I am tired. January was some, long month, which seemed to last forever! The calendar is wrong — January definitely has more than 31 days, don’t you agree? Within two weeks of the new year I went to three funerals, both my girls were sick, I couldn’t shake a cold I got on what was supposed to be a relaxing business trip, and on top of all of this, my washing machine broke! What’s more, upon my return home I was asked to take on yet another role at church to which my first response was, “Anything else I can do for you, Uncle Lewis?” (hope there are a lot of Christmas Vacation fans out there 😊). But seriously, that made me think about my response, along with all the other various and sundry feelings I have had this past month. Good thing I didn’t set any major goals for myself this year because at the moment, I felt like I was barely surviving.
So, this past week in conversation with a friend, I asked, “ Do you ever feel weary, like you are trying to take on the world’s problems, and it’s just too much?” Smiling, she replied, “Well, I can, but Laura, I am sure you do because you feel that everyone’s problem is your problem.” We sort of laughed it off, proceeding to talk about other things, but I wanted to say, “WHAT — ME?!? You must have me mixed up with someone else.” Earlier this month I told my husband that I was tired of all this helping, all this giving, all this outreaching, etc., because there appeared to be no point to it. True, I was feeling particularly low that day because I had worked hard planning just the right event to bring people together to make them feel special, which, in my opinion, had flopped. Needless to say, I took this personally. Hence, I then proceeded to inform God something like, “Lord, I am exhausted from this, so it is someone else’s turn to step up to the plate because I am taking a break.”
Little did I know that the next week, within days of each other, we would learn that two close friends of ours passed away. To say that this sad news rocked my world was an understatement. Sure, my husband and I knew that these two young adults were dealing with some “stuff,” but aren’t we all? And well, we had reached out to them in the past — they knew they were loved; they had family, friends, and one had a great relationship with the Lord. However, while reading my Bible on the night I heard this heartbreaking news, tears streaming down my face, wondering if I could have done more for them, I felt God’s presence, and these words came to me, “It is never too late. Each new day, every person is an opportunity for you, Laura, to show My love.” I read Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and I cried, “Lord, I am burdened and weary and do not see a time when I can rest. Please show me how I can still rest in You but also do Your work.” Oddly enough, the next week at church we talked about why, as Believers, we should never take breaks from ministry. Instead, we should evaluate our hearts and pray that God will rejuvenate us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Truth be told, it was a heart issue that was disturbing me . . . AAAH . . . back to that heart again — man, it can land me in serious trouble!
The fact is, I let Satan steal my joy in serving Christ. Instead of seeing “all this” ministering as really helpful or as loving obedience to God, whether I saw the point or not, I was looking at “all this” as just another task on my spiritual to-do list. I wanted to give up on people after there was no evidence of changes in their behavior or lifestyle, and this is exactly what our greatest enemy wants us to do and believe, that our actions for God are meaningless and useless. Satan wants us to give up, to cease fighting for souls around us and especially to stop encouraging other Believers in Christ. Jesus called Satan the father of lies, one who seeks to devour us, to tear us down in mind, heart and spirit, crippling all efforts to bring God glory. On the contrary, GOD IS TRUTH. In Philippians 2:13 God tells us , “ For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” True, we may never witness the lasting impressions a kind word, a note, or a meal leaves on people — the smile directed to a woman in the grocery store who is in an abusive relationship, the money sent to a nearby family who struggles to pay bills, or the hug given to a grieving parent. In a world of instant gratification, we want to KNOW right then and there that our actions have meaning and produce results. I surely am guilty of this, and because I seldom see the point in “all this,” I want to sit back, put my feet up, so to speak, and let a fellow Christian take a turn. But the point is this — this world is not our home, our refuge, and we do not live for just today; we live for our eternal place with God, a God who has never given up on us, even when we fail Him daily. Even as a beaten, parched Jesus took His final breaths on the cross, He told the criminal beside him, a man, who like us, did not deserve the grace that God so freely extended to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:34 PARADISE, PARADISE — YES! That is where I long to live, to take refuge, not here, not in a fallen, broken world.
Lastly, I trust what I write next will encourage you when you, too, want to take a break from ministering to others. One of the friends referenced above was a very strong Believer, and I always knew what a blessing she was to others, but in days and now weeks after her death, the stories of her never ending compassion and love for others have poured out, one after another. On the surface her acts of kindness appear to be small and simple; she probably had no idea of their effect, but no doubt, they had huge, eternal impact on the lives she touched. My sweet friend was dealing with some serious issues herself, but she always made time for others. I remember distinctly the day she asked me to pray about her fostering a child. Astonished, I blurted, “Are you crazy? Why in the world would you, a young, single, small business owner with tons of things going on, want to take on that?” She just chuckled like she did so often (she was my hair stylist, so the state of my unruly mane usually gave her a good belly laugh), but to my question, she replied, “Because Laura, there is a child out there who needs my help, and I feel God calling me to do more.” Wow — powerful. I recall leaving her salon that day convicted by the Holy Spirit as I looked at my friend, who in this world’s view should not have been reaching out to take on more. But this sister in Christ was not living for herself or for man’s approval; she was living for God. She put others first and her own, personal comfort second, a true testimony of Christ in her life. I know I will see her again, and I am kind of hoping that in the meantime she remembers to ask God if He would make my curly, frizzy hair straight again ( just kidding, maybe). Seriously, let me tell ya somethin’, when I want to settle back to give someone else a go because I’m tired or discouraged or fail to see the point in continuing on, I am going to think about Christ’s love for me and about my sorely missed friend, who, though weak and weary, faithfully lived this command: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
In loving memory of Clari, a sister in Christ, who poured encouragement and God’s love into those around her. I pray I will always open my heart to serve others, as she did daily.
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