Calling On Help

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” -Paul 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, New International Version Bible.

So, two things I wanted to share with you today. The first are my thoughts about Paul and the second about going it alone in our faith walk.

I’ve always thought of the apostle Paul as this powerful, strong Christian. He had difficulties in his ministry- shipwrecks, beatings, arrests, and ultimately death. Yet he kept a good attitude. He was strong, fearless, you might say. Yet, as I read the above passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth (his second letter), I saw something new that I hadn’t noticed before. Paul admitted he felt defeated at times.

Perhaps it was in the translation from the newer NIV, but nonetheless, I thought it was interesting. He wanted to inform the church just how bad things had been. To share with them. Just what they might expect also. No glossing over it. Just honesty. Paul, the strong man of God shared that he felt that he couldn’t endure. It was beyond his ability. He felt like he was going to die. He sounds depressed even. Yet, he shared this with the church. Further on Paul mentions his focus on God and the help of the prayers of the church in verse 11. He specifically mentions “As you help us by your prayers.”

This really spoke to me this past week, as I found myself in a stressful situation. I felt overwhelmed. Desperate even. My mind was a wreck and I just could not remain calm or think clearly. But, in one moment of clarity I reached out to an online prayer group I belong to, asking for prayer. No specifics, just to pray for me. Later I realized as more and more fellow prayer warriors began to comment on my request, I began to sense God’s peace in the situation. Bible verses began to pop up in my email from other sources I follow that gave me the direction I needed to handle the situation. Including the above passage.

Now, to the second part; I need to admit that I kind of cringe every time I hear the “lone wolf”, or “can’t do the Christian life alone” sermons. They tend to guilt people into getting involved with church groups beyond Sunday mornings. Don’t get me wrong, these groups are necessary. Small groups help us to grow in our faith. Small groups keep us accountable and I have led many of these groups. So, I don’t criticize them, just the tactics of some pastors to use the lone wolf sermons to fill their groups, or find volunteers for children’s church. They really should focus on how much we need to support each other. Welcome people to join, not guilt people to join.

Which brings me to my stressful week and how I realized we NEED each other. But, most importantly, we also need to be free to share our struggles. Not gloss over anything. We need to be informed when one of us is hurting. We also need to feel to feel we can share when we are hurting. Too often, we smile and fake it at church. We need to follow Paul’s example instead. Be open about struggles. Be accepting of those struggling. Ask for prayer. And to actually pray for others instead of promising we will and forget all about it later. This is doing life together. This is welcoming others to share their requests for prayer.

Paul admitted his weakness and his struggles that others would know what to expect in the Christian walk. We need this transparency in churches today. We need this authenticity. We also can be encouraged that prayer does change things. We can offer up prayers for one another in support. God Bless- Nancy

Was it you?

Some days we can let our circumstances get the best of us. And our emotions. We get tired and we get cranky. On the outside we are adults, but on the inside we can act like an unruly two year old. We want our way, and when we don’t get it, we get upset.

The recent events of the world have stretched me and tried my patience to the point of my becoming that unruly two year old.  I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes the situation worse, it seems. I have been the queen of self- criticism before, and on a particular, hot, tiresome August day, I acted both as a temperamental toddler and a self-critic. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been fighting the constant battle of my thoughts. If you read my last blog, you know that I addressed fear versus caution in the midst of this pandemic. Most of the time, I can keep my perspective and my focus on Christ and the things that matter, rather than on the fears that continually get fueled by what I see and read. It is easy to give into fear, especially when you’re worn out and tired.

So, there I was, exhausted, worn out, stressed and alone in a gas station bathroom. I had had enough of it all. The worries of the pandemic, the fears of moving into new chapters of my life, the pressure of resuming my seminary classes after a summer break, the disappointments and disagreements between family members, and the late hour. I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. I’d have to walk back through the store portion of the station, and didn’t want to face anyone, even a stranger with my red eyes and running mascara. I quietly told God I wanted to give up. I’ve had enough. I  knew that much of what had been happening in my personal life was a spiritual attack from the pits of hell, but I was just tired of fighting it.

In those moments of frustration and desperation, it seems like the most logical thing to say or think is to cry “Uncle”. Our faith is being stretched so much. We just want to throw in the towel and tell the Devil he’s won. We’ll stop trying to make a difference in the world. Just look out for number one, forget others, Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? Why go against the current? Why speak up for the truth? Why follow God? Why keep going to school to answer God’s call to be a pastor? How many war wounds and battle scars are enough God? I just wanna give up God, it’s not worth it anymore, can you help me God? If not, I’m giving up!

But, you were there. And you made a difference. I never saw you, might not ever meet you. But I know you had been there and must have listened to God’s voice, that still, quiet voice, to leave me a note in the bathroom that evening. It was such a clear message from God, that in my two- year tantrum mindset,  I tried not to see it. I was just so fed up with everything. I know God it was really a note from you. An answer from you, not just from a person. You are pretty intentional, and you intended for me to see that little piece of folded paper.

There it was, a handwritten note, slightly damp from the water of the sink from others who had seen it, while they washed up. It was written in colored pencil or ink, and some of the writing from the back side of the paper had faded. But there was no doubt about the message; “Jesus loves you so very much” Simple. To the point. And not even a memorized Bible verse. Just the reminder I needed that late evening at a gas station bathroom. I recited in my mind the words over and over again as I walked back out into the parking lot. Jesus loves me. So. very. much. Not just the simple Jesus loves me this I know, of the familiar kids song, but different, personal, and just what I needed to hear from God.

So thank you, who ever you are, you made a difference in my world and hopefully in the world in general. Thank you for not giving up in telling the world that yes, in fact, Jesus does love them so very much. Maybe you were a child, who forget their handwritten picture on the sink earlier that day as you washed your hands, or maybe you were a teen or adult, who knew to hear God’s voice and share the love you know with the world who does not know of God’s love.

We all have a part to play in Christ’s kingdom if we are Christians. Don’t give up and throw in the towel. Your action might be small, like a little piece of paper on a sink. But you make the difference in the world.

The world is desperate for answers, for peace, and for love. God has all that, and He is offering it freely. We all need to encourage each other about God’s love for us. Of His truth. Of His peace He offers. Of His hope that does not disappoint. Of His answers to prayer, that sometimes come in the form of little notes left on sinks.

Maybe you are looking for answers, be sure not to overlook those little quiet voices, reminding you to look to God for those answers. Be quiet enough to listen so that you don’t miss them. They might come in the form of a little, folded, love note from God. God hears you.