Friday, September 18, 2009

What Have I Done? (The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength)

We are all so very familiar with the true statement, “be careful when you pray for patience because in order to demonstrate patience you have to go through some stuff”. What have I done? Well, I took it upon myself to encourage you, dear Readers, to have hope in the midst of life’s storms, and what would you know? Circumstances in my life have hit home and I am forced to either have hope or despair.
You may remember how much we have been surrounded by sickness and death of our loved ones- some of you have been there at all times, some of you have shed a tear or two on our behalf, some of you have sent cards, some of you have given of your financial means, some of you have been a source of strength and comfort – in all this I am more than confident and I am so convinced that I need to live a life of real faith, trusting in God, knowing and believing that His promises are faithful. The harder I try, the more the Evil One seeks to attack. The beauty and the wisdom in all his attacks, is that I know and am aware of what Satan is trying to do, so I scoff at him, depend on your prayers, and do my utmost to hold on for dear life to my Lord and Master even when the pain is too much to bear. I desire to help you to have hope, to trust in God, to truly believe that His words are true, and if I have to live it to be in a position to better help you, then so be it! You honestly don't need me to tell you about hope as I am yet to have gone through some of the stuff the Apostle Paul went through in his lifetime. I would encourage you to read it for yourself and since we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we can truly say “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ….” 2 Corinthians 4:8-17 [Emphasis mine]

I love those words and especially knowing that it is coming from a man who has suffered so much for the cause of Christ. My sufferings do not compare with that of the Apostle Paul. His persecution did not come about because his loved ones were sick and dying. He was beaten, imprisoned, threatened, shipwrecked, and all because He was defending the gospel. Have hope, Dear Readers, have hope. All that we go through, no matter how painful, are but light afflictions when compared to the glory that awaits us.

[I wrote the piece below on July 30 and didn’t get around to sharing. Thank you for reading, and for your encouragement.]

The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength

A week ago, I was in Freeport, Grand Bahama, attending a lectureship of the Caribbean churches of Christ. The theme is the title of this writing – “The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength”. I was even more thankful to have had an all expense paid trip. Today, I am sitting on the floor in my living room gradually healing from the news that my beloved Aunt and Mother passed away last night. If you have been traveling with me on this road, you would remember that she had three strokes in one year. The third one was last December - couple days before she was scheduled to fly to Orlando to be with us. [I still have her ticket in hand]

God sure has a way of asking us to show out! Here I am embarking on this journey to encourage others (and myself) to have hope in God and in what He is capable of doing, yet I feel like I am under the assault of the evil one. Yet, I am aware that my sufferings do not compare in the very least to those of God’s servant, Job. [I shared the story of Job with my children yesterday morning, trying to encourage them to always give God the glory no matter the situation. I do find it interesting that they get so frustrated so young in life. Will they be able to handle life as adults, I wonder!]

Aunt Vera’s death was anticipated, and over the past couple weeks, I tried to figure out how I would react to the news. While in Freeport, I had a vivid dream that my sister called and told she was dead and the phone fell out of my hand and I was in tears. I woke up and the message light was blinking on the phone. Did I listen to the message? No, I called my sister immediately and was relieved. Last night on the way home from Bible class my sister called and after she established where I was, she gave me the sad news. I was quiet, sadness welled up inside, and I just needed to use the bathroom. I am not afraid to cry, but in my house, it is difficult to as these wonderful boys come around and you can’t help but smile at them – just seeing their caring ways always break down my resolve and I have to smile. I cried myself to sleep last night and woke up early and went walking. For most of the day, I stayed home in a prayerful, reflective mood.

I know the Lord is waiting to do his powerful will – I only need to allow Him and I am surely trying. Every time I think of what I could have become had it not for Aunt Vera, I can’t help but be full of gratitude which leads to tears. She was truly a vessel used by the Lord to save me, and for that I am eternally indebted.

The joy of the Lord is truly our strength and despite all the unfortunate events that happen in our lives, we must hold on to God and never despair. It might be comforting for us to consider that someone is enduring more than we are – just go to the cross and think of all that Jesus suffered. In real life, I know a brother (in his early 30s) who lost both parents a week apart and later found out he is plagued with the same illness that took his parents – cancer. For the last two years he has undergone treatments upon treatments and the cancer seem to enjoy his body as it keep popping up in different places. Yet, I am told, he is in good spirits. He is taking his licks and giving God the glory because he is a believer in the great Physician.

My flight to Freeport was delayed for the entire day in Fort Lauderdale, and I took it in good stride. I was traveling alone, I received a meal voucher, and I was glad they discovered the problem on the ground and fixing in before take off. Other people on the other hand, were anxious to get home. One irate lady actually moved a representative to tears! Later, I came upon a lady in the restroom with a bare-footed three year old girl and couldn’t help but ask about her shoes (since the restroom can be so filthy). The Mom smiled and said her daughter took them off. She further informed me that their flight was delayed from the night before, and the child was tired of wearing her shoes. Yes, they were in the airport lounge from Thursday night into Friday evening and were still waiting when I left after 6:00 pm. Let’s face it! What did we, delayed for a little over eight hours, have to complain about?

Dear Readers, I know I’m rambling, but don’t miss the message. As we read, study, and understand God’s words, let us use those words in our lives to comfort us when trials get dark on every hand. His word is true and He means exactly what He says. Trust Him. Hope in Him. He will turn our darkness into dancing; we are more than conquerors, and we might be down, but we are not out. Take it to Him on bended knees, with an open and contrite heart, knowing that “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. We can then rejoice in tribulations and sufferings counting it all joy.

Aunt Vera will be laid to rest in a couple weeks; I shall cry myself to sleep again tonight. I know whom I have believed and I’m persuaded that He is able………. Join me in singing that song!

September 18, 2009

We traveled to Jamaica for the funeral on August 8. We returned home on Monday, August 17, and the next day my three year old was hospitalized – while in Jamaica, an insect bit him close to his left eye leaving it swollen and infected. The doctor took care of him, and we got out of the hospital two days later (in time for Meet The Teacher).

Notwithstanding the emotional turmoil, stress, and anxiety that come when we see our loved ones gone, we also spent a small fortune on travel and funeral expenses. In all this, God has been awesome, like He faithfully promised He would. Our church family was so generous with their love, their prayers, and their monetary gifts. We had to make some sacrifices, some cut backs, but we can truly say, “thanks be to God”.

I serve a living Savior and I want the world to know that He is faithful in all that He promises. I am standing on those promises.

It is my prayer that we live more hopeful lives in the Lord. Be encouraged.