Are you or have you been discouraged? Struggling with your studies? Is pain part of your life? Uncertainty about your finances or career plaguing your sleep? Been hurt by a loved one or harassed by the demands of family and job? Disheartened with the result of our last health check? Disappointed with your lot in life or disillusioned with people and relationships? Guilt ridden because of something you said or done?
If your answer to all of the above is “no”, I would like to meet you, and if your answer is “yes” to some, if not most of the above, I think you fall within the ‘normal’ category. The reality is that all of us go through discouragement, struggles, pain and feelings of hopelessness at different times of our lives leaving our hearts cold and seeping the joy out of our lives. Sometimes, stresses and troubles seem never ending, never diminishing but ever changing. Who do we and can we turn to during these difficult times?
God – Our Fortress & Our Friend
David, the shepherd boy turned king was a man who turned to the living God in times of trial, betrayal, sin and anguish. In God, he found rest, comfort and restoration. David cried out to God, knowing that He listens and is a just, faithful, loving and merciful God. Listen to David’s cries from the depth of his heart.
“In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” (Psalm 31:1-2)
“Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak.” (Psalm 31:9-11)
David ended this psalm by declaring, “Love the Lord, all his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord.” In Psalm 18:1-2, David declares, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock in whom I take refuge”.
David experienced God’s comfort and strength. If you are struggling and don’t know who you can turn to, turn to the One who never fails. The One whom David calls “My Strength, My Deliverer, Rock and Fortress”. Run to Him. He will never leave you or forsake you.
God’s People – Our Family
God has also given us His people to bring comfort and encouragement to the body of Christ. Some of us have been blessed with a loving family who also love the Lord. They are the ones you can turn to and cry out to and to find encouragement and comfort. I have been blessed with a loving family and caring friends and I thank the Lord for them.
If you don’t have loved ones you can turn to, God has given you a wider family – His church – to love, support and walk alongside you in your journey of life. Perhaps, we sometimes forget we are part of this wonderful family of God and we each play a part in it. Often, we get caught up in our own worlds and busyness and do not see the hurting around us. And if we are hurting, we are too afraid to open up and to seek fellowship and counsel with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
An example of an encourager in the body of Christ is Barnabas. We are introduced to Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement) sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” He encouraged through giving financially. Later in his ministry (Acts 15), he and Paul were discussing the possibility of taking John Mark in the second missionary journey. John Mark had earlier deserted them in the first missionary journey. Paul said “no” but Barnabas said “yes”. Barnabas was prepared to give John Mark another chance despite his earlier failure. Paul and Barnabas then went their separate ways with Barnabas bringing John Mark with him. We may be familiar with what unfolded – John Mark was eventually helpful to Paul’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:11b) and Paul acknowledged it and John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. I think Barnabas demonstrates for us what it means to be an encourager in the body of Christ. To encourage through giving financially, through listening and not giving up on someone who has “failed”. Won’t it be wonderful if we have more “Barnabas-es” in PSPC? It will be a place where we can find encouragement in the midst of trials or failures and a place we will feel safe enough to share our burdens and failures.
Here is a glimpse of what the church should be like. We are reminded by Paul the Apostle to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10) and that “if one suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (Romans 12:5). Jesus said “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) This is the beauty of being in the family of God.
Let’s pray for the family here at PSPC. That we will grow to be a people who love the Lord and love each other, people willing to listen and encourage each other and people who feel safe within this family to share one another’s burdens without judgment or criticism. I personally have experienced the love of the family here at PSPC especially during my illness and I give thanks to God for all of you. Likewise, there are still many in our midst who are going through difficult and challenging times. May we continue to love, encourage, care and pray for them. Some thoughts:-
1. If you are not in a cell group – join one;
2. When you hear of someone in need or going through a difficult time – care for them, listen to them and pray for them;
3. When you hear of someone who has failed or made a mistake – do not criticize or judge – embrace him/her;
4. If you are hurting and don’t know what to do – turn to God. He is our Fortress and our Friend. He loves you and will never leave you or forsake you.