I was struck with a feeling of gratitude for my many blessings. For me it was a humbling Thanksgiving Day benevolence run, which highlighted how richly blessed I am.
It told me that despite life’s challenges there are blessings to celebrate and gratitude to be expressed. It reminded me, also, of how critical it is to be in community with others so that we can minister to one another in seasons of sorrow.
This story, however, highlights the burdens we all bear. Clarence has a hard life with an array of problems. We helped him with a week’s worth of groceries and a bit of encouragement, but his most oppressive burden is sin, and his most pressing need is for forgiveness. So it is with us all. We are all needy beggars groping for help from a gracious God. We live in a justice-starved world.
We need more than food for a few days. We need a savior who can rescue us from our burdens. I could not save Clarence from his burdens, just as I could not save myself. We must look beyond ourselves, back to an old rugged cross. “For we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23,24).