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What We’ve Been Missing in a World of Urgent Need

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Alone in a guesthouse at the base of the Himalayas, I found myself on my knees, face to the floor, sobbing. Scattered around me was the evidence of my past week—a backpack, trekking poles, hiking boots. I was fresh off a weeklong journey through some of the highest mountains in the world and only hours from a flight home to the States.

But I hadn’t planned on ending my trip with out-of-control tears.

Up to that day, I could count on one hand the number of times I’d cried in my adult life. The last time I’d wept was the day I received the phone call that my dad had died of a sudden heart attack. But this day in an Asian guesthouse was different. This time I wasn’t weeping because I was missing someone or even something. Instead, I was crying uncontrollably because of what others—men, women, and children I’d met the past week—were missing. Things like water, food, family members . . . freedom and hope. I so longed for them to have these things that I couldn’t help it. I fell to the floor sobbing, and the flood of tears wouldn’t stop. 

Looking back on that day in the guesthouse, I wonder why being so overwhelmed for others in need has been uncommon for me. I think of all the church services I’ve been in week after week, year after year, talking and hearing about the needs of people all over the world. I think of all the sermons I’ve preached about serving those in need. I even think about the books I’ve written, including Radical—for crying out loud—a book about laying down our lives in love for Christ and the world around us. So why has it been rare for me to be so moved by the needs of others that I have fallen on my face before God and wept?

I don’t think this question is just for me. When I think of all those church services, I recall very few instances when other Christians and I have wept together for people who were missing water, food, family, freedom, or hope. Why is a scene like that so uncommon among us?

It makes me wonder if we’ve lost our capacity to weep. It makes me wonder if we have subtly, dangerously, and almost unknowingly guarded our lives, our families, and even our churches from truly being affected by God’s words to us in a world of urgent spiritual and physical needs around us. We talk a lot about the need to know what we believe in our heads, yet I wonder if we have forgotten to feel what we believe in our hearts. How else are we to explain our ability to sit in services where we sing songs and hear sermons celebrating how Jesus is the hope of the world, yet rarely (if ever) fall on our faces weeping for those who don’t have this hope and then take action to make this hope known to them?

Why today do we seem to be so far from the way of Jesus? Jesus wept over those in need. He was moved with compassion for the crowds. He lived and loved to bring healing and comfort to the broken. He died for the sins of the world. So why are those of us who carry his Spirit not moved and compelled in the same way? Surely God didn’t design the gospel of Jesus to be confined to our minds and mouths in the church, yet disconnected from our emotions and actions in the world.

Surely something needs to change.

But how? When I found myself face first on that guesthouse floor, it wasn’t because I’d heard a new fact about suffering in the world or even made a new discovery in God’s Word. On the long flight to Asia, I had actually written an entire sermon on poverty and oppression, complete with staggering numbers concerning the poor and oppressed in the world today. And I had written it from an emotionally well-guarded, frighteningly coldhearted perspective. Somehow, staring at statistics on poverty and even studying the Bible had left my soul unscathed. But when I came face to face with men, women, and children in urgent spiritual and physical need, the wall in my heart was breached. And I wept.

Clearly, the change we need won’t happen simply by our seeing more facts or listening to more sermons (or even preaching them, for that matter). What we need is not an explanation of the Word and the world that puts more information in our heads; we need an experience with the Word in the world that penetrates the recesses of our hearts. We need to dare to come face to face with desperate need in the world around us and ask God to do a work deep within us that we could never manufacture, manipulate, or make happen on our own.

      This excerpt is the opening from David Platt’s newly released book, Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need. To order the book or to find out more about it, go here. To view the Something Needs to Change simulcast, go here.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and president of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, and Counter Culture.
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