Written By Koh B. E., Singapore
Peter*, 13, has a growth in his brain that will cause major problems if it is not removed. Already, it causes him some discomfort; the young boy keeps rubbing his forehead. Doctors fear that it will start to press on his brain, causing complications, or even result in a fatal stroke if it cuts off blood supply to his brain.
The night before a scheduled operation, however, Peter couldn’t sleep, despite efforts by his parents to pacify him. By the next morning, he was running a high fever, and the operation had to be cancelled. His parents are now at a loss. They have spent so many10 days and nights of their lives looking after Peter in the past few years, fearing that they might lose their dear son. A surgery is essential, but the poor boy is too scared to undergo one. All they can say is, “We don’t know what to do, all we have is our hope in God. We just have to hang on to Him.”
Sure, we all know about real-world problems. Big problems like terrorism and economic downturns. Moral problems like pornography and greed. Important problems like poverty and pollution.
But these are not problems that Peter’s parents worry about. It’s not that they don’t care about the world around them, or are too selfish to worry about the plight of millions of people. They have enough worries of their own.
I learnt about the plight of Peter and his family recently, after his mother sent out an email asking for people to pray for them. As the details emerged, I could sense the pain that Peter’s parents must be going through. My heart went out to them. They had so much to worry about, and so little to hope in. What was it be like to live through such an ordeal? I thought. What was their world like? How do they keep their faith in God?
Then it struck me that while I was pontificating with friends and colleagues about big-picture problems of the world—like terrorism, moral decay etc.—here were people going through their own problems at home.
Of course, the big-picture problems are important. Big issues like pollution, terrorism, pornography, and family breakdown affect individuals just as much as personal illnesses and problems at home (it’s easy to forget this too).
But the plight of Peter and his family was a stark reminder to me that besides the big-picture problems we see around the world (and like to talk about), there are just as many—and just as important—problems that many people are struggling with, much closer to home. It was a reminder not to miss the individual trees even as I looked at the entire forest.
It reminded me of the example set by Jesus. While He came to save the world and humanity from its sins, He also had time—and the heart—for individuals who suffered problems of their own, right down to the poorest widow who had just lost her son. Jesus never missed the needs of individuals even as He was focused on the needs of the many.
So what can we do to help people like Peter and his family? If we know of such people in our neighborhood, perhaps we can help them in practical ways, such as helping them pay for their medical bills, or helping them run errands like buy food or clean their home. We could also support them spiritually and emotionally by dropping in on them or giving them a call and offering a listening ear—anything that reminds them that they are not on their own, and that we care just as God cares for every single one of us.
Of course, we can pray for and with them too. Apart from praying for world peace and all the big problems of the world, we can pray for people by name, knowing that God answers prayers and will, in His time and way, give them hope, comfort, and assurance.
But, as I have learnt, the first step is to get to know of these problems first. And that’s by realizing that some real-world problems start at home. Only then, I believe, can our eyes be opened to care and love, just as Jesus does.
*Names, ages and some details have been changed to protect privacy.