Mark 5:19 ESV And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
I grew up with an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive mother. Thankfully, God helped me survive.
Then I married an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive man who eventually held me at gunpoint for two hours. And thankfully, God helped me survive.
This man shot and killed himself.
I married again, this time to a loving and wonderful man and between his, mine and ours, we ended up with six kids and God helped us survive the chaos of blending the two families.
Then my youngest son by my first marriage decided he couldn’t deal with his father’s suicide any longer so he took a gun and shot himself in his car…and God didn’t help him survive.
And a couple of years later, my husband’s youngest son took too many pills and accidentally killed himself…..and God didn’t help him survive.
I wrote all that pretty quickly, pretty starkly, because that’s how time goes by…the good times and the bad times…the good memories and the bad memories…it all goes so quickly. And the things you do…the things you say…. they matter.
Take a look at the people in your life, your work, your church, your family. Take a long hard look at them, because one day you’ll look up and someone will be gone. When that day comes, will the last memory you have of that person be a good memory or a bad one? Will the last thing you said to that person be something that lifted them up or tore them down?
In the 12th chapter of Matthew, Jesus explains that if a tree is good, its fruit will be good and that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. He goes on to say that on the day of judgment we will have to give an account of every careless word that we speak and that by our words we will be justified or condemned.
I’ll be honest with you; I was at odds with each of those boys shortly before they died because of their lifestyle choices, and the words I had with them weren’t words that were uplifting to their spirits.
I was ashamed of myself for not being a better Christian, for not being a better mother.
People kept telling me how brave I was and how great I was holding up. They told me that God would never give me more than I could handle and that it was a good thing that I was such a strong person because they knew I could make it through.
At the beginning, it wasn’t strength – it was nothingness, emptiness. I didn’t show much emotion because I was numb inside. And I functioned because I was afraid to do anything else. I was afraid to let one drop of sadness escape because I was afraid of the flood that would eventually come. I couldn’t let that flood come because I had other children depending on me.
Now, skipping forward through a few years of adjustment and rocky roads, I had begun to believe that I was a “strong person”. I started to feel again and though things wouldn’t ever be normal, things most definitely didn’t suck any more.
I began my Christian walk again, brand new like a baby…milk…then bread. I got back in the word and I jump-started my prayer life again. I wanted to serve Him in any way I could and I wanted His Spirit with me all day every day. I felt that I had climbed a huge mountain and survived. That I had, through pure force of will, placed myself back into God’s grace and I was pretty sure He was proud of the progress I had made.
I had been imploring God to bring me closer – to use me more – give me more wisdom, more truth. I was like a teenager begging daddy, wanting the keys to the car, ”Father, I know so much now…can I have more?” And the thought came to me, “Why would I give you more when you take all the credit and the glory for what I have already given you?”
You see, I constantly told people that it was MY faith in God that had gotten me through and that MY strength came from MY faith in God. That I was a great and strong person because I had allowed God to lift me up.
In Ephesians 2:8 we are told that it is by GRACE that we are saved through faith. And that it is not our own doing but a gift from God – not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
I was taking ALL the credit for MY strength…because of MY faith.
I don’t have any faith except through Jesus Christ! John 14:20 says that “In that day you will know that I am in my father, and you in Me and I in you.” That tells me that without Christ and without The Holy Spirit moving in my life, I don’t even have the strength or the power to call upon Him.
Romans 10:17 tells us that “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Do you know who the WORD of God is? John knew who the WORD of God was because he started his book with the answer. “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God.” He is I am.
“I am in my Father and you in Me and I in you.”
I had faith because Christ in me imparted faith to me through grace…free of charge. I had strength because Christ in me imparted strength to me.
I could continue to walk this walk on earth because my Lord and Savior lifted that heavy cross of grief and guilt and shame off of my shoulders and I was taking the credit for being strong. I was stealing God’s glory! He lifted me up. I am nothing without Him, I can be nothing without Him. He gives me every breath I breathe, every morsel of food I put in my mouth, every thought in my head, and I am able to praise Him today because of His grace and no other reason!
So, I gave myself as an offering to God…. humbly this time…that whatever He wanted me to do, I would do. If He wants me to be brave, I will. If He wants me to be meek, I will. If He wants me to be quiet and still, I will, and if He wants me to speak, I will.
I don’t know where anyone’s head is or where anyone’s faith is. I don’t know where anyone’s walk with Christ is and I don’t need to know because God knows.
But here’s what I do know. I know that Jesus Christ walked this earth for me, that He died a cruel and shameful death for me, that He rose on the third day for me and that He went ahead to heaven to prepare a place for me… and for you and for everyone that went before and for everyone that will come after. He did that for us!
Isaiah says that “…his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness”– 52:14
And He did that because of His love for us. Can’t we love each other a little bit? Can’t we forgive each other, and treat each other with just a little respect, help each other?
I know that we get frustrated with each other and sometimes some work harder than others. Some get recognition while others do not, but at the end of the day…at the end of our lives, when we stand before that beaten and disfigured Lamb of God and He asks if we were kind to each other, if we worked together in harmony…. if we spoke carelessly to each other…. what will we say?