At Home with Suffering

At Home with suffering-lonely,struggles,overwhelming,tears,burden,losing hope,carrying cross

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…” Philippians 1:29

Two weeks ago was devastating for my friend. She had lost her wallet and all her credit cards. The weight of the world was on her shoulders as she dealt with the police and made the calls to cancel her life and identity.

With her feet kicked out from under her, the rest of the world took on the form of a growing burden that overwhelmed her.

Fortunately, she had taught her son about Jesus and the truth he gives us. That son confronted her, told her to smarten up and deal with her attitude of getting stuck in an attitude that refused to change and acknowledge God’s control in all she had been through.

My friend had been born in a Christian home and gone to Christian schools in Pakistan. She had been taught the Bible from her earliest days. She was thoroughly marinated in Christianity but sitting across from me she declares “it was not enough.” She knew that life wasn’t meant to be a bed of roses and things have been hard. She knew it didn’t take faith to love God and follow him if the road was smooth. Now she declared again to me. “Every person needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and they need to keep walking in that commitment. It’s not enough to say a prayer or live on what you’re taught.”

My friend had always been in control of things. She was confident in her work with children. She was used to being independent. She was taught to be sure as a leader so children could look to her for their strength.

Now she felt helpless.

Previously, she had looked down on others who acted helpless. She didn’t understand the attitude. Now, in her own moment of emotional paralysis over a lost wallet, she began to empathize. She changed from within.

Every morning my friend takes out the Daily Bread and reads. Every morning it says exactly what she needs for that day. On this day it says the glory of life is to love – not so you are loved, to give – not so you get, to save – not so you are saved. This reading and all the ones before this rekindle hope to face another day in personal weakness and godly strength.

My friend says that “faith and life, if they’re smooth, are not functional and they’re not real.” She says “the closer I want to get to God the greater the challenges – the more challenges now the more blessed I feel.”

She know God is in control. She provides an insight when she says “God uses those close to us to probe the areas of our weakness. Because they are close we can’t walk away from them. God loves us and he wants the best for us.”

Her son hit her hard with this statement. “Mom, Jesus gave you a cross to carry. If you’re going to carry it then do it happily.”

What hits you hardest about my friend’s story? Can you relate at all? How do you live your life like Jesus is living in you? Do you think others who see you living are convinced that you serve a risen Savior who is in the world today?

Overwhelmed

overwhelmed horse

Maybe you’ve felt this way. Overwhelmed. You know it’s not just the day. It’s not that no one seems to care what you say or do anymore. It’s not that you feel empty and confused. It’s not that your smile is plastic and your gut is permanently twisted like a pretzel. It’s not even the avalanche of activities, people and decisions cramping your time, energy and space. You just feel no longer in control.

The great physicist Stephen Hawking may be overwhelmed after passing away and meeting the God he denied his whole life. He did leave us a good quote when he said “people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

Feeling disabled in spirit can happen in a family context, a work environment, in the middle of a shopping trip, or while we’re stuck in traffic. It might even happen in a church where you are bombarded with thoughts, emotions, convictions, reactions you don’t know how to handle.

For those of us in the trenches of life it wouldn’t be unlikely to have consultants, counselors or advisors tells us to limit what we put on our to do list to only the things we can manage effectively – Delegate, trust others to take some of the load, let go of the most stressful challenges. They might also tell us to limit purposeless meetings or conversations that suck up our valuable time.

Finding space to process, to call on our personal support system and to determine what we will eliminate or refuse on our agendas will also be something that we will be told to consider. Each of us has a different capacity in carrying our loads and it is important not to compare who we are and what we can do with others around us.

I feel overwhelmed frequently. My recent evaluation says that others notice I am overwhelmed. Taking the advice of others to limit myself sounds like wisdom. It doesn’t work to lecture a person who is overwhelmed, I’ve been through that. It doesn’t work to guilt, shame or scare someone who is overwhelmed, I’ve been through that as well.

The gospel of Mark records Jesus’ response to his disciples after he’d sent them on an overwhelming road trip. They’d gone out two by two with no bread, no bag, no money and no extra tunic – only a walking stick. They preached repentance, drove out demons and healed the sick, trusting God to meet all their needs. In Mark 6:30-31 we read what happened after their return to Jesus. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have time to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

Perhaps this is the best idea. Coming away with Jesus by ourselves to a quiet place and getting some rest. I think being overwhelmed happens when we don’t get enough of this.

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Or, what do you do to avoid feeling overwhelmed? Being part of a supportive community is definitely something that helps a lot.

What’s it All About?

The messages I get often start with Why or Where. Why is God letting this happen to me? Where is God right now and why isn’t he answering my prayers? Why am I here?

Rick Warren, in his book Better Together (p. 12), says “the purpose of your time on earth is not primarily about acquiring possessions, attaining status, achieving success, or even experiencing happiness. Those are secondary issues. Life is all about love and developing relationships – with God, and with other people. You may succeed in many areas, but if you fail to learn how to love God and love others, you’ll have missed the reason God created you and placed you on this planet. Learning to love is life’s most important lesson. Jesus called it the “great commandment” (Matthew 22:38). Nothing else comes close in importance.”

If you’re like me, it’s easy to nod my head in agreement but then I meet real people in real life.

For example, K. is the mom whose son is an aggressive autistic wreaking havoc in the community. K. has a husband dying from a brain tumour and acting out against her. K. has a daughter who gave her a three-week-old child to look after since the daughter didn’t want to leave her life of drugs and prostitution. Now K. has kidney cancer and lives in serious pain. Her messages to me express how overwhelming life is. Her trust and faith in God were ejected long ago. How do I love in this situation?

  1. came by for prayer again today. One son is an alcoholic and one a drug addict. She converted to Christianity from another religion and is seeing huge transformation in her own life and choices. She battles and fights for her boys but is drained of energy. She can’t keep a job because she is always chasing to intervene in her son’s latest escapade. The things she loves disappear again and she knows who took them. Yet today, she declares that God knows who needs those things most and she releases them without animosity toward her son. Still, she is in desperate need. How do I love in this situation?
  2. is a young professional who was lonely. She prided herself on her purity until she met an older man who overwhelmed her with compassion and care. She quickly fell prey to his sexual advances and found herself involved in things she never imagined doing. When that relationship ended, within a week, she was into another relationship with a younger man who repeated the same activities with her. She feels trapped because of her loneliness, guilt because of her faith, helplessness to make meaningful choices. How do I love in this situation?
  3. is an older refugee who longs for connections. He had significant status in his home country before he had to run for his life and come to Canada a year ago. He is learning English and loves to talk but no one seems to have time for him. He is constantly sending out invitations to come and share food at his home. He would love to still make a difference in his home country through a politician here but needs help accessing his representative so he can share his story. How do I love in this situation?

Every person we meet has a different story and love needs to be applied uniquely to their situation. We need wisdom and compassion and grace greater than we can imagine.

Who are the significant people in your community who need practical demonstrations of love? What can you do for even one of them?

Don’t Read This

Once again, don’t read this if you don’t want to know how bad things are in our city. Don’t read this if you don’t want to admit how hard things are just to be human in this environment. Don’t read this if you think you are the only one struggling with sexual temptation.

The British apologist C. S. Lewis, stated that “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down. A man who gives into the temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.“

If you’ve ever stood on the deck of a BC ferry and walked into the wind there are times when you could almost be blown overboard. Those resting inside have little idea how challenging it is to stand or walk for those on the outside.

In my best dreams as a pastor I would like to imagine that all followers of Jesus are safe inside the ship and that the winds are wreaking their havoc on those who deliberately refuse to come inside and get away from all the images on television, in the theatres, on the computers, in the magazines, in the malls, in the bookstores, in their classrooms, in their workspaces, in their community centers, in their doctor’s offices, on the billboards, on their tablets, on their phones and in their own imaginations.

The carnage on our society is deadly. How can prayer impact the direction and consequences we are seeing unleashed around us as Romans 1 promised?

Huge percentages of youth, young adults, married men and women, and even seniors are confessing in groups designed for believers that they are enslaved by pornography, masturbation, sexual fantasies and addictions, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual encounters, inappropriate thoughts, attractions, lusts or desires.

An enemy is working hard to cripple the church from being an effective witness. How can we stand up under this onslaught? As someone said to me today, you can’t keep playing with this fire and not get burned. Are we facing a wildfire that has gotten out of control?

Last week we had three policemen join Cathy Peters in meeting with daycare workers from several of our daycares throughout Vancouver. We hosted this important event to highlight how child sex trafficking is rampant in our own communities. We’re going to share this same information with parents in the next little while but there is serious concern that parents won’t believe that their son or daughter could be at risk.

 

 

More on this in the next blogs.

It is said of Billy Graham, in memory of his passing, that he took sin seriously in guarding his own exposure to temptations or compromising situations, but he also took redemption seriously when it came to the sins of others. Perhaps as you ponder what is going on around you it might be a good time to take both of these things into consideration as we deal with ourselves and others. What is God asking of you as you work to become a wounded healer in our broken world?

Blessed Bubble-Wrapped Believers

I still can’t find the verse. You know, the one that says believers will be bubble-wrapped and protected
from having a hard time in this world.
I did find what Jesus said in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because
great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before
you.”
Francis Chan reminds us in a short video clip that we don’ t have to worry about what we need to say
when we’re called before those who oppose us because, as Jesus told us in Luke 12:11-12, the Holy
Spirit inside us will tell us at that time what we are to say.
Today, I received an email from one of our university students who had a pro-choice professor
expressing his views on gender fluidity and sexuality. He supported the Prime Minister’s cut of summer
grants to churches who will not support abortion or transgenderism. He mocked Trinity Western’s
contract encouraging students to stay sexually pure. This student spoke up in class and was amazed that
the professor listened. She said “This is my firsthand experience that God can and does proclaim His
truth through timid spokespeople when the time is right! Still, it’s so easy to just keep quiet… please
pray for faith, courage and love to testify to those around me, and also that I can act out my faith.”
If you know how to pray there are people who need you. If you are in the front lines facing the insults
and the bubble-wrap free zone then you need prayer warriors around you. The strength of our faith
comes not only in our quiet times alone but in our vibrant interdependence as members of one body –
one family – one church.
I’ll finish today with Peter’s encouragement to believers facing challenges in his day. “Who is going to
harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do
not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But
do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it God’s will, to
suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
I guess we’ll save the bubble-wrap for Christmas presents.

He sets the lonely in families -II

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families.”

 

The Vancouver Foundation consistently claims that loneliness is one of the biggest challenges for people living in this city. Seniors isolated in their apartments, care homes or rooms are lonely; young moms struggling to raise children are lonely; refugees and immigrants are lonely; leaders are lonely; young professionals fixed to the internet are lonely; people riding in Skytrains and buses are lonely; even some married people shelter behind closed doors in their own loneliness.

It is hard to see loneliness as a part of our churches. We think that if we can get isolated people into groups of people that loneliness will take care of itself. Several people have told me over the years that the hardest thing is to come to a service, to stand in the middle of so many happy people, and feel all alone.

 

The United Kingdom has now appointed a minister of loneliness to deal with the issue among 2 million seniors who are isolated from community – 200,000 admitted they regularly go over a month without speaking to another human being. In our city, it isn’t surprising to see people drive or commute alone, shop alone, eat alone, order coffee alone, watch a movie alone, walk or jog alone, read alone.

 

Local studies say at least one in five of us experience the sadness that comes from social isolation – reaping the impact on our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Surprisingly, social media seems partially responsible for the sense of separation and human connection we tend to thrive and flourish on.

 

Connecting to community is essential for our overall health. Being part of a small group where you can share your life, get prayer support, learn with others, enlarge your perspective on God and sense a personal connection with the life stories of others seems to be something God has designed when he made us.

 

When’s the last time you shared a heart connection with someone who really saw you for who you are? When have you taken the time to initiate a contact so you could see someone else for who they are?