I know people who are lonely right now. They might think I don’t know how it feels to be lonely, but I do. Because in 2000 and 2010, I was. During those two seasons, I found someone who got this at a level unmatched by any of us: Jesus. Hours before He would hang on a cross (a lonely time in and of itself) he would be in unfathomable anguish, by himself. The account of this is in Luke 22, “He withdrew [was alone] about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed…And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly...” Jesus experienced loneliness. But his loneliness was not his hopelessness. Loneliness can be terribly afflicting. And it can look hopeless…but it is not. Death is hopeless. There is nothing that can turn it around. But anything shy of death is hopeful. If we are breathing, we can keep hoping; if we can keep hoping, we can be praying; if we are praying, we can be someone’s answer to their loneliness, and someone can be the answer to ours. That was quite the run-on sentence! But somewhere in it, I hope it encourages someone. Though Jesus was lonely, He didn’t STAY lonely. He died with friends near the cross and rose with friends at the tomb. If He is in your heart, He is more near to your loneliness than anyone could ever be (you can’t get closer to someone than in their heart). You might be lonely, but you have God, me, and hope. On these, we keep going.
Today I was reading about a guy Jesus healed. Normally, the healing would be the inspiration for a post. But this time, it was something less noteworthy that inspired me: “One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5) Thirty-eight years. 13,870 days. 332,880 hours. Many of us have struggled or are struggling. What struck me about this man’s struggle is how long it lasted. What struck me even more was Jesus knew that. I don’t know if this is going to encourage everyone, but I hope it encourages someone. Your pain is not in vain. God didn’t forget about your struggle, get distracted by another’s, or lose track of the days you’ve struggled with it. The intersection of this man’s 38th year of struggle with the day Jesus was there to heal it, was planned and purposed with perfection. I wonder if this man thought on the 13,869th day that he’d never be healed. But the timing was perfect because Jesus Christ is perfect. If the perfect Savior is in your heart, the perfect Savior is in your struggle. Every. Hour of Every. Day. | This side of Heaven, we won’t always know the point of our pain. But to some degree, I am comforted that it isn’t wasted. My pain (and your pain) isn’t in vain because we are in the risen hands of a Savior who’s hands had stakes crucify them. Our pain isn’t in vain because our stories are His victories.
Sometimes, there are no words. I’m reminded of Job in the bible. In chapter 2, he’s in the middle of a total life-collapse. He’s lost everything. Although we often use this story to illustrate what his friends did wrong, I want to highlight something they did right. In Job 2:13 it says, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” Sometimes, someone you love will go through something and you don’t know what to say or what to do. In the last few years, whether visiting an ICU, sitting in a grieving family’s home, or speaking at a funeral, I’ve learned to understand Job 2. Like Job’s friends, sometimes, in some moments, we need to be there with our bodies, and not our mouths. Words are wonderful, they can encourage, comfort and lift up. But sometimes, so can silence. Jesus was all about words to heal–but as I’ve gotten to know my Lord more–I’ve discovered He was about a touch or presence, too. If you are comforting someone, don’t be afraid to just be there. If Jesus is in your heart, He is being unconditionally manifested through your touch, your prayers, your quiet presence.
This weekend, Hurricane Irma will make its mark somewhere in Florida. On all mental, emotional, financial and physical levels, it’s stressful; laden with “what if’s.” For me, personally, it presents a one-question test: Heather, do you trust me? Circle one: yes | no The bible says, “The LORD is my strength and my defense,” “In those days when you pray, I will listen,” “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,” “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened,” and “I am with you always.” Although I believe God can give us more than we can handle, I don’t think He leaves us hanging with it. I believe that when He gives us more than we can handle, WITH Him, we can handle it. Back in 2005, when Hurricane Wilma hit, Raul was out of town. I was responsible for a baby, a toddler, an elderly loved-one and a recovering addict. I also had no provisions, no electricity, and no water. If God called prior to Hurricane Wilma and itemized all the stress I’d endure, I woulda said, “Find someone else, I can’t.” But that’s why I’m not God. And that’s some hurricane relief. With God, we don’t have to measure out how much we can handle. We don’t have to worry about leaning on our own strength. We might think we can’t handle anymore…but (thankfully) that isn’t our call. In every crisis, when WE think we can’t handle anymore, we need to rest in God and let Him make the calls. I will never look forward to hurricanes, but I look forward to resting in God. He’s in charge of my life, and the hurricanes. He’s in charge of the beginning and ending of every storm. He knows what lessons we need to learn in them. His hand is upon our lives; His handprint upon our hearts. Trust Him in the hurricane.
When a senseless tragedy hits the headlines it raises a question in many hearts : “where is God when it hurts?” Thankfully, Philip Yancey compassionately and powerfully answered that in his book, “Where is God When it Hurts,” and I highly recommend it. But there is another question I find myself asking, “Where am I when others hurt?” I ask, “what can I do? where can I be? who can I help?” In my summation, there are two things we can do when others hurt. One, pray intentionally, frequently and emotionally. Two weeks ago, when the hurricane was pummeling Texas, I prayed for people I didn’t know…but God knew. I wasn’t where they were, but God was. I didn’t understand their loss, but God did. So I prayed and asked God to help them and send mercies and angels to surround them. The other thing we can do is join the Church in what IT is doing for those who are hurting. Whether we gather for a vigil, send money, deploy volunteers…whatever our Church is doing, we join them in it. Our planet is not well. God is the Healer. The Church is the hospital. And I can be a part of what it is doing to help the hurt and heal the ailing. Wherever you are, if you find yourself asking “Where am I when others hurt?” I hope you are praying and joining the Church in what it is doing. God bless.
Today I read about a guy who didn’t get chosen. Before I continue, let me quickly delineate. If we are God’s kids, we are chosen by God! We are His on earth, and forever in Heaven! This chosen-ness doesn’t change. However, circumstantially, we can be dealt the cards of un-chosen. In Acts 1 it happened to a good guy named Joseph. Joseph was in contention with Matthias to be the disciple to replace Judas (the disciple who betrayed Jesus). The research I did said BOTH candidates were followers of Jesus and met the criteria to be a disciple. After praying, and casting lots, Matthias was chosen. Consequently, leaving Joseph un-chosen. I got to thinking about Joseph. I wonder how he felt, what he felt? He was just as qualified. I let it spin on the rotisserie skewer in my head and two things dawned on me. Joseph’s circumstantial un-chosen-ness didn’t TOUCH his eternal chosen-ness. He was still a kingdom-man, who at this very second is enjoying the eternal gains of Heaven. It’s comforting to know that circumstantial un-chosen-ness can come and go, but our God chosen-ness is here to stay. Also, maybe Joseph wasn’t chosen in the way he aspired, but God chose to choose him still. Two thousand years later, Joseph’s story is in the Greatest Book of all times, encouraging people like you and me today! And if we’re breathing, He’s still writing our chosen-story too–and who knows what chosen-ness awaits us. I hope this encourages someone today.