Yesterday was a very enlightening day for me. I started off by attending an inspiring, energizing talk by a a wonderful sister in Christ. She talked about anxiety, depression, and lots of other behavioral health issues that her family has experienced over the years. It was compelling, certainly, to listen to, and then uplifting to hear how God’s grace and the strength resulting from His participation in her and her family’s life, had sustained them all. They had actually grown from the struggles that were trying to destroy their lives and their hope. Their relationship with Jesus had deepened. She reminded us that God was and is always with us and fighting our battles with us. It was humbling to hear her honesty and her faith in every word she uttered.

Jesus Is With You

She gave us a wonderful image of one tiny person standing on the field of battle, a huge army of enemies arrayed in front of her, on war horses eager to to advance upon her. She closes her eyes and awaits the onslaught. But then, she hears and feels on the ground the pounding hooves of another horse swiftly approaching. She’s sure that the enemy has sent only one opponent to strike her down. That’s all that would be needed in her vulnerable position. Then the thundering hooves abruptly stop right in front of her. She opens her eyes and there stands a majestic steed with a regal, radiant Rider who looks at her with love and says, “Don’t be afraid; I am with you.” And that Warrior moves His horse to stand next to her. He alone soundly defeats her enemies.

Saint Making

It’s a moving scene and one meant to remind us that we are never alone. We should never feel that we are fighting our battles alone. No matter the struggle, no matter the pain, no matter the size of our problem, God is with us. And He is never going to leave us or forsake us. He is, in fact, using this challenge, this trial, this tribulation to make us stronger in our faith in Him. He is, dear friend, making us into saints. Relying on God, seeking to be more like Jesus, more like the saints (those who have met the trials and overcome by God’s grace) gives us a peace that passes all understanding. We know God’s got this, He’s got us.

Later in the day, I went to my evening graduate class where we discussed the 13th Chapter of Mark’s Gospel. The 13th chaptercan be viewed as ‘disturbing.’ That’s how I characterized my initial reaction to it. Jesus foretells of not only the destruction of the Jewish Temple which took place in 70 AD, but He also throws in some details about the End Times, and those words I used above, trial and tribulation. He definitely is giving us all a ‘heads up’ about what is going to occur. And even, as one of my classmates astutely observed, He is telling us about things that have happened over and over again throughout the history of humanity. How many times have people thought the world was ending? How many times has it ended for people during World War I, World War II, in Cambodia, in Iraq? In our own lives when a fire or an earthquake or a flood steals away our homes or loved ones, or both?

And yet, Jesus tells His disciples not to be afraid. And He admonishes them to “watch and pray.” He is telling us the same today, everybody. Stay in communion with God so that you can stand and not fall. But you know what? If you do fall, He will pick you up again. Just look to His nearest friends who all abandon Him as Jesus is led to the cross. Betrayal, denial, weakness abound. And yet, those same apostles, save the one who gave in to despair and did not believe in God’s mercy, are forgiven, and strengthened by God’s grace, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to start the Christian Church. The early followers of Jesus have always known hardship and persecution pretty much all along the way. And many still did and do throughout history since then.

Sometimes our enemies can be other people who hate us for illegitimate reasons; sometimes our enemies can be behavioral health issues like depression and suicidal thoughts; sometimes our enemies can be sickness, death, divorce, bankruptcy, the loss of our home, a friend who walks away. Sometimes our enemies can be the evil one and his minions. Yes, he’s real.

But we’ve got to watch and pray. We’ve got to talk to God, read His Word (the Bible), cultivate friends or deeper relationships within our own families who can help support us. And whom we can support. We’ve got to pray for wisdom to know which way to go, when to stop, when to turn around, and when to stand our ground or move forward. But only with God’s grace and only with an understanding of His love and mercy for each one of us. We desperately need Him.

I felt very inferior in class last night, as I so often have in my theological studies. I didn’t have answers to my professor’s questions or I had no way to back up the answers I came up with. Others seemed so bright and so much more insightful than I could ever be. Those thoughts, that negativity, is not of God. I know this more clearly today than I did last night. I think yesterday’s morning talk from the woman of faith who encouraged us all to remember that we’re not alone and that God is always with us was a not too small grace sent to me by the Lord to keep me standing and not crumbling.

And so was this song that I heard on my Alexa this morning, on Pandora’s ‘Matt Maher’ Station. It’s Kristian Stanfill. And it will wake you up and rouse your spirit. It did mine.

Let’s lift our eyes up. Our help comes from the Lord. It’s a perfect complement to Mark 13. No coincidence. And so I felt compelled to share this message of hope with you.

 

 

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