In every community, at every given time, there are strong ones and weak ones.
Whether it’s your church, school, or friend group, there are those in a season where everything is falling into place, and those in a season where everything is falling apart. There are those who have not yet felt the wounds this world can leave, and those who have been broken.
Predators often use these wounds as weapons. They seek out the vulnerable so they can coerce, blackmail, and manipulate them into giving labor or sex.
Where are the vulnerable in your circle?
Are they on the fringes? Are they at the back of the pack, worn and weary, struggling to keep up? Rejected and outcast? Or are they in the center of the circle, surrounded by love and protection?
Societies are only as civilized as the care they give their most vulnerable members. My heart aches that America is one of the top countries for human trafficking, and one of the top producers and consumers of child pornography. The so-called “greatest country in the world” is buying and selling children in every U.S. state. For human trafficking to end, we have to learn how to make circles of protection around the weak–much like the mission of Women At Risk, International.
The ancient Israelites also had to learn this concept.
Over four thousand years ago, the Lord delivered the Israelites from slavery. As they left Egypt and journeyed through the desert, they hadn’t yet been organized into an army, and a nomadic desert tribe called the Amalekites attacked them from behind, unprovoked. Deuteronomy 25:17-18 recounts this:
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.”
Later on, the Israelites were organized into ranks to travel through the desert, and the tribe of Dan was assigned to be the rearguard of their company (Numbers 10:25). God wants the weak to be defended.
If the weak are oppressed instead of protected, God will come with judgment.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord repeatedly commands the Israelites to care for the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, and to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt. Because God heard their cry and delivered them, they have a duty to listen for the cry of the oppressed. Sadly, Israel failed in this. One of the reasons the Lord allowed Babylon to take His people captive was because they exploited the weak. Hear the words of Ezekiel, spoken to the leaders of Israel during the 6th century BC:
“…Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them” (Ezekiel 34:2b-4).
If God has given you strength, it’s so you can defend. If God has given you gifts, it’s so you can serve. If God has given you a healthy body and mind, it’s so you can spend your energy for the good of others and for the building up of His kingdom.
Maybe you’ve been broken.
Don’t underestimate the power of your wounds. Your scars increase your potential to be a channel for someone else’s healing. Your pain enables you to reach people in deep, dark places, like you once were in.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? “He was wounded for our transgressions…with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). He bore unimaginable mental and physical anguish, not only to pay the price for our sin, but also so He could walk with us in our pain. Whatever pit you’re in, Jesus has already been there. He has the scars to prove it.
When you follow the wounded Healer, you’ll not only find healing for yourself, but you’ll be enabled to bring healing to others. It always inspires me to hear the stories of trafficking survivors who clung to hope in God throughout their horrific experience, and after they escaped, now devote their lives to reaching out to those in the same situation. Because they have walked that frightful road, they can minister to those precious ones like no one else can.
In the here and now, how can we protect the weak?
To me, our culture seems so self-focused that it’s pathetically easy for predators to pick off the stragglers one by one. We’ve trapped ourselves in a cycle of endless social media scrolling and endless TV shows, unware of the worn and weary lagging behind. We’re stuck inside our comfort zones, scared to stoop down to the level of those struggling through life. We want to go higher, not lower.
But if God came down to our level so we could know Him as Friend and Healer, shouldn’t we do the same? Isn’t the lowest place the highest place to be?
Keep your eye out for those wounded ones. Reach out with words, a hand, a smile. Invite them into the center of your circle, and open the doors to your home. If you don’t know how to help them, find someone who can. Remember that pain and fear can manifest as anger and irritability. Withhold judgment–you don’t know their full story.
I know it’s not easy. I’m still learning how to reach out, still learning how to move from the mentality of self-preservation to self-sacrifice. Shall we learn together?