Goodness knows we’ve had our nerves tested lately. Living through months of an unknown virus, unpredictable weather in many areas of our country, constant negativity in the media, even an unfounded nationwide fear of killer bees!
This year has been a different experience from years past. We have had difficulty networking in the usual way. Our friends and family who give us support may not have been accessible for many reasons. Thankfully, we have another family, our family in Christ, who can lift us up and support us through our trials. These friends can help us keep our faith strong and our hearts hopeful.
That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ Colossians 2:2
When Paul wrote this verse, which is part of a letter, he was concerned that some of the brand-new congregations of believers had fallen away from the true doctrine and were listening to false teachings. Paul wrote this part of the letter stressing the love and fellowship the believers felt toward each other and toward Christ would be strong enough to chase away any false beliefs. He felt that the connections the new believers had with each other would work to the glory of Christ and spread of Christianity.
The strong fellowship with Christians toward other Christians remains true today. When Christians need support and help, they turn to each other. Why? Because we all have the same christlike worldview. We understand God’s grace and how much He loves us. This strong foundation supports believers when we need to ask for help. This same love of Christ is why we help each other, as He instructed.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you John 15:12
Today, you might need help or be the helper for someone else. Follow the teaching of Jesus and support each other. Blessings abound in our connection to each other.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Last winter, before the CoVid quarantine, we took a trip south to escape the cold, wet weather. We traveled for ten hours and returned to our previous home city to visit with friends. It was as if we’d never left. We were greeted with open arms in the homes of our friends and our church. We were invited to dinners and lunches, and a couple of rounds of golf. We attended our former Bible Study and were absorbed into the warmth of our church friends.
Friendship is something that lives within your heart. And in the past, we talked to our friends each day face-to-face, not realizing what a gift it was to be able to do so.. Nowadays, we are visiting through FaceTime, telephone, zoom, chat, or messaging. We’ve had friends offer to pick up grocery items for us, friends who dropped of gifts “just because”, and friends who made face masks for us. We’ve had driveway visits from friends who pull up, emerge from their vehicles, and stand out in the drive for lengthy periods just because we miss seeing each other.
Friends spend their time together talking, laughing, listening, and supporting each other. True friendships have an additional characteristic of feeling like you are “at home” or anchored and secure in the world. Scripture reminds us that friendships serve a purpose of lifting each other up and supporting each other through rough patches. The verse below, from a letter to the Romans written by Paul, reminds us of the importance of loving and showing honor to others.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
The love we have from our Father and His Son is the greatest love we will ever know. It is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This love dwells there, waiting to serve, to comfort, and to guide us in our everyday lives. The friendship with our Father is the ultimate. There will be no greater friend and no greater love. And, as an added blessing, God places worldly friends in our lives, too. I am so thankful.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8
Thanks again for welcoming me to your FaceBook or email box. It has been a while since my last blog. We are living in a different world these days and motivation for blogging has been low. I don’t know about you, but this whole “stay home stay safe thing” is getting old. People are now bravely, or carelessly, depending on where you fall on the paranoia spectrum, going unmasked out to large gatherings. As for my household, we are taking it slowly and being selective of what we do and where we go. It has been months of near isolation and not much peace of mind. CoVid, riots, demonstrations that start peacefully and end up in violence, and nothing but negativity in the media, are disheartening. Like me, you might begin to wonder if this is the best we can do?
I know we are called on to be brave and to help all of humanity. It’s hard to muster up the strength and energy to face the world when it looks like it does right now. But, this is what we are called to do. With this in mind, I have taken up with my keyboard once again hoping to somehow encourage others.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand Isaiah 41:10
For now, continue to look for the positive. Help others, whether in your immediate family, neighbors, or even friends who are present online. A cheerful word, a phone conversation, or emerging to reengage with others socially, are all possibilities for us. There is goodness out there, we may have to search for it.
Life is full of surprises. Some are wonderful and others stop us in our tracks. Through all of this, we somehow foolishly make plans for weeks, months, and years ahead. That is part of our nature. For some reason, we like to plan, thinking planning offers us a sense of being in control. But then, life continues. God has different ideas and a different path for us.
For many of us, we feel we are experiencing a chain of negative or bad surprises. We may mumble to ourselves with a sigh, “The hits just keep on coming,” as we deal with one thing after another. Perhaps we have heard of people in similar circumstances and thought, “Boy, I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.” But then, it does. And when the really big surprises knock us off our feet, we find the strength to grab hold and pull ourselves back up.
But what happens when we pull ourselves up only to discover that, while we feel strengthened again, the circumstances that knocked us down did not change. We must acknowledge, “The struggle is real.” This is when we find ourselves in a “new normal.” How do we adapt? Are we able to adapt? And what of our faith? Did our faith weakened as we were struggling to get back up?
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places Habakkuk 3:17-19
In the verses from Habakkuk, we are told that no matter what, we should have faith and continue to rejoice in God and what He has in mind for our future. We may feel lacking in our faith even when we know we should hang on. Our faith feels diminished somehow.
When the apostles were traveling with Jesus, He gave them instructions on faith and forgiveness. Even His disciples felt their faith was not what it should be and asked Jesus to strengthen their faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5
Jesus lovingly told His apostles that having just a little bit of faith, holding on to the tiniest bit of faith, as small as a mustard seed, would be all they would need to work wonders. When they asked for more faith, this is what He said:
He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you’ Luke 17:6.
That is all we need. Just a tiny bit of faith. In the new normal, don’t give up. Hang on, pull yourself up, and hold on to the mustard seed, then shout for the tree to get out of your way! Tell the new normal your tiny seed of faith is stronger. No matter what our new normal may be, Jesus is always the same. He is always with us. Hold on to your mustard seed and pray.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever Hebrews 13:8
Have you been going along in life and had an obstacle or two thrown at you? You handled those obstacles well and thought to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” And you return to what you believe is your “normal” life. You are walking along and BAM! Another one. You go through the same reasoning. Once you figured everything out you say, “Good, things are under my control now.” No matter how many times we are tested, we usually think in the end, we have figured everything out.
I know a mom whose kids test her from time to time. She often asks, “Are you kidding me?” or “Are you serious right now?” She asks because she knows they are testing her with intention. She asks because this testing happens frequently.
Just like this mom, we may be tested in life over and over. We can recover from one event and think we are “over that one.” Once again, you are “minding your own business,” and then the REALLY BIG ONE hits. Now this one is life-changing. Maybe it is a loss, or a sudden unexpected diagnosis. Maybe there is a sudden family financial crisis. Now you are spinning out of control.
You question everything. How could this have happened? I thought I was doing everything right. How did this come my way? Why did this happen? Sadly, you may begin to question your own reasoning and faith. Maybe God isn’t on my side. God left me. You might even become angry because you know your life will never be the same.
Having recently experienced one of life’s unexpected challenges, I was tempted to think those same thoughts. In the middle of my “woe is me” party, I read Job. Now, everyone uses the phrase “the patience of Job,” but what does that really mean?
As a refresher, Job was doing very well in life and was a faithful man. He had a large family and wealth. All of a sudden, his life was full of catastrophes. He lost his family, his wealth, and even his health. He was angry and questioned God. His friends gathered around and attempted to support Job. They tried one explanation after another. They reasoned with Job that God was totally in charge of everything and that Job should not question Him. As one of his friends noted in the verse below, God was watching over Job during these multiple crises. He pointed out to Job that we are all under the light of God.
Dominion and awe belong to God, he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? On whom does his light not rise? Job 25: 2-3
Another friend reasoned with Job that God is with him and does not despise him.
God is mighty, but despises no one, he is mighty, and firm in his purpose Job 36:5
As I came out from the other side of this blow, and of similar events that have shaken my path over time, the most important lesson for me has been the same as Job’s lesson. God is over everything and has a purpose or intention for us that we may not see right away. God may not intervene immediately. Sometimes it seems like forever to get to the other side and know our purpose. God lets us go through this process for a reason. He knows we will be better and He knows what it takes to move us in the right direction. Job eventually recovered his losses and had more children. Job learned the lesson that God is always present and, in the end, like Job, our path will be made clearer to us. Do not lose your faith. As the saying goes, when you are hanging on by a thread, make sure it is the thread of His robe.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me Psalm 139:1-5