Troubles abound. Switch on the evening news, peruse a newspaper, or surf the seemingly unending internet news sites and you are sure to be flooded with the trials and tribulations of this world. If you are like me, you might say a prayer for the persons and places affected and leave their needs in God's capable hands; some tragedies are simply so overwhelming that you cannot internalize them lest you drown in a sea of despair.
But, how do you react when troubles are close at hand, when they strike a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member? Do you mumble some meaningless words of empathy or sympathy and turn away? No, of course, you don't! You roll up your sleeves and plunge right in to offer help in any way they might need. In truth, when you do see the world's suffering, you are hoping that someone, indeed, many someones, are ministering to the afflicted in their own back yard, just as you would should the need arise.
Troubles can make or break a person's faith. Before the time of my "troubles, many and bitter", I blithely considered myself to be a committed Christian, solid in the faith. When my husband, John, endured a freak head injury and died some days later, the foundation I thought I had laid upon the rock crumbled in the shifting sands beneath me. Although I still believed in God, I could no longer envision Him as a loving one. He had taken away my love and the step-father that my children adored; I was angry with Him and made no bones about telling Him so. My joy for life was buried with my husband.
There were countless and caring individuals who reached out to me in my grief and suffering and who helped me begin the arduous climb out of the pit I was in. For them, and for their love, I will ever be grateful. Yet, out of the ashes, two people rose head and shoulders above the rest, going above and beyond anything and everything I could expect; they didn't stay in Jerusalem, but walked with me down the long and sorrowful Emmaus road. These two women are, today, two of the dearest friends I'll ever know in this world; they are the sisters I never had and I treasure their presence in my life. It was, largely, through the love and understanding these two gave me, that I began and continued the healing process and was, at long last, able to realize that God had never once abandoned me in my time of trouble; He was ever at my side.
Through the years, we have stayed in touch, sharing both joys and tragedies with an implicit knowledge that each would find the grace of understanding and comfort in the other. With busy lives, we don't always find time for that phone call we know we should make so, imagine my surprise in getting a phone call from each of these women this past weekend. Both of my friends are going through extremely trying circumstances and I was so grateful to the Lord that He gave me ears to hear, the words to say, and a heart of compassion. As I hadn't heard from one of these women in many months, I was reminded of how long after John's death I waited to truly call on God in prayer. And, when I did, He listened lovingly as if I hadn't been gone but a moment.
My troubles, many and bitter, broke my faith, but as Christ's love was shown endlessly through my two friends, my faith was not just restored, it was renewed with the fullness of joy. Are you hurting? Are your troubles many and bitter? Or, do you know of someone who needs to feel the love of God shining through you?
Can you say, to quote a Facebook friend, "When things are at their worst is when I thank Him most?" I'm not sure I've come that far yet, but I've certainly come a long way in my walk with Him. How about you?