Been There (and still am)
I had an interesting text message from a sister in Christ recently that really struck me. She described a tragic family situation, asking me to pray, knowing I would make myself available, and acknowledging that since I had been through that situation before myself, I could empathize as well as sympathize.
Being older in ministry (and in life) now, I get this more and more often. I get it, too. I am well entrenched in the “been there” phase of life and ministry. I have the battle scars to prove it. I pray that I also have the faith that shows it. This particular sister recognized that, and I am grateful.
Peggy and I are empty nesters…our kids are all married, some of them have kids themselves now, and we are far more experienced at the heartaches of life than we care to admit sometimes. I buried my Mom when she was only 53 (I say “only” because I am now 57 myself). I care for my Dad who is a resident of a nursing home. He lived with us for four years until it became a safety concern because he is unable to take care of basic needs, and is now wheelchair bound after deteriorating health led to frequent falls (and trips to the ER).
We have been through numerous other family heartaches that I won’t enumerate here, just trust me: we have “been there.” We have had to lean extra hard on our Lord Jesus to get us through the tough times, and we continue to praise Him for His faithfulness and abiding love. We have tried to be transparent to our church family because we need their prayers, love, and support. We also need our church family to know that we are not “perfect.” We are just people doing our best to follow Christ on a daily basis. Through the good times and the not-so-good times.
How have we survived those times? How do we thrive in our relationship with each other and with Christ? Let me suggest a few ways that have helped us.
Stay connected with Christ daily. Spending time in the Word and in prayer cannot be over emphasized.
Stay connected with each other daily. Peggy is my best friend. She is my life partner. Spending meaningful time each day with her is a priority on surpassed by the need to spend time in the Word and in prayer.
Stay accountable. With each other, and with an accountability partner outside the marriage relationship. I am blessed with a couple different guys, both locally and long-distance who hold me accountable.
Recruit some prayer warriors. I have two text message groups of prayer warriors. Local and scattered all around the country. I call on them regularly to pray for not just situations in my life, but prayer needs that come to me. I know that the people on these lists will present my petitions to our Heavenly Father. What a blessing it is to have that kind of support available on a moment’s notice!
Stay real. Nothing will kill your spirit quicker than being a fake person. I am real in my struggles. I told our students all throughout our 2 1/2 decade student ministry that I did not want to be placed on a pedestal. The fall from those things hurts too much. I am not perfect, I am a sinner following Christ by His grace daily. I am not going to fake it. That does not honor Christ, and it kills my spirit.
In following these few suggestions, you will not have a worry-free, trouble-free life. What you will have is a strength that comes not from you, but from the One Who created the universe with a single word. I cannot get through this thing called life without the strength that comes from my Lord Jesus. Because I am in relationship with Him, I can come to him with my struggles, my doubts, my fears, my disappointment, my anger. he will get me through all of it. He is not afraid of any of that from me. He has truly had to wipe my tears on many occasions. I don’t know how those who don’t know Christ can even try to survive in this sin-filled, fallen world.
I mentioned having to bury my Mom. During her fight with pancreatic cancer, a song by Steven Curtis Chapman became my theme song. “Listen To Our Hearts” says it precisely:
You know all our hopes
Lord, you know all our fears
And words cannot express the love we feel
But we long for You to hear
So listen to our hearts (oh, Lord, please listen)
Hear our spirits sing (and hear us sing)
A song of praise that flows (a simple song of praise)
From those You have redeemed (from those You have redeemed)
We will use the words we know
To tell You what an awesome God You are
But words are not enough
To tell You of our love
So listen to our hearts
I will praise my God in the midst of my storms. I will pray for you in the midst of yours. Will you please do the same for me?