When Jesus got ashore, he said a great crowd, and was moved with compassion for them.
Karl Menninger built the internationally renowned Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. He built a career around providing psychiatric care for troubled patients.
Once, Menninger gave a lecture on mental health and answered questions from the audience. One person lobbed him a softball, “What would you advise a person to do,” they asked, “if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”
Well, duh! Everyone already knew his answer before he said it: see a psychiatrist.
Dr. Menninger caught everyone off guard with his response. What should they do if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on? His answer was, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and then do something to help that person.”
I like this guy. He’s my favorite person from Topeka, and I’m not saying that just because he’s the only person I know from Topeka – he really sounds like a man of extraordinary common sense.
People who focus on the needs of others are coming down with mental health at an alarming rate. You’ve already noticed this, haven’t you? If you are unaware that compassionate people have fewer struggles with depression and anxiety, then maybe you’re just not paying attention.
Physical or emotional pain tends to drive me inward. When I have a toothache, it’s harder for me that think about your problems. Yet, as odd as it sounds, the best thing I could do when I’m hurting is to focus on helping other people.
Duffy Daughtery, the legendary football coach at Michigan State, aptly observed, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport.”
I loved high school football. A game consisted of an evening a planned collisions. Great fun. Those of you played football know that it isn’t until the game is over that you realize your arm is bleeding and your knee is swollen. You were too focused on the game.
But imagine if you were standing in a living room during a cocktail party, and someone took a five yard head start and tackled you? Without an external focus, it would really, really hurt.
When Jesus learned his friend, John the Baptist, was executed, who could blame him for wanting to get away. He tried. But the crowds noticed him and ran after him. I’m still amazed that Jesus wasn’t annoyed by this. The Bible says that, when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them. He spent the rest of the day teaching them and giving them fish and bread.
Please – I’m not trying to minimize your pain. But tending to the hurts of others may be the best medicine you’ll ever find.
(copyright 2013 by Marty Kaarre)