The Rescue (a PINK Tuesday post)

Save Me

Image by JamesReaFotos via Flickr

 

“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.”   –John Stott

It’s been this way since time began.

 

The fact that you are still reading tells me that nothing has changed… SUFFERING a LOSS raises questions and doubts and fears and anger as it CHALLENGES our ability to cope and adapt and recover.

But the good news today is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone in your loss.

We don’t need to look beyond our own circle of friends & family to find others who are suffering losses, too. Our stories and their stories inevitably are marked by people, places, experiences and situations where what we once held dear is no longer ours to hold.

Consider the scriptures.

Story after story about people who not only experience the mountaintops, but the depths of grief as well:

Adam & Eve

Because of a choice that they made, they lost their fellowship with God AND their home in the Garden. Later in their story, they lose a son – or, perhaps they lost TWO sons – as the one killed the other in a fit of jealousy.

Joseph

The one with the coat. Lost his family at the hand of brothers who hated him. They sold him into slavery. Told his father he was dead. This same Joseph, trying to live a godly life as a slave, is falsely accused of sexual harassment by his boss’s wife and thrown into prison for years. NONE of these losses, by the way, were a result of Joseph’s choices. He had no say. They just happened TO him.

Job

Lost his children in one horrific accident. Lost his livelihood. Lost his health. All because of things going on around him that he had no control over. It wasn’t his fault.

David

KING David. The one we know as “a man after God’s own heart”. Lost his fellowship with the Lord, for a time, because of a series of bad choices that included sleeping with someone else’s wife and then having her husband murdered. David’s loss didn’t end there. Even though he married the woman he had gotten pregnant, she lost the baby. Lost a child. Another loss.

Elijah

The prophet. The one used by God to call down fire on a soaking wet altar, putting the competition in its place. Even Elijah suffered loss. Loss of hope. Loss of perspective. He suffered from depression. Depression that was undoubtedly linked to the death threats he had received from a very powerful woman. His choice? A chemical imbalance? Does it matter?! A loss nonetheless.

Finally, the Apostle Paul.

Wrote much of the New Testament. Spoke the message of Christ far and wide with boldness and passion. This hero of the faith found himself at the end of life, sitting in a cold prison cell, alone. Lonely. And he suffered from the loss of fellowship he had known – we know this because he wrote it in a letter to his friend, Timothy. We can read it in God’s Word.

What we ALSO read in God’s Word are words like these:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

(He must be really STRONG in ME – weakling that I am.)

And,

“In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God makes it clear over and over again in scripture that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).

He tends to our wounds.

He is our RESCUE.

But just in case words like these sound trite and churchy to you, know that God “keeps track of every toss & turn through the sleepless nights.” Each tear and ache is entered into His book (Ps. 56:8).

There’s a Hebrew custom – the jar of tears – have you heard of it? At funerals, a tiny jar is passed around and each mourner puts a teardrop into it. The jar of tears represents the hearts that are suffering the loss of the person who has died.

I believe that God not only keeps track of the tears we shed, but that His big heart breaks for us in our suffering. And there is nothing that we are feeling or have felt that He, through Jesus, hasn’t felt before.

God is ready to do something big for you today! He’s coming alongside you in your suffering, your grief, your loss…

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God uses our experiences to prepare and uniquely position us to come alongside others who are suffering, too. The heading over this section in the Message Bible is “THE RESCUE”.

He rescues us, and then He gives us the opportunity to extend that rescue to others.

I see a rescue in your future, my friend.

Maybe it’s yours to be HAD.

Maybe it’s in your power to GIVE.

Either way, we had better get busy. There is SAVING to be done (praise the Lord)!

 

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The Trouble with Happiness (a PINK Tuesday Post)

‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!’

‘Shiny, happy people holding hands.’

‘Don’t worry, be happy.’

Sound familiar? A quick Google search brings up more than 100 songs with the word ‘happy’ in the title, but I have to wonder how many of us would use the word to describe the day we just had. Or the month. Or the decade.

It seems like everyone is striving for this thing called ‘happiness.’ Problem is, no one really knows exactly what it is or how to go about getting some for ourselves. We have an idea – that this thing, or this person, or this situation will make us ‘happy’ – but apparently our expectations are unrealistic and, ultimately, unrealized. I say it’s apparent, because statistics tell us that 1 in 10 Americans are currently taking an antidepressant.

If 10% of people in our country find happiness so elusive that they rely on medication in order to cope, I’ve got questions. Questions like:

What would make us happy – really? Are we mistaking happiness for the thrill of something new, only to find that once the rush of adrenaline is gone, we’re miserable and needy all over again?

Is happiness a reasonable goal? Are we somehow entitled to reaching this elusive state? Are some of us more able to reach a state of ‘happy,’ or more deserving of happiness than others?

What if our idea of happiness doesn’t even EXIST? Have we dreamed the impossible dream, only to find smoke and mirrors and a little pill that just might take the edge off of our inevitable disappointment?

I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, but I believe we’ve been set up. We’ve been set up to fail, because the world’s version of happiness is a lie. We are lied to every time we turn the television on. We are lied to every time we open up a magazine. We are lied to when we take that drink or buy that house or lease that car, because none of these things is able to make us happy.

The world says, ‘happiness is being thin.’ Tell that to the mother whose child is being treated for anorexia.

The world says, ‘happiness is being rich.’ Tell that to the millionaires whose kids would rather be anywhere, with anyone other than them.

The world says, ‘happiness is being in love.’ Tell that to a young mother when her child’s father doesn’t come home tonight – again.

I have a feeling that the trouble with happiness is that we think we know what happiness is – and we are wrong.

Jesus talks about happiness in Matthew chapter 5. You may not have heard these words spoken quite this way before:

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised! Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God! Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children! Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.” Matthew 5:3-12 (The Good News Translation)

I don’t know how we got our modern-day ideas about where happiness comes from! According to Jesus, the keys to happiness are to:

  • Be willing to admit we don’t have it all together
  • Be transparent and let our grief out of the bag
  • Be realistic about who we are and what we can (and cannot) do
  • Be passionate about the things that GOD is passionate about
  • Be loving and kind, innocent and earnest
  • Be an advocate for others – ALL others
  • Be put in places among people who don’t like what we stand for and aren’t afraid to let us know it.

Wow! And we thought that if we drove a new car and wore the $60 jeans and bought the newest iPhone that we’d be happy!

When I look through my contact list, it’s pretty obvious that the people in my life have every reason (by Jesus’ definition) to be HAPPY. We have messy lives. We make terrible mistakes, even though we try so hard to get it right. We are close enough to tears on most days that we keep tissue in our purses. The list of what we can’t seem to get done is almost always longer than the list of what we can do. We’re passionate, all right, but not necessarily about God. We get mad, we act badly. We value our street smarts more with each heart-wrenching edition of the evening news. We’re afraid of those who aren’t like us, so it’s easy to hole up in safe places and keep a low profile. We want everyone to like us.

And it is no amazing wonder that WE AREN’T HAPPY.

What if we chose today to look at happiness from Jesus’ perspective?

What if we really believed that His way is the BEST WAY for us to live?

What if we allowed the light of Truth to shine into our darkness, exposing the lies we’ve bought into for all of these long, painful years?

Psalm 34 paints a beautiful picture of these what-ifs in our world…

“If things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.” Psalm 34:2b-4 (The Message)

God met me.

MORE THAN halfway.

And He set me free!

From my anxiety and fear.

How can we hear this testimony and NOT be happy?!

On this PINK Tuesday, JOIN ME in spreading the news! TOGETHER, as sisters in Christ and daughters of the King, we CAN get the Word out!

Glory!