Is It REALLY What You Think It Is?

Is it what you think it is?

Several years ago, I stood at the back of the church after service as my husband finished preaching. The presence of the Lord was sweet and tangible. Many families had already left, but a few people lingered.

One of the benefits of being a pastor is that you know the behind-the-scenes stories of the members and their families who attend your church. One of these members sat alone in her row … weeping softly, her face buried in her hands. 

As I stood in the back of the sanctuary praying for those who had left, it was as if the Holy Spirit was standing just behind me and leaned in to whisper in my ear. “Watch this …”

Woman with her head in her hands.

Slowly, the woman’s sobbing rose in volume and all in the sanctuary were well aware of the weeping woman’s tears. Five women rose quickly; three on the left side of the sanctuary and two on the right. Quickly, all five made their way to the weeping woman and surrounded her, laying their hands on her and praying softly.

My spirit grieved inside of me and this thought crossed my mind …

“These women mean well, but not one of these women prayed or asked if they should approach the weeping woman, let alone how.”

“Unfortunately, these women are praying because they are disturbed by this woman’s tears, not because they have a concern for her. If they’d had a concern for her, they would have asked what to do next.”

My heart was pricked as I thought back to many times when I had done the very same thing. Meaning well, and wanting to nurture, but in truth, wanting the crying to stop.

The background of this particular woman was well known with our leadership. Being a victim paid off handsomely for her. Members would clean her house and give her clothes, pay her bills and watch her kids for free. What the members did not know, nor could they see, was what this woman did behind the scenes that caused me to question her tears.

One woman leaned over and began to hug the woman while the others continued to pray. It was quite clear that they wanted her to be comforted (to stop crying.) These women were very gentle, loving women. BUT … their actions could very well have been the result of:

  • Manipulation – This woman knew well, how to gain the attention of tender-hearted souls. (Unfortunately, it served her well when she had bills to pay.)
  • God could have truly been dealing with her heart and just as she was gaining a full revelation of her dysfunctional motives, the five women violated that key moment to “pray and intercede” interrupting the move of the Holy Spirit.
  • The woman could have genuinely needed comfort – but not the crowd. Sometimes a hug from one person is so much more healing than to be pounced upon by well-wishers who are not paying attention to your body language, let alone the Holy Spirit.

Assumptions are dangerous things. Under the guise of being “spiritual” or “Holy” we too easily fall prey to judging another’s actions based upon our own experiences.

Case in point…

It's not what you thinkEarlier that year I had gone to visit our praise and worship leader’s wife at their lovely home. The home sat near an open space where various wildlife often made a delightful appearance. They kept binoculars near their sliding glass door that led to the deck just for the purpose of watching what might appear on the scene next.

This particular morning, I went straight for the door, grabbed the binoculars and stepped out onto the deck. A small herd of cattle were grazing nearby. One in particular caught my eye as the cow was thrusting her head up and down in a very energetic rhythm that reminded me of the song by James Brown “Whoa! I feel good …” dodo do do dodo …

Bringing the binoculars up so that I could get a better view of this amusing behavior, I was horrified at what I saw as I focused in on why the cow was thrusting her head up and down.

One horn had grown quite long and had turned back toward’s her skull. The horn had pierced her flesh and had entered just behind her eye. A swarm of flies were feeding off the wound and the infection that dripped down the side of her jowl.

The praise and worship leader’s wife confirmed my fears when I passed the binoculars to her.  We spent the rest of the afternoon calling various agencies to try to track down the owner of those cattle to notify him of the cow’s dilemma.

That night, as we stood in worship at church, the scene played across my mind once again, only this time with a narration.

“Just as you had misinterpreted that cow’s movement’s as a good thing, when in fact she was in unbearable pain, it is easy to misinterpret the actions of a person when the smile they give you is actually a wince of pain.”

“When my people do not cast down their vain imaginations … When they do not control their thoughts … their thoughts will turn against them and cause pain, affecting what they see and how they see.”

“The enemy feeds off of such deception, and left unchecked, can lead to an agonizing, tormenting death.”

If we do not tend to our OWN thoughts, our motives become blurred by what we think we see, or hear. The actions of another person may appear to be one thing, when in fact it is quite something else.

None of us has the right to judge another person, or to guess the motives of their heart. But each of us has a responsibility to keep our own thoughts and opinions in check. Our hands are quite full with keeping our own hearts pure and our ears open to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit … 

The next time you are tempted to jump up and “tend” to someone else’s problem. Stop and check your own motives. Are you ministering to them in the way that benefits them … or comforts you … or makes you feel more “right” than them?

Even good intentions can come with deception and the consequences could cost another persons life … or marriage … or job … or peace of mind … or deliverance.

3Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 4How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-4 (

2 thoughts on “Is It REALLY What You Think It Is?

  1. Sharon says:

    I can really relate to this article, because I was the woman who was crying at a retreat. I had just entered into recovery. I had recently discovered that my husband was a sex addict. My emotions had been locked up and I had been unable to express what was going on inside of me. When I began to cry, women rushed to my side to provide comfort… Unfortunately the moment I was touched, I became aware that others were watching me and it served to dam up the desparately needed emotional release. I know that my friends were well meaning, but the reality was I subconsciously locked up those emotions because I was too embarrassed to let people into my pain. The reality was that I did not find my tears again for over a year.

    When we rush to comfort our friends, sometimes we thwart the work that is being done by the Holy Spirit in the moment. If we must be involved, it may be better to stand off and simply pray from afar and allow the Holy Spirit to work within the heart and to not disturb the work that is being accomplished. When you see someone crying, don’t assume that you know better than the Lord what the individual needs. Be sensitive to the process, and be willing to admit that you may not be meant to be part of that process–except to perhaps pray from a distance. What is it in people who cannot stand to see someone crying? Why is emotional expression perceived as bad?

    When I see someone crying now, there is something in me that desires to stand guard and make sure no one comes to upend what might be going on in the heart. Comfort can always be offered….it is never too late; but allow the Holy Spirit his place first…

    Sharon Worrell, co-author of Sexual Addiction: One Couple’s Journey to Discover the Strategies for Healing / www.

    • Shannon says:

      So true Sharon. Many a healing has been short-circuited when a person who has finally gained a breakthrough is jolted out of it because of people watching … and judging … (or so it feels)

      Even Jesus asked for permission before He prayed for someone, and He knew already what they needed before they asked. What makes us think that we are so different?

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