The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
“Jane” examined me closely and then asked, “What if they only came to rob you and not because of your preaching … does it still count?” Whaaaat? It’s amazing what comes out of people when someone is suffering!
Jane said this to me at our kids’ school in the Central Asian city where we were serving with different Christian agencies. I was still suffering from the injuries I had sustained when we were attacked in our home a year earlier. She was trying to do the reward calculus on my suffering. Was I suffering for Jesus? Or was I just suffering? In her mind, there was a big difference and it seemed important to her to nail down which was which. Kind of appalling, right?
This was not what I had signed up for. I had moved to Central Asia to change the world, not to clean and cook and wash dishes! If I had to be in this hard place I wanted to make a difference, do something significant for a change. I secretly wished I could lead somebody else’s life!
I decided that the boys and I were going to attack the house, one room at a time, and declutter, donate, trash–whatever works– to minimize the amount of ‘stuff’ we have and really do not need. The boys have surprised me in their ability to ‘let go’ of some things that I would have thought had some emotional significance. I, on the other hand, had a very hard time when we began transforming our younger boys’ room into a middle-schooler/ teen room.
One time in particular comes to mind, a time years ago when my kids were little. I was running around like crazy all the time, with four girls all under the age of six. In an attempt to keep them occupied one day we made a trip to the craft store. After loading our purchases and all of the kiddos into the minivan I drove to the nearest Chick Fil A. It was then I found that my wallet was missing. My heart dropped. Not that this was an end of the world situation, but it was upsetting nonetheless. I would have to cancel all of my credit cards (having to remember which cards were in there in the first place); I’d have to get a new driver’s license (which is a huge pain when you just lost your only form of ID); I’d have to contact my health insurance company and get new ID cards…just additional things to worry about when I was already up to my eyeballs in little girls.
Over the past several months, God has been making me more aware of the spiritual battles that Christians face. Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV) Tuning in to any newscast or perusing any daily newspaper will confirm that the devil is alive and well on Earth, and that his servants are very busy.
“Doodoodoo dadadoodoo… under pressure.” Remember the song from David Bowie in the … 80”s? Yes, I’m dating myself. But it is true, “pushing down on me, pushing down on you.” Our lives these days are so crazy and we’re all under such pressure. Our health might not be in the best of shape. Our jobs are just that: jobs, not the fun, passion-filled, joyful place that you “get” to go to everyday, but the place you HAVE to go to so that you can pay your bills. Our children might be trying our last nerve, not doing well in school or on the field. Our marriages might be breaking down and friendships might be under stress. We’re in situations that are just plain scary.
Every summer for the last fifteen years, my selfless husband chooses to leave his home and family for five weeks to go up north to work. His goal is to earn extra money to provide for his family; even still, hating to leave us and be away from those he loves and holds dear. A choice to serve his family while denying self proves his deep love for us. The example he sets inspires us to share this type of self-sacrificing love with others.
One night, I decided I was going to attend a Bible study at the campus ministry house. I was so excited to go, I even left my dorm room extra early. I looked everywhere for the campus ministry house. At this point, I was already late, so I gave up looking and called my youth group leader back home with tears rolling down my face. I reached out to her because I needed help. I was frustrated and I needed somewhere to go. I expressed my feelings to her and as soon as I hung up the phone she googled “Christian Churches in Quincy, IL” and the first one she told me about was Madison Park Christian Church. Little did I know at this time that Madison Park would soon be my home.
But what I cherish most is my mother’s passion for caring for the poor of our community. For years, Mom made deliveries of food and basic supplies from the food pantry of our church, to indigent families nearby. I have often wondered if the bread, milk and meat she always included were purchased from her own pocket. The deliveries were often made well after dark, sometimes in the dead of winter, in crime-ridden neighborhoods, to families she did not know. But when she received a call from Social Services that a family was in crisis or a father had lost his job, my mom responded.
This was physically the hardest thing I have ever done. I couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes at a time, and had to use a shower chair. I used the walker for even the shortest trips in my house. I knew underneath it all that God was certainly at work, but the pain was so brutal that I couldn’t even try to see Him. I reached a breaking point many times, weeping into the night. God didn’t take away my pain. He didn’t fix it. I knew better than to ask why He was allowing this, as I knew there would be no ready answer.