You’re Not As Alone as You Think

This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.

“I just wish someone understood…”

“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”

“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”

“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”

“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”

“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading

The Trouble with Comparing Pain.

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The heart knows it’s own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy

Proverbs 14.10, ESV

 

Over a month ago, I read some comments on a Facebook post discussing the damaging effects of vaccines. As is common with all vaccine-related discussions, the comments were awash with both sides of the debate. There is always someone bashing “anti-vaxxers” as being anti-science/stupid/ignorant/hateful/child-abusers/fill-in-the-blank-with-an-insult. One comment read, “I would rather live with a child that has autism than to have my child die of whooping cough.”

Continue reading

Expanding the Core: Building relationships with Christians in the Church

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

~ 1 Corinthians 13.1-3, ESV

The elderly man tottered slowly into the foyer of the church building. He looked over his shoulder and glimpsed the bumper of his son’s Honda as it pulled away from the curb. Small knots of people were scattered around the warmly-lit entrance.

A deep sigh escaped from the depth of his soul. Being old was the pits. Just a few weeks ago he was living in his own apartment. A young couple would come every Friday to visit and take him out to run errands. On Saturday’s he had bible class with a family. Tuesdays he’d go fishing with Clive. The church had been so supportive and loving. Then, one Thursday evening, his whole life was turned upside down. His shaky legs finally gave out on him and the next thing he knew, he was staring up at those cold glaring hospital lights. Charlie’s son had flown down from Washington to make sure he was ok. A week later, all his worldly goods were boxed up and moved to a little room in his son’s house, over 800 miles away from all his friends and brethren in the church. Continue reading

Does anybody care?!

imageFor people like me who wage a daily war with depression, there is a phrase that pops up every so often, and we grow weary of saying it: “I’m depressed… Again.” It’s frustrating, upsetting, and draining. “Will this ever completely disappear? Surely people are sick of my black cloud… I know I am.”

You know you have to face the day again tomorrow. You know you’ll likely wonder why you bothered to get out of bed. You feel like nobody cares.

There is One who always cares. He already knows you’re hurting. He holds all your tears in a bottle. He watches the ongoing fight.

God cares. Jesus understands. The Holy Spirit strengthens.

You are not alone.

People will grow weary of your ups and downs, but God never will.

There is an old hymn we sometimes sing entitled “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Most people focus on the friendship bit, but I want to focus on an often overlooked part:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Are you really carrying everything to God in prayer or do you come with a few requests and then carry the rest to your best friend from school? Don’t bring some of your requests to God, bring them ALL. Pour out the anguish of your soul. Confide your worries, fears, doubts and weaknesses. Carry everything to Him.

Every person that I have ever loved in my life has let me down. That is not a reflection on their quality as a friend, but rather a reflection on our mutual humanity. I am quite confident that I also have disappointed each and every one of them at some point or another. We are not God, we cannot be omni-present, and we are prone to weakness. I have begun to realize in the last year an important truth: Rejection, disappointment, and failure are the gateway to true dependence on the Lord. We aren’t going to lean heavily on a God we cannot see when we have friends and loved ones we can see. We go to them when we hurt (and that is only natural), but at some point they won’t be there because they can’t be everywhere at once. When all obvious supports fail, we clearly see the One Solid Rock that has supported us all along.

God never lets us down. Jesus understands what it’s like to be abandoned by friends. The Holy Spirit is ever near to comfort you.

You are not alone.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

~ ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭55:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Memorize this verse and repeat it beneath those dark clouds of sadness. Then do it. Pray. Cast that burden on the Lord. Do it again until you feel unburdened. If the weight comes back, cast it off again in prayer. Do it for the rest of your life. Pray ceaselessly. Pray for others carrying that weight. Give thanks to God when you find relief.

Are you walking through that lonely, cloud-covered valley today? Is the weight of life too heavy? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Every. Single. Day.

If you are suffering from depression, I recommend you read these posts:

The Overlooked Truth About Depression and Faith.

The Cure is Worse than the Disease! What do I do now?!

Feeling Overwhelmed?

May you find peace in the Lord today so you can press on to the goal!

Stuck, alone and helpless. [The Effective Prayer 9.29.15]

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Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.

Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colors from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white;
but we decide which is right,
And which is an illusion?

~ Graeme Edge, Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed

Night, peaceful night.

Peaceful, at least, for some of us…

What do you feel when you find yourself in a still and silent place? Do you feel panic, anxiety, peace or joy?

I crave stillness. Life is so hectic. I yearn for those quiet moments when I don’t have to do or be anything. It is a human foible to constantly crave that which eludes us.

Here’s a little perspective:

Imagine for a moment being on end-of-life care or severely immobilized. You’re stuck in a wheelchair or confined to a hospital bed. You have no driver’s license. You don’t have the physical capability to get anywhere on your own.

You feel like a caged bird.

A world that used to brim with possibility is suddenly beyond reach. You can’t strike out on a new adventure unless someone is willing to take you along. You feel Stuck. Alone. Helpless.

Welcome to the life of the shut-in.

In the twilight of life, it is common to struggle to find purpose for those remaining days. People who are confined due to age or illness long for a kind word or a friendly visit. They feel forgotten, isolated. Some grow bitter in their loneliness. Others have physical ailments that cause embarrassment or discomfort. Sometimes, they aren’t elderly. Relatively young men and women struck with cancer or like illness may find themselves in a hospital bed, drawing closer to death far sooner than they’d expected.

Do we just cast them aside and pretend they don’t exist? Are they less deserving of our compassion than the vibrant, healthy and young? On the contrary, they are in desperate need of compassion and encouragement before they meet the Maker.

An example of compassion and purpose

Even though my mother worked full-time, she tried to find ways to visit the elderly ladies from church who were in the hospital or shut-in. During my junior year of high school, we gave a plate of cookies to an elderly couple at church that we didn’t know very well.

We all became fast friends.

A short time later, the man passed on leaving behind his wife. Their children lived elsewhere. She was all alone. Without her husband, she was unable to drive. Nearly every Friday afternoon, my mother would take Mary while she made deliveries for work so that they could visit with each other and pick up some groceries. It was an edifying experience for all of us. I observed that one could grow old and still have joy. One could be shut-in and still find purpose. Helping others could be helpful to you. Mary was a talented lady and she would knit and crochet blankets, sweaters and stuffed animals for new moms and needy folks. She made several of our baby blankets and I still have them today. Mary was a beautiful example of growing old with grace.

It all started with a plate of cookies and ended with a beautiful friendship.

Praying for the shut-ins.

This week’s prayer requires you to reach out a little. If you are an introvert like me, this may be a  difficult task. People are unpredictable and it can be a bit daunting. Remember, God does not call us to do only that which is easy or comfortable; He calls us to be compassionate regardless of circumstances.

If you have a similar personality to mine, I recommend starting out slowly. Begin by sending a card in the mail. Next, find someone who has experience ministering to the elderly and ask to accompany them when the visit people.

Here is a list of specific requests for the shut-ins:

  • Pray that they will seek the Lord until the end. I have observed the effects of debilitating disease and injuries. It either fosters a closer with God or triggers bitterness toward God. Pray that their eyes will be open to the Lord and that they won’t reject Him in their pain, loneliness and fear.
  • Ask the Lord to send them friendship. (This could be you!)
  • Pray that they will be comforted by the Lord’s presence.
  • Pray for those caring for them—both family and health professionals. Pray for those who are making decisions for this individual; pray that decisions will not be motivated by convenience, frustration, exhaustion or selfish desire, but rather what is best for the one cared for.
  • For those Christians suffering from dementia, pray that the Lord will remind them that He has not forsaken them. I have shared a story in the past about a lady I knew who suffered from Alzheimers. Even in that fog of confusion, she always spoke to me of God’s faithfulness. You can read that post here. It is a prayer that offer up for myself at times. I hope I am lucid until I die, but if I should get Alzheimer’s or dementia, I pray that I am like the examples I have seen of people who remember the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord even when all else is forgotten.

FREE PDF list of what to pray for shut-ins. Includes bible verses and a few lines to add notes/names. Download by clicking here.

Pray with purpose.

Pray effectively.

Reach out and encourage!

Please leave feedback in the comments section re: the PDF download. I am still trying to format this effectively to be a tool for your use and mine. Thank you in advance for your help.