(This was taken from our weekly email newsletter - if you want to receive it regularly, you can sign up for it in the "sign-up" area of the website.)
May the Lord bless you and help you in every circumstance in life. May His grace abound in both difficult times as well as those that are easy. May you find Him infinitely adequate for every situation - even those where you feel infinitely inadequate . . . no - especially in those infinitely inadequate times.
Last week my mother had a stroke. At that time life moved from what I thought was a difficult time (due to my own myopic view of hard - that is one where I am thinking of my own struggles a little too much) to one that is more in line with what real difficulty probably looks like. But as I've taken time to meet with God and submit myself to what His viewpoint is - even that perspective is changing over time from difficulty to opportunity. If you don't mind - and I hope you don't - let me try to encourage you this week with what I am attempting to learn.
Lesson #1 - Embrace your inadequacy! For those of you who read that and wondered about my sanity in this midst of this situation . . . I am serious as I can be about this first lesson. Too often I spend too much time worrying about my inadequacy in a situation. Please understand I am not talking about those who feel they are inadequate - and therefore do absolutely nothing. That is not so much inadequacy as it is irresponsibility. But feelings of inadequacy creep in during every difficult situation we face. Rather than wrestle with feelings of inadequacy - I am seeing that I need to embrace truth - I am inadequate! At least I am inadequate to go through difficulty without God's wisdom, God's strength, and God's grace. My wrong response to inadequacy is to try to become adequate on my own. This is a dead-end street. Embracing my inadequacy - and then turning to God for the needed wisdom, strength, and grace to do what I need to do - is the proper way to handle difficulty. (Just a little note . . . Jesus said, ". . . apart from Me you can do nothing." Therefore your actual range of inadequacy is far larger than you may have ever thought.)
Lesson #2 - When the going gets tough - the tough turn to God's Word and to God in prayer! Scripture says, "If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited." (Proverbs 24:10) That may sound like a "university of duh" statement - but it is a very wise one. Here is a parallel to it - "If you are slack in the day of distress - guess whose strength you're relying upon to handle it? The word "slack" is telling here. It means to slump down, to sink, to become discouraged and eventually fall. Difficult times can overwhelm you - believe me - this set have led to several times that I've felt overwhelmed. That is a great time to turn to God's Word. If you don't have time to open a Bible - cry out to Him in prayer. The godly men and women of the Bible did exactly that! It doesn't matter that you don't know what to pray - just pray that to God and keep talking. It will come out as you turn to Him. Then when you can get a chance open your Bible and read it. Turn to Psalms and write down His promises and His comforting statements. A wise person would either memorize those - or at least have several on a 3X5 card - or on their cell phone.
Lesson #3 - When your difficulties have you down, don't cry, "Uncle," cry "Body of Christ!" I have said it numerous times in the past. I don't know what people do who do not have the church during their difficult times. If you want to see the church at her finest - go through troubling, difficult times. She tends to rise to the task in those moments. There were several times in all of this that I just wanted to cry, "Uncle!" and give in to the sense of being overwhelmed. God's grace kept me from it. Also remembering that all this got me in the past was a unhealthy dose of freaking out - depression - moments of anger - emotional paralysis - etc. These things pretty much stink if you've ever gone through them. In this situation, I've had to call on the church for help. James and Debbie have been indispensible at the office. The elders have been prayer warriors and those who have sought to encourage me. They also have tried to ease my concern about being away a long time. Plus all those who have either messaged me - emailed me - and facebooked me with promised prayers, support, and encouragement. Yeah - crying "body of Christ" rather than "uncle" is a much better way of dealing with all of this.
My present circumstances are far from over - and I know that. This will be a long-term time of difficulty. (Just a note: Let me say that when it comes to family and friends and the body of Christ - these times are guaranteed to come in one way or another. We were born for these moments - and true love rises to the top when they come.) My guess is that there will be many more lessons for me, and for all of us when we face them, to learn. In the midst of these - there are also probably times when all the feelings of being inadequate in myself, in need of prayer and promises, and just overwhelmed will surface again. That is when I will learn Lesson #4 - I need Endurance to run this race. I appreciate your prayers as I seek to run this part of my race well.