I am praying right now for several people I love who are dealing with very negative and harmful influences in their lives. The first is a middle school boy who is being verbally assaulted and abused by a kid in school who keeps telling him that he should “kill himself” and is picking on him repeatedly. The other kid is a trans kid with a lot of other issues, and it seems like the school system does not know how to handle the situation without facing a possible lawsuit from the woke movement that cry out for “justice” for “people like us” even while they might be insisting what is unjust and unreasonable and hypocritical. I’m not getting political, because there is injustice and and hypocrisy on the other extreme as well. Then I have friends who are dealing with depression and anxiety who are battling, and who have or who are considering hurting themselves or others. Then I have friends who have faced traumatic circumstances and are facing the unknown, dealing with close personal loss, etc. I. all of these situations, there are thoughts and voices at play — both internal and external — that can be harmful, and that have to be dealt with.
Recognizing, filtering and battling the thoughts and voices that want to tear down instead of build up is not just a life long battle, not just a training ground for our heart and soul, but it is the place where faith grows the wonderful fruit that can be shared with others — our own testimony, our own character, and our own walk.
Doing it alone is treacherous. But even then it offers us the wonderful opportunity to turn to the one who is able and whose grace is sufficient to bring us back from the precipice.
And by being there for others, seeking how we might serve their needs — our own needs and those harmful thoughts and voices seem to gain less traction and less focus on our day.
When we feel isolated and attacked, our best open door escape from that prison is to seek how we might be able to participate with others who are also hurting in their own ways. Whether this is in small groups, in programs like Celebrate Recovery, in charitable organizations, in churches, in corporate worship, in community service projects, or other things that bring us together in selfless acts, that is the sweet prescription — and the underlying love and sacrifice is the cure — the very Holy Spirit of God.
It can seem so counter intuitive to “get up” and “get active” and “serve others” when so much is screaming to us to “hide” and “run” and “shut down”. Having people near me that understand that at times I do need alone time to cope with anxiety and social awkwardness and fatigue — but who also know when and how to use “my love languages” to pour into me in a way that I best receive when my cup is low — really helps. We need others to recharge us, and we need connections to those who naturally pour out in the ways that best fill us up. Community and support will turn what was once debilitating into a wealth of personal experience and wisdom that we can share to help others who are going through the same things.
What doesn’t kill you does hurt a lot, but it makes you stronger — not so you can be seen as strong, but so that you can be a good friend, even be Christ, to those in need around you.
So take pleasure in the trials and the sufferings, as you are sharing with Christ in those “on this side”, you will share with Him as heirs in all the other “on that other side”. Amen!
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. 9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. 12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. 13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. 16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. 19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. 22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. 25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. 26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
James 1:2-27 MSG