No one is immune to trouble.
In Christ’s body we’re one. Yet we’re different. We all serve a unique bodily function. Each function is vital — even those bodily parts that seem useless or weak.
In a perfect world, nobody gets sick or hurt. Sin is conquered. Utopia — the Christian millennium — has obviously not arrived yet. Cancer rates have skyrocketed in the US among other proofs of non-utopian conditions. Persecution of Christ’s body is at an all time global high.
We DO look forward to the time of earthly shalom as well as His eternal kingdom come.
“Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven.”
Peace on earth is what a faith-filled suffering Job looked forward to as he speaks in Job 19.
23“Oh, that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That they were engraved with an iron pen
and lead in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and He will stand at last on the earth;
26 and after my skin is destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God,
27 whom I will see for myself,
and my eyes will behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me. (quoted from the MEV)
Jesus plainly said, “In this world you shall have tribulation.”
I and II Peter echo these themes of suffering here and now.
So whatever you do, DON’T be that friend who fails to remind your friend of Jesus who himself suffered while here on this earth. In fact, Isaiah reminds us he was afflicted more than any man.
Bearing the collective sins of the world on his back was the most unbearably hellish affliction anyone could possibly imagine. All of our hatred. All of our lust. All of our envy. All of our anger. All of our greed. All of our gossip. All of our unbelief. The list is endless!
The one thing we often fail to do is to remind our suffering friends every single time of Jesus.
He’s the ONE faithful friend — the ONLY one who completely understands the pain and struggle you’re enduring.
I say this from a place of humility, as I have failed repeatedly in this area. Just last night I wrote a note to a suffering friend who had shared a prayer request with me. Three weeks later I followed up. #epicencouragementfail.
Anything GOOD we say about God reminds our friends of Jesus. I’m doing this on a daily basis with my girlie. She’s suffering. The Psalms always have something good to say about God, right? When our hearts are too tired and sore to sing our Psalms, we read them. I pray them daily. I cannot live without them.
Jesus is our “balm in Gilead”.
On a very dark, lonely day this summer, just a few short weeks ago, I felt the world crumbling again beneath my feet. Other caregivers experience this meltdown. Ask me how I know!
As I poured out my sobbing grief to God, I asked for a sign of His love for me which I truly do believe in. Asking for signs is NOT a way I lead my daily life. “Blessed are those who do not see me, yet believe,” Jesus told doubting Thomas. Instead, I remind myself of His promises daily. It’s a ritual.
But this day I desperately needed a human touch of love and understanding. NO one wants to call a friend and say, Please. Just tell me how loved I am. Tell me it’s going to be okay.
Only a very few people merit this trusted space in our lives. Really. Saying such things out loud makes you feel like a raving lunatic and life-sucking leech. If you’ve experienced hurtful abuse by spiritual authorities in the past, reaching out for help is desperately harder. (topic for another post).
The common problem we all share is that our dearest friends are tremendously busy! Even if you need help, you hate to bother them.
My story continues: Here’s how I know God answers prayer.
I’m adding this to my list of “One Thousand-plus Answered Prayers in My Short, Insignificant Life”.
On the very afternoon of this prayer, I received a phone call from an older saint I haven’t talked to in over a year. He left a message. I gathered my courage and called back.
His soothing voice was a balm to my very raw spirit. Though his denominational background and affiliation is very different from mine, we share a true faith in Christ alone for our salvation and eternal hope.
Lady, he said, in his warm Southern drawl, I know you’re in a storm. You’re afraid your ship is sinking. I want to remind you that Jesus is in the boat with you right now in this storm. Your ship is not going to sink. And we’re not going to stop praying for you.
He reminded me that Jesus’ closest earthly friends were in the same boat, in the same storm with Jesus. Yet they were afraid while Jesus was asleep. They woke Him up. He rebuked the storm and their lack of faith. Yet he encouraged them in their fears to look to Him always.
When you count up the words of encouragement that Jesus gave to His disciples, they are numerous! He knew they were needed.
I thank God for the encouraging words of my friend that day.
So should our words be. Be like Jesus. Be an encourager.
Encouraging words need to be repeated and numerous, like Jesus modeled to His disciples.
If your family, home, church, and circle of friends is not a place of warm encouragement, start a new trend! New habits take time and intention to form. Like me, maybe your goal is writing that ONE email a day.
If the trend doesn’t catch on, you probably need to find a new church and a new circle of friends. What ways can you model this ONE micro-step today?