Restored From Loneliness

I read a news story posted on the WebMD website about a survey on loneliness in the United States. It concluded that our nation faces:

“widespread loneliness, with nearly half of Americans reporting they feel alone, isolated, or left out at least some of the time. The nation’s 75 million Millennial’s (ages 23-27) and Generation Z adults (18-22) are lonelier than any other U.S. demographic.

In addition, of the 20,000 people sampled, 54% of respondents said they feel no one knows them well, and four in 10 reported they ‘lack companionship,’ their ‘relationships aren’t meaningful’ and they ‘are isolated from others.’ Douglas Nemecek, MD, Cigna’s chief medical officer for behavioral health, said the findings of the study suggest that the problem has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions…’. Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity,…’(1)

Initially, I was somewhat surprised to see such results, particularly in the younger generations that seem so “connected” via phones, tablets, computers, and other tools that grant them access to a myriad of social media sites.

One would think that our newfound capacity to communicate would have reduced our sense of loneliness. In fact, the average person in the U.S. is more connected than anytime in our country’s history. Statistically, a typical American today comes into contact with more people in a single year than most did over an entire lifetime 100 years ago. (2)

Data from just one social media company, Facebook, illustrates the degree by which we have adopted our connected lifestyles. In the U.S., 156 million unique monthly visitors access Facebook each month.(3) A disproportionate number of these are younger people, presumably the most connected of all in our society. 48 million users or 88% of all 18–29 year old’s, and another 52 million users or 84% of all 30–49 year old’s are among those that connect regularly with Facebook.(4) (5) And that’s just one social platform among many where such connections occur.

In the presence of this data, how is it possible for our country to be facing an “epidemic” of loneliness along with its accompanying health consequences?

All of this caused me to ponder what loneliness really is. One of the more common clinical definitions I found in several resources described loneliness as a condition …marked by painful feelings of sadness and longing and almost always by the absence of, yet felt desire for, relationship with others” (6)

Bottom line: Without meaningful relationships we’ll quickly find ourselves living in a state of misery.

Social media often gives us the appearance of meaningful relationships, but in reality, social media “relationships” are a far cry from the depth and quality of real-life relationships. We as human beings are living, breathing, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual beings. We’re fundamentally designed to live in relationship and community. We have a basic built-in need to interact with one another in real-time. To live outside of this reality is to promote isolation, and isolation fosters loneliness and stress.

To illustrate the stress of isolation on the human mind; many years ago an English doctor built an experimental room to test its effects. This soundproof room was more akin to a large box suspended by a series of nylon ropes. Volunteer subjects were all given padded gloves and translucent goggles to eliminate the sense of sound and sight. All meals were eaten in the isolation chamber and the volunteers were observed via a one-way screen. Volunteers were allowed to exit the experiment at anytime. In the end, most could not tolerate more than five hours of isolation. In fact, even after as little as an hour, with the knowledge that they could exit at any time, most volunteers had increasing feelings of panic and anxiety.(7)

No doubt, numerous factors contribute to the high level of loneliness being experienced by our society today, yet I couldn’t help but notice that the very same demographic experiencing the highest levels of loneliness, are coincidentally the same groups that are increasingly distancing themselves from God’s offer of a loving, meaningful, and personal relationship with their creator.

About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion, or they describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. (8)

The religiously unaffiliated population – including all of its constituent subgroups – have grown rapidly as a share of the overall U.S. population. The share of self-identified atheists has nearly doubled in size since 2007, from 1.6% to 3.1%. Agnostics have grown from 2.4% to 4.0%. And those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” have swelled from 12.1% to 15.8% of the adult population since 2007. Overall, the religious “nones” have grown from 16.1% to 22.8% of the population.(9)

To be sure, there are many drivers that no doubt contribute towards a society plagued with loneliness. However, we can be rest assured that loneliness was never part of God’s original plan for us.

A few examples:

1. God desires to partner with us in carrying the burdens of this life:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”-(Matthew 11:28)

The rest implied here isn’t like a vacation, rather it’s a type of rest that gives us room to breath and strength to continue, it allows us to manage through the challenges of life that often weigh upon us. Jesus has access to the Father and the resources of the Father, His invitation is extended to everyone that recognizes their spiritual need for a relationship with Christ. Our access to Christ, means our access to the Father and his resources. Christ equates the Christian life with spiritual rest which does not allow us to escape the hard life, rather to experience rest and refreshment in its midst. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

2. God is committed to walking beside us through all of time.

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mathew 28:20b)

One of the great hallmarks of a meaningful relationship is when one chooses to come along side another over a lifetime. I know of several friends and married couples that have successfully navigated the challenges of their lifetimes through loving mutual support found in their relationships. Yet even this level of dedication to one another, pales compared to the promises of Christ. Christ promises to not only walk with us through this finite human life, but to remain with us through all of time and eternity.

3. God loves us with a deep sacrificial love that goes beyond any human capacity to love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God loves you and I in the ultimate sense of the word. His love for us is sacrificial in nature. It has no bounds in terms of his sacrifice, which has afforded us the opportunity for an eternal relationship that starts the moment we say “yes” to his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation.

4. God’s love for us is perfect.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

God is capable of loving us more perfectly than any human being could love another. This is so, because only God can know our hearts and minds with absolute completeness. No human relationship can claim that level of relationship. Only God can know our heart in its totality, capturing and understanding all of our true motives and feelings.

5. God has demonstrated his love and desire for us to be in relationship, even when we were living outside of relationship with him

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

God desires a relationship with us entirely on the basis of grace, our relationship is not founded on how good a person might be, or how many good things I’ve done in this life. It’s founded entirely on his grace. This is evidenced by his intentional love for you and I, even in the face of our rejection of him.

6. God enables us to grow and fulfill our God given purposes in life whenever we choose to walk in relationship with him. In so doing, we are connected to him in a deep and powerful way.

“I am the vine, you are the branches, if you remain in me and I in you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

No other relationship in the world can enable us more than our personal relationship with God. When we are close to God and surrendered to him in our personal relationship, his character will be expressed and lived out in our lives. The Apostle Paul included in his list of qualities that God values, such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22-23)

Among these qualities, the one held the highest is love, but not in an emotional sense, rather in an outgoing and self-giving series of actions sense.

Are you one of the lonely?

I encourage you to look deep into to your heart and be totally honest with yourself.

If you find that you are lonely, feeling disconnected and living out your life without deep and true purpose, then the first step is to move towards total surrender of yourself to Jesus, for he loves us without condition or pretense.

If you already have a relationship with Christ, but perhaps have grown distant, then take a moment and pray, ask God to help you drop your guard and allow him full reign in your life. Let no aspect of your life be off-limits to God, put it all before the cross. He can’t fix our hearts until we allow him in to do so. Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart as we speak, don’t ignore him, don’t turn aside, he loves you and desires more than anything in this world to welcome you into an abiding eternal relationship with him.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

If you have never followed Christ, and you sense the desire to do so, then pray and ask God to receive you into his family. Commit your life and surrender it totally and completely to Christ, trusting in faith that the work Christ did on the cross for you will be sufficient to save you for eternity.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

You can talk to God by praying, using your own words. There are no special formulas. Just pray from your heart to God, and He will save you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation that you can pray:

“Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. -Amen”

Because we know that we are designed to be a people in relationship, if you prayed this prayer, or if you have recommitted your life to Christ, you need to find a Bible believing church that you can join in your area. Perhaps where you live there are no formal churches to attend, (Often this is the case for those living in countries where Christianity is feared by the authorities and has been banned.) if so, ask God through prayer to find a way for you to connect with other believers. He will honor your prayers.

Once you find either a church or a group to fellowship and pray with, commit to meeting regularly and supporting one another. Study the scriptures and allow God’s word to grow within you as he grows in relationship with you.

Only through the power of Christ will you be released and restored from the grip of loneliness.

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(1) Tate, Nick. “Loneliness Rivals Obesity, Smoking as Health Risk.” WebMD, WebMD, 4 May 2018, http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180504/loneliness-rivals-obesity-smoking-as-health-risk.
(2) ibid, 754
(6) S. A. Cappa, “Loneliness,” ed. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 698.
(7) Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 753.Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 753.
(9) ibid

Measuring Our Worth

According to a National Geographic Magazine article entitled “Fly Like a Fly“,  by Joel Achenbach, (1) the common and often irritating housefly is a marvel of insect engineering.

Achenbach shared that evidently the fly is superior even to birds, bees, and bats when it comes to acrobatic capabilities. Did you know that a typical fly can fly straight up, hover, fly backwards, perform somersaults, and then land on the ceiling? Not only can they perform amazing feats of acrobatics, but scientists have further discovered that nearly two-thirds of a typical housefly’s entire nervous system is dedicated to the processing of visual imagery. This coupled with their large compound eyes, gives the housefly the capacity to perceive full panoramic imagery and makes them especially adept at detecting motion. (Probably why many a fly has escaped my efforts with the flyswatter.)  When God designed the fly, a lot of attention to detail went into His effort.

Knowing this, can you imagine for a moment how much more God loves us, his crowning achievement, given the amazing design effort he put forth for the fly?

How do we evaluate our worth? I admit that there are days where I feel like I don’t even measure up to the humble housefly.

Thankfully our worth is actually known. Dr. Ken Boa noted that scriptures tell us that our worth is “determined by what Christ was willing to do for us” (2) rather than what we can do for Christ. In today’s cultural climate, our sense of worth is often distorted because our culture frequently links self-worth to our life’s accomplishments, finances, our popularity, political views, talents etc.

There are times along life’s journey where I feel very much like I have not done all that I could have done. I look at so many of my friends, family, co-workers, and others that have done such great things in their lives. Yet by comparison, my few contributions don’t seem to have even nudged the needle in life.

At one point in my life, I reflected upon all of this and realized that I have no great stories to tell, I’m not a hero, I’m not particularly intelligent, nor do I poses any special gifts in music or other talents. I’m just an average everyday kind of person slugging through life. It was rather humbling and even discouraging to consider.

In the midst of this disheartening self-evaluation of my life, God reminded me of how much I am cherished. The scriptures say that “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”(3) We are loved by God, a God that is rich in his mercies and loves us so much that he has given us eternal life through the work of his son Jesus.

There may be times when I “feel” like I don’t measure up to my ideas about my life, and when that happens, I’ve found that I need to recall that God does not ask me to base my relationship and eternal worth on my feelings, rather he asks me to trust Him and respond to him in faith. Because of his grace we are elevated, adopted into God’s family and have a seat at the table of the King.  (Romans 8:15) All of this is possible because of the work of Christ on the cross and not by anything I could possibly have done on my own. (Ephesians 2:9)

A dear pastor friend of mine once shared a sermon that included the passage from Ephesians 2:7, which speaks of God’s desire to pour out his continued blessings in our lives.(4) In his sermon, he spoke of how God’s kindness and love towards us is so great and so vast that the gifts he desires to give us will take “ages” for God to fullfill.(5)

Not only does God pour out His blessings upon us, but with these blessings he gives us purpose in our lives. Our purposes are unique to who we are and to what it is that God desires for us to do in his kingdom.

The Apostle Paul reminded me that some have greater more visible roles than others, yet all are needed in God’s kingdom. (Romans 12:5) What I have learned is that my worth isn’t in what I do, it’s in how I respond in faith to the assignment God desires for me to do. God doesn’t ask me to pre-approve his assignment for me, he simply hands me my assignment. It’s up to me to decide if I accept the assignment in faith, trusting that God has a greater and grander purpose in why he chose that particular assignment for me.

Each of us has an important part to play in God’s Kingdom. We are each given  a variety assignments over the course of our earthly lifetimes, each designed to uniquely contribute to God’s purposes. We may never know on this side of heaven the exact purpose of our assignment, but to reject such an assignment is to reject the blessings that God will give us for our faithfulness.

One assignment that never changes is the assignment to understand and place first in our lives our relationship with Christ. We need to know Christ, we need to know his heart, we need to accept his love and forgiveness in our lives. We need to spend time in his word, in prayer, and in so doing magnify his love in our lives while learning to recognize and hear his voice. (1 Kings 19:12, John 10:3)

The trouble I sometimes face is that I have in mind what I would like my assignments to look like. Our views to this end are often influenced by our emotions and the need for recognition we feel like we deserve. The truth is we don’t deserve anything but separation from God, yet he still pursued us with his everlasting love. (Romans 5:8, John 3:16-17)

To be clear, not everyone will receive an assignment that puts them in the limelight or gives them a sense of continued worth and value from those around us. In fact, most assignments in this life will be humble but critical ones. If we seek to be like Jesus we should be aware of the virtues God values, and God values humility over pride. (Proverbs 8:13, Matthew 18:4)

When our focus shifts away from serving our Lord, when we allow pride to enter into to the equation,we will start to feel like what we are doing is not important, or fails to give me the recognition I feel I deserve, it’s then that our joy will be gone, our hearts will be barren, and what we do will become hollow. In this state we become distant from our Lord and that distance hinders our ability to hear God, which in turn hurts the body of Christ.

In the scriptures, the apostle Paul illustrated the critical nature of our assignments by comparing our assignments to that of the human body. No part of the human body is useless, all parts, no matter how humble or visible, serve critical roles to ensure the health of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

Likewise we see this illustration extended when we speak of all believers throughout the world as the body of Christ. We each have roles or assignments that God has given to us. God is not frivolous nor operates without purpose, each assignment given is critical.

Perhaps some get the assignment to be the beautiful voice that will sing songs of worship or preach, perhaps others will serve quietly and faithfully functioning day after day behind the scenes of life, thus enabling the voice of the body to do its role for the whole of the body. Like the human body, the reality is that most of what goes on in the body of Christ is more invisible than visible, but no less critical.

When we speak of the body of Christ and our roles, we speak of our function within God’s kingdom as a whole. His kingdom is here and now, it’s where we worship, live, and work. Don’t ever be discouraged by your assignment, but rather carry out your assignment faithfully. Doing so will have the effect of building up the body of Christ.

Perhaps your assignment is to be a faithful parent to your children, to do the chores in the home God has given you, to care for an elderly parent, to be the heart of Jesus to people in your workplace or school, to deal with the harsh aspects of a fallen humanity in some form of public service. Perhaps it’s to empty out the trash at church, to wash the floors, or to mow the lawns.

Remember, it’s not about achieving recognition in the eyes of others, nor is it doing something to make me feel good inside. It’s about being faithful in the assignment God has given us, even when we don’t get encouraging feedback from the people around us.

Our true worth can be measured by the faith we extend to God as we live out our assignments faithfully. Recognize that no other creature in God’s creation have been given the privilege nor the capacity to express the love of Christ to the world at large except us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(1)Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 51–52.

(2) Kenneth Boa, Handbook to Spiritual Growth: Twelve Facets of the Spiritual Life (Atlanta, GA: Trinity House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 140.

(3) The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Eph 2:10.

(4) The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Eph 2:7.

(5) “God’s plans to showers us with kindness,” Tom Marcum Sermon Notes (November 8, 2015)

 

The Evidence of Intimacy

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.’ ” – (John 11:14-15)

I first met Tony, a tall handsome man with a greying beard and the air of a wizard about him, through a small group bible study I had been leading. Our meeting ultimately led to a friendship in which we not only had the opportunity to worship together in the same church, but to also work together professionally in the same company.

Tony’s friendship and mentorship became a very influential and guiding force in my life. His wisdom, integrity, humor, and deep walk with the Lord all conspired to help me grow at many levels.

Working for the same company also afforded us the daily opportunity to get our exercise in through lunchtime walks where we would converse over all manner of topics. Over the years he would regularly challenge me both professionally and spiritually. He often shared with me the importance of living life within the framework of biblical truth with Jesus as the principle foundation.

I will always remember that fateful day when Tony shared with me during one of our walks that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He was so matter of fact about it, like it was just another topic on our daily walking agenda. From the outset he completely trusted in the Lord for whatever the outcome might be.

Over the next two years he was subjected to all sorts of treatments and surgeries. I had occasion to visit him in his home and in the hospital at times. Those visits often left me saddened as I watched the body of this once great and wise friend wasting away as the disease progressed on its relentless course.

Yet Tony’s faith in our Lord remained.

All during that period many, myself included, prayed fervently for a healing miracle from God. But none would be forthcoming.

I received the news of his passing while at work. I left my office and walked a short distance along a small trail that led to a picnic area on a lawn covered hill near our office. The area offered an overlook of the hills that surrounded the valley we were situated in.

I prayed through the tears and sorrow that befell my heart on that day. It seemed so final, yet I knew that he was in Heaven, in a far better place, but I also wondered why God had not healed such a humble and faithful servant.

I remembered in his book “If Ye Shall Ask,” that Oswald Chambers shared that God always answers our prayers. Even Jesus said; “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” ( Matthew 21:22 (ESV) )

Both were bold statements!

In the months that followed, I was in somewhat of a spiritual struggle, contrasting the words of Jesus against the reality of Tony’s death. On the surface it seemed as though God had not answered our prayers for healing.

In the end, I found myself faced with one of two possibilities:

  1. Prayer was not real, it’s just a nice vehicle to help us through some difficult times.
  2. Prayer is real and God always hears and answers our prayers.

I concluded that if one presumed that prayers were simply feel good actions on our part that served no greater purpose, then one must also conclude that God was not real, and by inference, the scriptures were not a reliable source for understanding God and his plans for humanity.

On the other hand, if God is real, and if I can trust the scriptures as reliable, then I must also presume that God’s intent in his answers must serve a higher purpose, perhaps even a purpose for which I may not fully grasp.

I worked through both possible outcomes and concluded that the evidence overwhelming supported the reality of God. Furthermore, I also knew that the reliability of the scriptures stood on very solid ground. And to be sure, I also appreciated from firsthand experience in my own life, that the God who loved me first is a personal being that desires only to give me His very best in this life.

For a time the topic of prayer and the experience I had with Tony’s death was never far from my mind. One evening as I was reading the scriptures, I came across a story about a guy named Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus.

It seemed that Lazarus was also the brother of Martha and Mary, two sisters whom Jesus had befriended during times when he and his disciples stayed in Bethany, a small village on the Eastern slope of the Mount of Olives in Judea. The village itself was about a mile and half East of Jerusalem. Even today the town is called el-Azariyeh (the place of Lazarus) by its resident Arab population.

Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem at the time he heard that his friend Lazarus had become very ill. The scriptures record that upon hearing of his friend’s condition, Jesus elected to stay in Jerusalem for an additional two days. At the end of this stay he told his disciples that Lazarus had died. But then he said; “...and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” When I read this statement I thought to myself; “what puzzling thing to say to his disciples.”

With my interest peaked, I continued to read and learned that when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, it was revealed that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17) In other words, Lazarus likely died the same day that Jesus was told of his illness by the messengers sent by his sisters Martha and Mary. (John 11:3) Yet Jesus delayed his return and did not heal his friend from what would ultimately become a terminal illness.

When Jesus arrived at their home it was Martha who initially came out to meet him. Of the two sisters, Martha had a history of being the anxious one. We know this from what Luke recorded in the scriptures.

Luke noted an earlier incident when Jesus was visiting in Bethany with his disciples; evidently Martha was busy preparing and serving food while Mary was sitting around and listening to Jesus teach. (Luke 10:38-42) Martha complained to Jesus about this apparent inequity. Jesus responded by sharing that Martha should not be so troubled and should spend more time doing likewise.

After Lazarus’s death, when Martha saw Jesus arrive, her first words where not words of greetings, but words of underlying disappointment and frustration with Jesus. She told Jesus that “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Clearly she understood and believed that Jesus had the ability to heal others and knew that her brother’s death was preventable. In her defense, Martha did ultimately conclude that Jesus could bring her brother back from the dead, and Jesus confirmed that with her. But in the moment she thought that he was speaking of the end times when all believers will be resurrected in their new bodies. After affirming her belief in Jesus as the expected Messiah she alerted her sister Mary of Jesus’s arrival.

Jesus spoke with Mary and together they all walked to where the tomb containing the body of Lazarus was located. Jesus requested that the stone seal be removed and the tomb be opened. Martha, the ever anxious one, still did not understand fully what was about to happen, instead she was worried about the terrible odor that would come from the tomb should it be opened after four days. (John 11:39)

Nonetheless they did remove the stone seal. Jesus looked up and prayed to his Father and then yelled in a loud voice; “Lazarus, come out!” Immediately Lazarus came out from the tomb, with his hands and feet still wrapped in strips of linen. Jesus told those around him to “take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Many of the Jews that had come to visit Mary and Martha, and to mourn with them saw what had happened and immediately placed their faith in Jesus. They realized for the first time that He was much more than a teacher, but he was their expected Messiah!

Scriptures would later record that it would be these same Jews and others that would greet Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on that fateful Passover week prior to his crucifixion. (John 12:17) The Jews who had witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead not only became believers, but they also spread the word to many others.

As I finished reading about this incident, I pondered how the outcome might have been different had Jesus simply healed Lazarus and not allowed him to have died. Many Jews would not have known of Christ as their Messiah. The story of Lazarus would not have been recorded in the scriptures to give us further evidence of Christ’s power over death, and the very town where the event took place would not today bear the name of Lazarus some two thousand years hence, still testifying to the power over death that Jesus demonstrated, even before his own crucifixion and resurrection that was yet to come.

I concluded that sometimes when our prayers don’t seem to be answered, that God has in fact answered them already, but His answer speaks to a higher purpose for which I may not fully appreciate or even understand in the moment. Therein lies an element of my trust and continued faith in His promises to me.

The prophet Isaiah said; “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In the end Chambers reminded me that I must always keep in mind that prayer is to bring glory to God, and that what appears to be silence is in fact the first sign of His intimacy.

 

Mr. Fish

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10 (NIV))

When our kids were young we would take them to the local County Fair which arrived for about two weeks each Summer.  They loved the fair and would enjoy the rides, the food, and all the fun activities.

Many of the fair booths would offer prizes to kids for succeeding in certain events, such as tossing a small ball into a hoop, or coins into bottles and bowls.

On one occasion, my son won a goldfish.

We had little hope that this “Fair fish” would survive for long, it looked rather skinny and listed to one side. Nonetheless, our daughter set out with great determination to ensure that her little brother’s fish would survive. We started by locating a large fishbowl that had been purchased at a garage sale some years before. After a trip to the pet store, we had an inexpensive air pump, fish food pellets, and some water conditioner in hand.

For the first week or so our Fair fish seemed to remain somewhat on the fence about survival, but then it suddenly seemed to take to its new home. Each morning he got a few pellets of food and he continued to thrive. In time he matured into a large handsome and very bright orange fish.

Days became weeks, months passed and then years.  Our Fair fish is now over seven years old and is as healthy as ever. Somehow over the years I became his de facto caretaker. Mr. Fish resides in our kitchen on the counter, his bowl only a few feet from our coffee pot.

Each morning as I pour my first cup of java, Mr. Fish slurps the top of the water in his bowl loudly and splashes his tail to remind me that it’s also mealtime for him. I obligingly drop in several pellets of food, which he hungrily devours. He spends the rest of his day poking around his bowl looking for anything that he may have been missed in the morning.

Periodically his bowl needed to be changed with fresh clean water. This used to be a process whereby I would chase the poor guy around the bowl with a fish net, and then transfer him with a plop into a  small temporary fish bowl (Actually a small plastic food storage container) until I finished cleaning his bowl.

Over the years however, this entire process became much less traumatic. In time there developed this unspoken trust, that when I needed to clean his bowl, all I needed to do was to gently cradle Mr. Fish in my hand, lift him out of his bowl, and place him in his little container until the cleaning was done. Once his home was cleaned and ready to occupy again, I would do the reverse and put him back into his bowl.

During this transfer activity, Mr. Fish remains extraordinary still and at peace as I make the quick, but smooth transfer from one environment to the other. Any normal fish would have every reason to be frantic, because absent the environment of his water, he is totally helpless. He can’t breathe, he can’t swim about, and it’s all about trusting that I’m not going to harm him in the process while I clean his home so that he remains healthy and strong.

One morning as I was having my coffee and watching Mr. Fish I found myself thinking about matters of trust and how rare real trust actually is.

Life for you and I offers many of its own challenges. We have every reason to find little trust in anything or anyone. Our news is filled daily with horrible stories of people taking advantage of one another.

Even as I look to the Bible I saw that one of Jesus’ closest and trusted disciples, Judas, traded him in for the equivalent of about six months’ pay.

What exactly is “trust” anyway?

In the context of relationships, the word trust means to have complete certainty when it comes to the character, ability, strength or the truthfulness of an individual. The reality is, no matter how well meaning, there’s no human being that we can hold with complete trust. That’s because the Bible tells us that all of humanity simply falls short, (Romans 3:23) we would have to be a perfect being in order to convey perfect and complete trust.

In a world of shifting values and uncertain times, where then do we anchor our trust? Over the years I have found that the only reasonable place to secure complete trust is in Jesus Christ. He has always been and will always be. (Revelation 22:13) The character and integrity of God is unchanging (Hebrews 6:17) and can be completely relied upon for all of the ages. Only Jesus possesses the character traits that have stood the test of time. He is the only one who has lived a life that is perfect and untainted by the effects of sin, a condition for which no one is immune. (Matthew 5:48)

Perhaps today as you read this you’re facing issues of trust. I don’t know what specifically they might be, but I do know this; you can trust our Lord for all of time, He is the one constant and certainty that you can reliably anchor to. He is an unmovable rock, the firm cornerstone that you can confidently build your life upon.

If you choose to follow Christ, to lay your complete trust in Him, you will also experience the peace and the joy of a deep inward satisfaction knowing that you are eternally loved by your creator. For the first time you’ll have a lasting purpose and you will know for certain that your presence in this life is not an accident, it was intentional in every respect.

Will this trusting relationship cause conflict or challenges in life to go away? Nope. But it will allow you to prevail with a hidden strength that will carry you through the storms of life with confidence and trust, knowing that the outcome of your life is in God’s loving hands.

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016