Friends, I want to encourage you today as we approach the end of another year and wait in hopeful expectation for what 2015 will bring. For some of us, 2014 has been a great year. Perhaps there has been a cause for celebrations such as: an anniversary, a job, a wedding, a holiday, a family reunion, a graduation, an achievement of some kind or something else that has led to much happiness. For others, 2014 has brought new challenges such as: illness, the death of a loved one, debt, unemployment, disappointments, loneliness, unexpected difficulties, a loss of faith, a broken relationship or friendship and other circumstances that grieve the soul.
It has been another year and many will have uttered the phrase ‘where has the time gone?’. It does seem to go so quickly, and we spend some time at the end of this year reflecting on all that has passed us, and we look ahead to this next year. Perhaps you feel a sense of dread or at a loss at another year. You are struggling to come to terms with life, and this year has dragged on from one hopeless struggle to another.
There is hope.
Crying in Church
How do I know there is hope? Well, I hit an all-time low on Sunday. The waterworks from my eyes began to trickle down my cheeks during the sermon on Sunday. It all started when people were coming to share their words of encouragement from what they had learned this year and the wonderful, awesome things the Lord was doing in their lives and the lives of others. These are called ‘testimonies’ and it is not just someone’s story of coming to a faith in Jesus, although it can be. The testimonies people gave were very encouraging. However, it was also deeply saddening for me.
Someone suggested that maybe my tears were falling because I wanted to give a testimony, but felt that I had no testimony to give at this moment in time. I did want to give a testimony. Nonetheless, I simply couldn’t. Not because I did not have one to give however. I had plenty of encouraging things to share about how God has been so wonderful in 2014.
My tears kept falling because many were talking about work, future opportunities and jobs. As many of you dear friends are aware, I have struggled with unemployment in 2014 for 6 long months. Nonetheless, I am learning so much in this sabbatical of grace. For that is what it is. A sabbatical of grace from the Lord to help me to rest, to learn, to trust, to listen, to pray, to ponder, to wait, to be patient. He has given me His grace to endure this very difficult time. He has not provided me with a job in the way and in the time that I thought He would. He has done something much greater in giving me a sabbatical with Him.
There is hope.
I know this because the Lord has sustained me daily all of my life, and has continued to be faithful during this difficult season. There have been days when I just did not want to face the day. I did not want to have another discussion about work or what I do for a living. I have cried and felt angry and at a loss. However, I have been comforted by the Comforter.
Bursting into tears when the pastor came to see Joel and I after the service, I buried my head in my hands and wept. I have never wept so hard in my life. The tears just kept streaming. My nose started to run in an uncontrollable and embarrassing way. Gross, I know.
In that moment, comfort came in the most beautiful way. Christ the Comforter had placed everyone in a position of grace. My husband was at my right hand comforting me with his presence. The pastor was at my left side with his hand touching my back to show that he was there. A woman who I had worked with in the creche turned to offer words of comfort and encouragement saying that ‘I was so steadfast in my faith’. A man had also turned and placed his hand over mine to pray with the others. Another woman who I had befriended at the church with Down Syndrome went and got me a cup of tea and a biscuit, and stroked my back in a soothing comfort. For the first time in my life I really experienced the true love and fellowship of a group of believers coming together when an emotional crisis was at hand. My emotional crisis. I did not expect to be the one who needed comforting in such a profound way – but I have been so blessed and encouraged by this experience. To be surrounded by believers uplifted, edified and encouraged me in a powerful way.
5 Ways to be an Encouragement as part of the Body of Christ (the ‘people’ who collectively are the ‘church’ make up the ‘body’ of Jesus)
- Listen to them – Give them your attention as listening is a wonderful way to support and encourage so you can respond to what they are struggling with.
- Offer words of encouragement – affirming and building someone up. Hearing what you are doing for Christ & how He loves you brings a smile and some reassurance through the hard times. Keep up the good fight of faith!
- Prayer – Praying for the one who hurts. Nothing is as powerful when you are standing alongside them in prayer. God hears all of them and reaches down by providing His Comfort – this is often through other people!
- Touch – Hug them. Provide a hand hold. Gently stroke their back to soothe them. Do not invade their space, but make a judgement on the situation. Just a little act like this can let someone know they are valued and you care.
- Meet their physical needs through an act of kindness – e.g a cup of tea and biscuit, a walk in the fresh air
I have learnt that I know the Lord more when I struggle with life, because only then do I surrender everything to Him. It is in the darkness that you seek the light. In the same way, it is in the darkest moments of life that we start seeking for the light of life again. We want to be shown the answers, but often we do not get the answers we hoped for. Nevertheless, when we accept Jesus as our Saviour in this dark, crumbling world, we are given hope and comfort that shines light into the coldest and darkest crevasses in our hearts.
Time and time again I find myself facing new challenges and struggles. Although I do not understand everything that afflicts me, I do have the confidence to say ‘Christ is my greatest Comfort and my Hope’. If I have to be surrounded by darkness on every side in order to seek and trust the Lord more, knowing Him in a deeper, more beautiful way, I say, bring on 2015 in all its splendour and uncertainty.
‘i am learning so much in this sabbatical of grace.’
I am linking up with Kelly and others for the Cheerleading Linkup this week (check out Kelly’s latest blog post to find me!): Purposeful Faith Cheerleading Linkup