I care; You share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

I had coffee with a friend today. I thought we were getting together to laugh. Turns out, we got together for a lesson.

During our conversation, she shared a profound truth, and I asked her to write a guest post on my blog. For you to fully grasp the power of her message, please allow me to share the highlights of what my friend is facing:

  • Her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, has cancer
  • Her 17-year-old son has been dealing with the legal system all year. He was recently released from a psychiatric hospital stay. After a 3rd violation of his probation, they have court soon to determine if he will stay in the home or be placed in the system.
  • Her father-in-law lives with them. In the last month, he has been hospitalized twice with mini-stroke symptoms.
  • Her mother lives with them and, in the last month, has also experienced health issues.
  • My friend has her own mental health journey that is challenging to navigate with all these stressors.

…and we think we have problems? But wait: Capture that thought. My friend, Amanda Meers, has a word regarding that ‘thought’, and I believe we all need to hear it.

Amanda’s insights

I tell you these things, not so that you will feel sorry or have pity, but to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like God gives us a triple plate of life. Most people would prefer these things to happen on individual plates at different times in life (if they have to have them at all). Some people, like me, get all of the plates at once. I have a nickname amongst some of my friends, Jobina (the female Job).

I am often told, when reaching out to different people in my life, that what’s going on in their world is nothing compared to what’s happening in mine (whether they know all of it or only about Sarah’s diagnosis). This is a huge pet peeve of mine!!!

Let me explain:

Yes, everything happening in my life (taken individually or all together) is a lot for anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that the trials happening in your life are any less important or significant than those happening in mine. It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges. If you or someone in your life is going through a hard time—whether it’s a cold, the flu, a baseball bat to the face, strep, issues at school or work—it’s all hard, it’s all scary, it’s all traumatic, and it’s all life. We are in this life together. We are supposed to share so that we can lift each other up in prayer.

Going back to the fruit example (apples and oranges): We are all fruits picked by God. We’re all different—whether you consider yourself an apple or an orange. We have different sizes, different colors, different bruises. When God picks us, we are placed in the fruit truck, all headed to the same place—but our journeys are so different.

Sometimes when people tell me “Well, I know my stuff is nothing compared to what’s happening in your life,” it feels like this means you think that I can’t or won’t or don’t want to pray for you. Praying for you and what’s happening in your life takes the focus off my life. I want to be other-focused. I want to pray for you. So many have been faithful to pray with and for us. By not allowing me to pray for you, you are denying me a blessing. Even if you factor out the friendship and love I have for you, we, as Christians, are meant to pray for each other. Praying for others is my job. If you are not sharing your prayer needs, you are depriving me of the opportunity to do my job. I can pray for you (and I do), but if there are specific things I can be praying, I want to know so we can go to the Father together in prayer. We are not meant to carry our burdens alone—no matter what they are.

We're all fruity. Let's show we care. Let's share.

Great job, Jobina. Thank you for permission to not compare my apples to your oranges. Thank you for praying for my apples as I’m praying for your oranges. Thank you for the invitation to be fruity together. 

You can reach Amanda at ameers2002@icloud.com

Loving God with your mind when you feel like you’ve lost it

In bible college, I was assigned J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. In it:

Moreland explains the importance of using your mind not only to win others to Christ but also to experience personal spiritual growth. Moreland challenges you to use logic and reason to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation.

Moreland highlighted that Western Christians are often not respected intellectually because they’ve pursued the experience of God and disregarded pursuing the knowledge of God. I was inspired by the book and its invitation to engage my mind as an act of worship.

That said, this week I’ve been looking at Matthew 22:37 in a new light.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

As a pastor, mom, wife, sister and friend, I’ve walked with people as they’ve experienced brokenness that sent their hearts and souls reeling from the pain. These soul-shattering faithquakes often release anger and blame—many times toward God. Even more concerning, faithquakes can open cell doors to a numbness prison where self-sentenced, devastated people lock up to escape the pain.

During these dark seasons, many people report they cannot feel God. In the grip of overwhelming hurt, they can mistake that lack of feeling as a sign. Is God not there? Has He gone away as a form of punishment? How does all this relate to Matthew 22:37?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

When the parts of us that are made to feel and experience God—our heart and soul—are locked down or consumed by our situation, God offers a way to keep hope strong through loving Him with our minds. We can do this by:

  • Remembering how He has transformed our reality. Former situations in our lives may not have anything to do with what we’re currently experiencing. However, using our mind to recall how God showed up in the past is basically saying, “God, I don’t know how You’re going to work in this current mess, I just know that You’re going to” (1 Samuel 17:37). It isn’t a magic prayer that will immediately change things. It will, however, allow us to stay connected as we’re navigating the mess. Loving God with our mind in this way prevents the spiritual attacks of doubt and anger from getting a foothold when our circumstances are the most intense.
  • Using words of faith not fear. Words matter (for more on this in a former post, click here).When we speak the truth that we know God is working (Philippians 1:6)…that God has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11)…that He will work this mess for something good (Romans 8:28)…we are loving God with our mind. Even though we have no idea how He will do it, even though our heart hurts and it isn’t well with our soul, loving God with our mind means speaking words of truth anyway. The alternative is to speak words of fear and freaking-out which will block our minds from receiving God’s creative way forward. Here’s a powerful truth: Our words become our world.
  • Trusting past the pain. We will most likely not understand why God is allowing so much pain. In the space between the initial shock and some understanding of “why”, we need to limp toward trust. God is in control and is holding everything together (Colossians 1:17). Trusting keeps hope alive that good is on the way.

It takes time to rebuild after a faithquake. As we’re navigating it and healing, the last thing we need is to feel condemned because we’re not being a good Christian. Loving God with our mind when our emotional and spiritual self is bruised or broken keeps us connected and growing through the pain.

I’m praying for all those who are hurting and reading this. While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I pray you can relax into loving God with your mind and have grace for yourself if the feelings aren’t there right now.