Lifted

I sing praise to God for his faithfulness, compassion, gentle mercies and unending love! He carried me through the darkest valley, and renewed my strength and hope. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters who listened and prayed with me. For those who never stopped encouraging me: “Thank you” seems inadequate.

For any Believer who is still learning the charge we have been given within the Body, which I originally wrote about in a post entitled Humility (see below), this resource may be helpful. Brad Hambrick writes with far more eloquence and authority than I ever could.

Blessings.

What God is Teaching

“You act like you are the 1st person to go through a divorce”.

This was the chastisement I recently received from a fellow Believer. This friend has, by their own account, never experienced any major grief events in their life. This is a first for me.

I’ve discussed Encouragement from the Body of Christ in a previous post, and it is clear that God instructs us to carry the weak and be patient and longsuffering with one another. The “one another” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a Believer, my Hope rests in God’s faithfulness. I trust Him to provide for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. There is no doubt in my mind of my salvation through Christ Jesus, or of God’s ability and desire to supply all my needs. My Father wants the best for me, not just the best from me.

This hope…

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A Fork in the Road

Several years ago I traveled with a friend to the Keweenaw Peninsula – one of the most beautiful areas in the country. At that time, I had never been to Copper Harbor, but my traveling companion had. North of Hancock, there is only one main route, US-41, that will take you there. However, if you are so inclined, when you reach Eagle River you can turn off the main road onto State Route 26 which eases slowly up the shoreline offering breathtaking views of one of the most spectacular bodies of freshwater on Earth – Lake Superior.Keweenaw Peninsula

My friend, having been to the Keweenaw previously, was quite adamant about staying on the main route because it was faster, more direct, and that was the way they always went. But I remembered hearing something interesting about Eagle Harbor, which is along the lesser route, and really felt we should go that way.

Unfortunately I discovered that as I continued to suggest this, my friend went from mildly annoyed at my naivety to increasingly frustrated at me for questioning their wisdom in the matter. In no uncertain terms I was told that the main road was THE road leading directly to Copper Harbor and to take the turn-off would not only slow us down, but offered nothing that would make the time worthwhile.

For them, the issue boiled down to this: their experience trumped my opinion. They were right – I was wrong. I learned something about my friend that day. I also learned something personally beneficial, but it didn’t click until much later.

As I think back on this and similar situations, I remember feeling defeated. It’s disheartening when you try to convey your thoughts or opinion about something, and are met with hostility by people who have to be in control. Maybe I will discover that I am wrong, but at least be willing to listen to what I have to say. Discuss it with me and help me to understand your view as you try to understand mine. Healthy communication requires at least two people be engaged in an exchange of ideas and thoughts.

It can be even more disheartening when this happens among Believers. Respect grows when Godly authority and leadership is willing to listen and ready to pray about an issue together. But there is another lesson to be learned here; one that is becoming more glaringly obvious to me lately: Just let go.

God is the final Authority. Just as God handled the situation on the Keweenaw, He will handle the important issues in life. In fact, He already has. He has plans for our life that are for our good, and no matter who comes along to tell us “It’s my way or no way”, God will work things out for our good when we seek His will.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I have certainly been wrong before. I’ve made bad decisions. I will not hesitate to admit that I have been heading down the wrong path, stubbornly running into road block after road block before God can get my attention. As I learn to let go of the issues I cannot control anyway, it frees my spirit to say: Your will, Lord, not mine.

And if the other person needs to learn some things then God will take care of that, too…

Giving up, I closed my mouth. We took US-41. Then we came to a dead stop 8 miles in. Cars were not getting through and we were forced to turn around. We went back to the turn-off at Eagle River and meandered up the shore.

As you pass through Eagle Harbor you will come to Jacob’s Falls and a turn-off where there is a small bakery called The Jampot. This bakery is operated by monks of The Society of St. John Monastery. They mix it, make it, and bake it…and it is amazing! Trust me when I say you have not experienced anything like this.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is to let go and let God take care of me. 

Encouragement from the Body of Christ

Offering hope and encouragement to people who are only struggling with minor inconveniences in life doesn’t really test one’s ability as a counselor. Much more difficult is to offer encouragement to someone who is in a deep valley, struggling with heart-wrenching sorrow, which also usually lasts over an extended period of time. This is truly a test of patience and strength.

Paul, in his letters to the early Bible-encourage, fellowship, counselchurch however, makes it very clear that we as a church body are to reach out to those who are in crisis and struggling. And not simply reach out, but for the strong to carry the weak. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15

To the church in Thessalonica: …encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. I Thessalonians 5:14

To the church in Philippi Paul says to be: …like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2-5

To the Galatians: …serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

I could go on with more examples, but it is clear that we are called to come together as one body in Christ. The elders and the stronger are to lead the flock and care for the weaker, presumably until such time as the weak are healed and able to do the same. When we no longer hear the cry for help in someone’s words…when we no longer hear the struggle, feel the pain and sorrow…when we only take offense at words as they try to express the despair and grief they are feeling…then we are no longer effective. But Peter, in speaking to the church elders, says to feed the flock and remain humble. 1 Peter 5:1-6

God desires that everyone learn and grow spiritually from the things we are tested with. So …let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 In the past, I have counseled those who are in crisis and hurting. There are times when it can be difficult to love the unlovable. But each of us can be unlovable, given the right circumstances.

Below is a list I have composed of some of the words of encouragement I’ve received from friends as I walk through a deep valley in my life. Each time I read through it, I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit offering comfort, peace and hope. I am forever grateful for the love, compassion and hope I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes encouragement can be the simplest expression, maybe a short text message:

Ya. Hang in there.

I will pray.

Amen.

Praise the Lord.

I truly do understand your pain.

My heart breaks for you.

At times encouragement can be a prayer or blessing said over someone:

May God bless your day and lead you.

May God fill you with peace to overflowing.

I pray God be with u and bless u. May he put his hand of healing upon u and strengthen u.

Encouragement can also come in the form of reassurance, even offering a pardon when I have been unlovable:

When you wake up give it to the Lord; I also have had bad experiences at night.

Stop worrying about what people think.

We might feel alone but we are not.

No need to apologize.  It’s a tough time and I understand.

You can be out of line anytime you want;) but you weren’t – in case you were wondering.

I have heard much worse. But you are right, I don’t fully understand. [You spoke] a lot of wisdom regarding God’s forgiveness and how it is ongoing. May God continue to reveal his truth to you.

I believe that in your situation [you are making] the correct decision, in God’s eyes also.

I believe that the enemy’s forces are always attacking Gods kids, especially during difficult valleys of life.

[Sometimes we] question where God is. I have had the same struggles; all I can tell you is that even though it seems that there is nothing good that can come of this, it will.

I have grown the most in the days when I didn’t think that I could go on.

You have been carrying the load yourself; you just didn’t know it.

We just have to trust God in all things; even accepting the things that we can’t change.

This period in your life will pass; you will learn to move ahead.

The struggles you are facing now is the process of spiritual growth, and it is painful but you will make it. Expect bad days, but try to make good ones.

We can’t control what happens but we can choose how to respond. Just keep hanging on to Jesus.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is that God is strong enough to care for the wounded and battle-scarred without ever giving up. He will not grow weary, will not become offended. He will heal our hearts with love and longsuffering, and see it through to the joyous other side of the storm. God is our perfect Counselor.

Will you offer encouragement and hope to someone today?