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

At A Loss For Words

She passed. Two words with the power to break me to my knees. I knew it was coming, but the words had interrupted my dinner and I pushed back my plate. My stomach began to tighten and I no longer was hungry. I tried to calm myself enough to respond to the person on the other end of the phone. My voice was shaky, but I managed to utter “Okay”.

No matter how long someone has graced this planet, death still hurts. It leaves an absence in our lives. Certain people touch our lives to the point where they have been a part of who we are, of who we have become. They inspire us and mold us, acting as a foundation, a pillar if you will. When they die, we feel the foundations of our lives shake and wobble, like a tremor. We can no longer seek out their advice or tell them of our latest accomplishments for which we are proud. There is an empty place now that they use to fill.

We can’t go through this life without feeling this emptiness caused by the death of someone we were close to. We know it and understand the finite quality of this life. As Christians who believe in eternal life, we know that this is not the end. If those who died had accepted Jesus as Savior, we will see them again. there is hope and yet, still; we will hurt. We will miss them. We will grieve. This is normal and how we are hard- wired by our Creator God to feel grief. It is okay to cry and grieve over our loss.

But, if you are on the other side of grief, the person who has not experienced the loss, what do you say? Your friend, spouse, neighbor, co- worker has lost someone and you find yourself at a loss for words. We have all been there. A simple “Sorry” doesn’t seem right. But, it is actually perfect.

My Aunt died this week so this hurt is fresh and raw. I have been jolted back to a place of sadness that I felt a few years ago when my mom died. Those familiar feelings of an empty space. Of sorrow. Of grief. And I find myself wanting to be comforted. A hug, kind words and asking me how I’m doing is what I really want.

Her death and my loss, have brought me to a place where I wanted to share what to say and not to say, when someone is grieving. I hope it will help you to know what to say. First, say sorry. Please ask how I am. Please ask how did she die. Please ask what she meant to me. Please ask if you can pray for me and what to pray. Please ask if I need anything. Please ask me to share a memory of her, and listen as I cry, laugh, and vent. Please spend time with me and not rush off because it feels uncomfortable for you; it’s uncomfortable for me too. Please ask if there is anything you can do.

And for the don’t s. Please don’t tell me she is in a better place. Don’t tell me she was old, as if it is comforting. Please don’t say as least you had a long time with her. Please don’t tell me I’ll see her again. Please don’t tell me she is at peace.

These are all true. I know it, but it is not what I need at the moment. She is fine. It is me who is grieving. Grieving takes time. It is not a quick thing. It isn’t easy. Tell me it is hard. Tell me that death is not good. Tell me it sucks. Come along side me and grieve with me. And you will not be at a loss for words. God Bless You- Nancy

Constant

Do you like change? Or do you like consistency? I admit I am torn between the two. I like to travel and visit new places, but I still resist changes to my schedule or to my comfort zone of my home town. I enjoy new shops and restaurants, but do not like to see the land cleared to make room for these new places. I like the wooded empty lots with the beautiful shade trees. I like my smaller easy to drive back roads instead of the newer widened streets with too much traffic. I like my routine, but at times I get bored and want change.

But, one thing I have learned with all the change from the past two plus years, as the world has been reeling from one crisis to another, I need some change, but also crave the known and consistent. I cannot take too much change. I feel uneasy. I feel anxious. I know the world keeps moving forward, but I need some kind of constant. Something familiar to comfort my anxiety.

It is at these times the Holy Spirit reminds me of the unchanging nature of God. He does not change. He is constant. My relationship with Him is constant. I need not fear His ever abandoning me, or leaving me to fend for myself. He holds me in the palm of His hand and no one can snatch me away. He loves me despite my errors in judgement. He has called me His child. I am His daughter.His perfect love drives out any fear.

The fear that originates in my own mind that somehow I don’t measure up. When my prayers aren’t answered in the way I want them to be answered. When He is silent. When He doesn’t seem to be listening. When He doesn’t see how all these changes to the world, my world, has made me anxious. Or when I want Him to change a situation, that He could easily change.

But then I remember to trust. He does see and know all the turmoil around me. He knows my anxious thoughts. He knows my fears and says “Fear not”. He has called me His own. His child. His sister. His friend. Not because of my goodness. Not because I am special or better than anyone else on this planet, but because He loves me, just as He loves the whole world. He sent His Son to reconcile my broken relationship with Him. He sent someone to tell me about the awesome good news, that I did not have to fear of whether or not I measured up to His standard- I don’t- but that He would take on all my missing the mark, and make payment. He loved me enough to take on my sentence and allow justice to be served. I am free of trying to pay for it myself or worrying whether I have done enough good, or whether the good outweighs the bad.

I trust Him, not myself. I am His. I am now a daughter of the King. And although my world is full of changes that make me anxious, I can relax and know He has this. All of this. He has a plan for this world that is still being worked out, that in the end will set all things straight. He is an unchanging God who knows it will all work according to His plan. -God Bless You – Nancy

Listening For God

How easy is it for you to listen for God? Does Heaven seem silent at times? Do your prayers appear to hit the ceiling and just stop there? I struggled a bit to decide on this week’s blog title on whether or not I should substitute the word for with the word to.

When we get right down to it, sometimes God is speaking to us, but we just don’t like what He’s saying. We want Him to speak with neon signs or billboards or maybe in this time in history; Instagram posts or Facebook. We are waiting for these big moments in our lives that will answer our questions and prayers. We seek God for answers of what we should or should not do. What person to marry. What job to accept or decline. What home or car to buy. What to say to someone. What not to say to someone. Everything. And most of the time we hear the Holy Spirit nudging us in one direction or another. Or giving us the right words to say at the right time.

That is usually how we hear God’s direction. But sometimes for the really big decisions it just seems quiet, too quiet. Have you been there? Me too. And it can be frustrating.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I just wanna get it right. Not step out and find out, but more like shoot a dart and have it land perfectly on the bullseye on the first try.

Today I was reminded of the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God. Elijah was hiding in a cave awaiting God to pass by. Reality was, he was hiding because he was scared. And lonely. He felt like he was the only one left who was following God and serving him. He was discouraged and complained to God. God told Elijah to wait and He (God) would pass by the opening to the cave. And then we are told, “A great and terrible wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.After the earthquake came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV).

After all that, in the end God says to Elijah “What are you doing here?” Like get up stop fearing everything and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Wow.

I mean I would be done after the earthquake and wind. But yeah fire too. And then the whisper. I suspect all the other natural phenomenon was to simply get Elijah’s attention and bring him out of the cave. But, also I doubt if there was much cave left after God broke apart the mountain with wind. And poor Elijah thought he was scared of what people could do to him.

We all have those moments in our life when it does appear that our whole world is falling apart and we need God so desperately. And then something happens to us. When we get rid of all of our distractions and reduce down what really matters, when our lives are shattered and our protections are removed, we are forced out to the entrance of our own caves, and there in that moment God whispers to us. The earthquakes, windstorms and fire of our lives, get our attention and prepare us to draw nearer to God and listen.

I would prefer to do without all the storms of course to hear God. I can sometimes be stubborn like Elijah though and want the billboards and neon signs, but most of the time I am only waiting to hear from God what I want Him to say. And I always want the message on my time table, not God’s. It is at those times I have to still my soul and be quiet to listen for that gentle whisper of God. And then get up, leave the cave of waiting and go where He leads me. God Bless You – Nancy

Desiring Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27, NIV

I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, my biggest desire at the moment is for peace. Peace for the world, definitely, but peace in my life as well. I believe we all are feeling angst and a bit uncertain as to what the future holds. We have come out of a world wide pandemic- or at least we are hopeful we have, but just when one difficulty passes, another seems to always take its place. It seems as if we are always on the edge of a cliff , or at the top of a roller coaster, about to plunge into the depths of difficulty, whether health, finances, war, or supply shortages.

As long as we live in the world and take a breath, this world will never be at peace for long. But, as noted in the verse above- our peace isn’t supposed to be found in this world. The peace the world gives is temporary. The peace of Jesus is different. It is His peace. But, what does that mean? In context, Jesus was addressing His disciples about events that were about to take place, namely His death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. they were about to experience a lot of trouble- but He promised them it would be better. For He would be leaving them, but sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach them. We as believers also have this promise from Jesus with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior.

Jesus knew the disciples would be upset with His death and would probably not fully understand what was happening so He prepared them. If you want to read the passage in context, I suggest reading the entire chapter fourteen of John’s gospel.

Chapter 14 begins “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is a powerful verse. Too often I find myself letting my heart (and my mind) wander from peace and confidence to trouble. The kind of trouble that occupies my thoughts, choking out the peace, faith and confidence that Jesus offers. To get back on track, I stop, take a breath, and pray. Then I pick up my Bible and read God’s truth. And I am reminded that He has a plan for the world. A plan that restores the world to wholeness. To bring shalom. To heal the broken relationship between man and God. To heal the land. To heal creation that suffers as well. Real peace. Amen. God bless you – Nancy

Amazed

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

– Paul in his letter to the Christians at Thessaloniki (Thessalonians 2:2)

What amazes you? It might seem at times that there is nothing that is amazing. Nothing that just encourages you to the point of feeling overwhelming joy and contentment. You see, I think that is a result of being amazed. We are filled with both joy and contentment. It’s difficult right now to find this joy and contentment. Or to be amazed. If you are following along with this blog, than you will recall last week’s topic of weariness. If you don’t follow, I encourage you to do so, in order for you to not miss any of the blogs. And you can join me in this journey of walking out my Christian faith through difficulties, and changes that we all face in one form or another. I try to encourage you from my own life, that while life is a challenge and is constantly moving forward, we do not have to lose heart. God is with us.

In Paul’s letter, quoted briefly above, Paul is writing to a church located in Thessolonica. He, along with Silas and Timothy, had shared the Gospel of Jesus there over the course of a three week time period, with several people responding positively to the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, had been crucified and rose on the third day. He was their hope and salvation. However, there was a group of Jewish leaders who tried to have him thrown out of town He narrowly escaped. You can read more about this in Acts chapter 17. The message had been accepted by some, and a group of Christian believers began to meet. After a time, he sent Timothy back to encourage these new believers in their faith. He himself was not going back to avoid a riot. The believers there had also been subject to persecution for their faith and yet remained hopeful and looked forward to the return of Christ. This news brought joy to Paul and it was the reason he wrote back to them in this letter.

So, what does this have to do with being amazed? Well, like the Thessalonians, we all face struggles, difficulties and have the option to lose faith and hope. We are all the same. Human nature has not changed. But, they remained faithful.

There have been times, when I have struggled and felt like the whole world was falling apart, or at least my world. In those times, what I needed was a reminder of just how awesome God is; how amazing He is, and how this life, despite its struggles, is not falling apart, but is growing me and deepening my faith.

I can recall several times, when God has shown up in a time I was struggling. It is something small, and what others would overlook or consider a coincidence. But to me it was the greatest sign that God was with me and encouraging me to hold onto hope. To focus on His goodness, despite the bad circumstances in my life.

I remember one time, as I had left a Christian conference, not uplifted, but to be honest, I was rather discouraged. The conference had the right intentions, but the wrong motives. I had been given an insiders look into this ministry and was looking forward to someday serving in a leadership role, only to find myself very disillusioned and discouraged by what I saw behind the scenes. Though the conference was to last the entire day, I asked my husband(who was attending with me) if we could leave early, before the last session. He didn’t like the idea of leaving early, but reluctantly did for me. I recall it caused a bit of a heated discussion between us.

If you have been around churches or Christian ministries for awhile, disappointment is bound to happen. When we get more involved, we will find the flaws and truths. Sadly, this turns many away from Christianity and at least in my case, discouraged me, because I had really thought this was a legit group. Just like in Paul’s day, there are many who claim to be in ministry to serve others, but they are not, and need to be avoided. It is not just that they are people who are not perfect and sin, there are some people who are intentional defrauding others for their own benefit.

My husband and I drove away from the conference early and stopped at a nearby dollar store. If you are not familiar with these stores, in the United States we have stores that sell basic household needs for one dollar per item. The quality is not great, but if you just need something quick, it is the place to go. I cannot even remember what we were stopping to purchase, but I DO remember feeling so discouraged, hurt, angry and sad. And mostly confused. My thoughts began to rattle around in my head as my husband went off down a different aisle. I recall standing near the glasses and fighting back the tears. I did the only thing I knew to do:pray. So as I walked by those glasses, I began to pray silently, asking God to help me, to understand He was still there, to help me forgive those who had hurt me, and to ask forgiveness for myself, if I had acted wrongly towards my husband or others, by leaving the conference early. I barely notice as someone passed by me with a cart loaded with items, and handed me a piece of paper. It was a Gospel tract with the photo of a rose on the front with the words “You’re Special” printed just above the rose.

I’ll be honest I was scared to look up, or turn around. I knew it had been from God, and frankly I expected to see an angel in disguise, pushing that cart. When I did gather my wits about me and turn around, they were gone. No one in the store with a loaded down cart, ANYWHERE. Yeah, God showed up. and amazed me with His care and concern. I still can’t believe it, except for the fact that I have that little Gospel tract to this day. Oh, I’m sure there are some who would doubt the identity of my fellow shopper, but it doesn’t matter, I believe God uses whatever means to deliver messages of hope.

I think He continues to do this, but we are the ones who don’t notice. I had another amazing incident recently, but not so dramatic. It required me to do some research, but once I had, I was once again amazed by God. He answered my prayers, but not in the large demonstrations, but in small ways. I had almost overlooked it, it appeared so insignificant. I wonder how many times God has answered our prayers, but we fail to notice, because we are not seeing what He has done. We need to look for the amazing. Looking for God’s handiwork in our lives.

Paul was filled with joy as he wrote, not because he recalled his own difficulty there, but that there had been fruit form his preaching, “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.” verse 1 chapter two. He was amazed by what God had done there through the Holy Spirit. He could have focused on his own life threatening experience, but chose instead to see God’s hand at work.

Struggles and difficult times do not last forever, but sometimes we must go through them. Yet God is with us. God bless and look for the amazing this week.- Nancy

Weary

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but I am weary. And I suspect many of you are also. We all get weary at times, trying to keep it all going. And keep it together. To keep ourselves together. We carry these burdens for ourselves and even for others. We must maintain our work selves, our church selves, our family selves and society selves- All these roles we find ourselves in. Trying to keep all the roles connected, balanced and producing good results. And if that isn’t enough, there’s this burden we carry around with us as a constant reminder of the problems in the world. We are of course not responsible for the world or its events, yet we find ourselves burdened and troubled by the global crisis’ . Too much bad news, horrible news, incomprehensible news. Earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, uprisings, Covid. We are all just a little weary right now. And the constant contact through our mobile devices in our pockets, keeps all these problems and global crisis’s on our minds and always within reach, inescapable, it seems.

We might tell everyone around us that we are”fine” when the reality is, we are not “fine”, but far from it. We are weary. We need rest. We need help in dealing with all of this. We need each other and we need Jesus’ peace and comfort.

I admit I am not an expert in dealing with it all, but there are a few steps we all can take to help each other. First, talk with each other openly. If you are not doing well, let someone know. Talk to a friend. Tell them what is going on and what is wearing you down. If you are having serious, suicidal thoughts, tell someone or call a professional hotline. Help is close and people who are trained to listen are waiting for you to reach out to them. You are not a bother. Your friends and family do love and care about you, they need you here. The pain you feel is temporary, it will get better and there are people who can help with your pain.Let them help you.

Second, if you are just tired and weary from too much of the world taking your joy, step away from social media, or block or snooze individuals or pages that are upsetting you and causing you undue stress. Do not keep your phone where you sleep and don’t let it be the first or last thing you check in the day. Instead read, listen to music or take a gratitude inventory.

Third, a gratitude inventory is something I have recently begun. Before your day begins or as it ends, meditate on what you have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, recount the positive events of your day and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Just breathing and living another day is reason enough to be thankful. If it is the beginning of the day, offer thanks for the opportunity for a new day, a new beginning. Even the little things matter. So be grateful for a bed and a pillow, for a meal to wake up to. For your family and friends. God has provided it all. We forget sometimes that not everyone is enjoying these at the moment. Some are homeless, others have lost a loved one or a friend. Some do not have the hope of Jesus. They are trying to do life all on their own,in their own strength.

Fourth, don’t dwell on the negative. Look for the good during your day. Focus on what has gone right, instead of what is going wrong. Focus on positive Bible verses like the one above. Write down these verses and place them on sticky notes everywhere to be reminded of them. Or subscribe to a daily word app that will send you a text or email.

Fifth, to know these verses, you must pick up your Bible and read it. Or get an app for your phone with a daily verse. Remember the Bible is not just a book written by a bunch of dudes in the past. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has power to change minds, challenge you and give you peace and comfort. Don’t believe me? Just try it for a week. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all your problems will disappear, but it will change your perspective. It will change you. Bad circumstances, like those of the world right now, are not going to go away immediately, we cannot change these, but we can change our attitudes and perspectives. And surprisingly, by doing so we change our brains. Our thoughts affect our physical brain chemistry as well as our physical shape. Someone has said that we are what we eat, but scientifically speaking, we are what we think about.

The last step is to take time to pray. God does hear us. It might be we have been neglecting our prayer lives, because we feel like there is a wall between us and God. Or we think He is mad or unhappy with us, but here’s the thing, He knows who you are. He made you. He’s okay with your doubts. He’s okay with you for not being perfect. He loves you. He knows you have messed up, so that’s not a surprise to Him. Just talk to Him, like a friend. He promises rest for the weary and help with your burdens, you don’t have to do this alone.

A Little Bit of Jesus

So, it’s been a while since I posted and while many of you might have been waiting with baited breath, you might not be after you read the post. You see it has taken me some time to wait to hear from God on what to write. Yes, I wait until there is something that He puts on my heart to write about. This will probably make some uncomfortable, but maybe that will be a good thing.

Early on in my undergrad degree I learned something called religious syncretism. It by definition is ” An amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” (Google). In my coursework it generally referred to Christians in non -western areas that incorporated Christianity with their old religious beliefs. Generally, it might have involved the use of icons or fetishes with prayers to God. It could be a bit confusing for missionaries working with syncretisms biases.

But the question I want to pose for us all today is how much have we been affected by syncretism in our own faith? Do we pray and then consult a horoscope? Do we sing along to Hillsong praise and worship and seek out palm readers? This may or may not seem obvious to you, depending upon your knowledge of how God feels about occult practices, but are there others areas in which you have blended an eastern religious practice with a Christian one? Meditation is another example. meditating on God’s Word is scriptural, but emptying our minds to seek nirvana is not.

This is just a brief example and many will not agree with my observation, but if we truly want to grow in our faith we must leave the childish things behind as the Apostle Paul says;”When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”(1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV). We will only grow when we follow Christ with our whole hearts and minds. We do not need to blend Jesus in to our own beliefs but rather follow what He teaches in the Bible. Too often we add Jesus onto our lives, similarly to adding sprinkles on top of our ice cream. We want just enough to look good on the outside, or just enough so we can talk with other Christians in church, or maybe as a sort of good luck charm or last resort to get our prayers answered. But, No, Jesus want to be all, not just added in or sprinkled on the top of our lives. Faith might be small like a mustard seed, but Jesus should be greater in our lives.

Perseverance

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance- Romans 5:3

Perseverance is a tricky word. When we think about it we might picture an athlete pushing through pain to accomplish his goals. The runner pushing themselves toward the finish line. The single mom pushing through her exhaustion to care for her child after a full day at work. Persevere. Keep on course. Push through the pain, the hurt, the disappointment.

The world we live in now is a place of perseverance. What we thought would last only for a little while, is now dragging on. Our plans have been changed so many times to accommodate new rules, new restrictions, new guidelines, new quarantines, it almost seems pointless to make any plans.

We have also seen the worst in people, at times, and not the best. Those who cannot deal with this world of change and of suffering. Some are pushed too far and seek to take it out on others. Hurtful words. Violent exchanges. Demands for things to get better.

Others bury their heads and pretend it is the new normal, or that the reactions to the pandemic are overblown and exaggerated. They hide their frustration when they need to, out of the fear they might offend. The frustration builds until they too, begin to find fault with their fellow human being and lash out on social media upon people they barely know.

We might wonder, and rightly so, just what has happened to the world in which we live. It is not the way it should be and its not about a world wide pandemic. We are all being pushed and squeezed, aroused by the pressures to survive. We all have this deep need for freedom. To live free. To live in Grace and Mercy. Yet we find ourselves struggling to persevere. We are so accustomed to fast food, fast internet, fast dating, fast connections to a global community that when we must wait we cannot bear it.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you will notice that I did not complete the verse above from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you read on in the rest of the verse, you’ll find Paul’s adds that perseverance produces character. Character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I did it on purpose because I think we all want to quickly move past the perseverance part, past the character and move onto hope. We want hope. We need hope. Hope that everything will get better. Hope for this world. Hope in Christ. Hope in Heaven. Even before the verse mentions perseverance, Paul tells us to rejoice in suffering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like suffering. I do not find anything to rejoice about when I am suffering. Yet this is what Paul begins with. Is there something that Paul knows that we do not? If we study his life we will find that yes, he does know suffering. He nearly died several times after being stoned and beaten. He was shipwrecked and nearly drowned. He was bitten by a venomous snake. He lived with the guilt that he had personally seen and approved of the arrest and deaths of Christians,including women and children, before he himself became one. He had been put on trial and put in jail. He knew suffering. He knew perseverance. He developed character.He found hope. He, like many of the Roman Christians he was writing to, were persecuted, arrested and beheaded because of their faith. But he did not think of himself as a type of superhero or martyr, he knew his weaknesses. He struggled with them, he prayed for his thorn in his flesh to be removed. God said no. Instead Paul relied on God’s strength. not his own to persevere. He wrote and he encouraged others to do the same. God is our strength.

What we are going through now will produce character, not in a flash, but overtime, as we learn to trust in God and rely upon His strength and not our own.

Doing Battle

We all know that the past several months have not been easy and more than likely you thought we would all be out of this much sooner. Back to normal. Back to regular. But in some parts of the world, we are still feeling the effects the global pandemic has brought us. At times we do not know what to call the feelings we are all experiencing. Is it stress? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. Fear? Yes. Frustration? Yes. We can identify many of those feelings and I have brought up in previous posts, how to limit the effects of those overwhelming feelings. Move away from dependence on social media and news, have a quiet time with God, read the Bible, get away and pause to hear from God. But, perhaps we have been overlooking the one feeling, the emotion that might seem unlikely; grief. See, grief can come in many ways, not just from the death of a loved one.

I was reminded of grief this week upon hearing of the sudden passing of a pastor’s father. My Mom passed away five years ago, so I have been well acquainted with grief that hits like a train. Like a tornado. It’s inescapable. It’s overwhelming. It hurts. And it changes everything in our world. It is something that simply cannot be undone. It’s final. Permanent.

Grief can be felt with any kind of loss. A job. A home. A business. A relationship. A reputation. A schedule. A normal life. We often experience this sense of loss and sadness that we can’t shake. We feel guilty for feeling sad over what seems such temporary losses. We know we can find another job, another home, another boyfriend or girlfriend, start another business, create another routine, start over. But we still grieve that which has been lost and what has been changed.

So, how do we deal with it? Well, much in the same way we deal with anxiety, fear, stress. We need to go to God. We need to pray. And we need to realize that the emotions we are feeling do not need to consume us and consume all our thoughts. We must choose our thinking. We must get back to capturing every thought and weighing whether or not the thought is truth or a lie. When we recall the losses in our life, we can remember the good, let go of any guilt, and remind ourselves that God is still in control.

We do not do this battle alone. God is with us and will answer our prayers, even when we are not quite sure what to pray. Sometimes the best answers to prayer I have experienced are after I simply cried out “Help! God I need you” Just a simple request when I’ve realized I am in over my head.

We also need to do battle for our thoughts alongside others. We can encourage each other. Open up to each other and share our personal struggles. The body of Christ should never shy away from a friend who wants to share their struggles. We are all broken vessels, needing God’s help. If we really think we have it all together, we are mistaken. And if anyone looks to Christians to have it all together, they will sadly see us fail miserably. Christians do not have it all together, we just know who to go to when we are overcome by sadness and grief. We do not need to stay in our sad, discouraged places. This is only temporary. Life will get back to normal, even if normal means change.