Faith for Pain

Our associate pastor, Scott, gave a beautiful sermon on Sunday about pain and growth. He spoke of the birth of his son, Jackson, and the many health issues Jackson has had in the short amount of time He’s been alive. (Jackson’s not even a year old.) Jackson has spent most of his life in the hospital, although he’s home now, and that means that Scott has had plenty of trips to the hospital and an abundance of opportunity to get mad at God.

Scott didn’t see this as God picking on him or punishing him like some would. He saw it as an opportunity to lean on God and trust that it’d all work for His glory. I’m sure Scott was many things during this difficult time – upset, exhausted, ready for good news. But through it all, he was also faithful.

The man who could’ve lost his son is almost the same man who stood in front of the congregation Sunday and advised, “Don’t waste your pain.” I say “almost” because this Scott is more tried-and-true, stronger, than he was before.

You probably have a story like Scott’s. Maybe not one as universally bad as almost losing a child, but I’m sure you have a story of a time in your life that was dark and, at least in your eyes, potentially earth-shattering.

I’ve wrote about my dad’s passing several times on this blog because that was my darkest time. When my dad went to the doctor because of back pain, I had no idea that it was cancer and that I only had two months left with him. I wandered the world (well, my world) concerned about him but blissfully unaware that I was soon going to lose the man who passed on to me a lot of my personality traits and who always loved and believed in me.

I was merely 20 when he died and not even a mature, capable 20. I’d never imagined my life without my dad, so I was stunned and scared. Heartbroken. How could the world keep spinning and functioning without Charles Prevette’s presence? And what was I supposed to do? Who was going to relay the adventures of Othello, our adorable dog, to me when I was at college? Who was going to make sure I was taking proper care of my car? Who was going to tell me corny jokes and funny stories? Who was I going to watch action movies with or get into pointless arguments with? Who was I going to watch sports and yell at the refs and players with? Who was going to tell me how proud they were of me all the time?

I’ve had people ask me how I did it, how I made it through. I’ve given advice to friends in similar situations to the one I was in. All I know to say is that I wouldn’t have made it on my own. I had family who shared my pain, friends who wouldn’t leave me for the world, and a God who I leaned on so much that I practically laid down on Him. I knew I had to live the rest of my life without my dad, but I tried not to focus on that. I focused on getting through day after day, even moment after moment, without him with the help of those I love.

We read in Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV), “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NRSV), “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

He writes a few chapters later in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV), “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

David writes in Psalm 63:7 (NLV), “For You have been my help. And I sing for joy in the shadow of Your wings.”

And Psalm 147:3 (NLT) reads, “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

God tells us in Isaiah 41:10 (NLT), “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

We’re given all these lovely promises and more by God, so why not take Him up on them? Seriously. Take Him at His word. I dare you to. I dare you to give faith a chance. Be crazy enough to believe Him.

When I think of faith, I think of that scene in Indiana Jones when he has to cross a chasm on a bridge he can’t see. The viewer can see if from other angles, but from where Indy’s standing, there doesn’t appear to be anything to help him cross. Sweaty and nervous, he steps out anyway.

There was something there to catch his foot when he stepped although he couldn’t see it. Likewise, God is there to catch you. He could be sitting right in front of you, obvious to everyone else but you oblivious to Him. He could be seen by no one but be there all along. Regardless, God is there to love you and watch after you and embrace you, even if you fall into Him. You just have to trust Him.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. – The Bible is a goldmine of inspirational, hopeful verses. I’ve listed a few above, but I would love to know what scripture has been a light for you through the dark. Feel free to share the scripture in the comments. It may help another reader like it helps you.

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Undead

I’ve mentioned this before in a very early blog post, but I love The Walking Dead.

I was reluctant to start watching because I discovered Norman Reedus in The Boondock Saints as Murphy MacManus, and it honestly made me, the hipster that I am, a little upset that everyone knew him and knew him for a role other than Murphy. (And while I’m talking about Norman, I’d like to wish him a belated happy birthday since it was yesterday.)

I entered the world of The Walking Dead about two years ago, right before season four started if I’m not mistaken. I took my brother’s DVDs of the first three seasons back to college with me and finished them all in about two or three weeks. It was my motivation to do homework; if I finished my homework sooner, I could watch more episodes before going to bed. I quickly saw the fascination with the show and with Daryl Dixon. (I do love Daryl and his character development throughout the show, but my hipster heart is still sad over Norman’s fame despite being glad that everyone is finally recognizing his acting abilities. Ah, the fangirl paradox!)

The Walking Dead adds a complexity to the zombie apocalypse that other shows and movies in my experience, limited as it is, do not because there is so much more to it than people versus zombies. Some people are terrible. Zombies can be weaponized or made harmless. Is everyone who is living just prolonging the inevitable of becoming a zombie? Should they be more hopeful than that, believing that they can beat the apocalypse? Being dead isn’t fun, but what’s so great about living when it’s primarily distrust, desolation, and desperation?

Is that what people think when they see us? “What’s so great about being a Christian if that’s what it’s like?”

Galatians 2:20 says that if we’re believers in Christ that the life we live is no longer for ourselves, but it’s Christ living in us and through us. We were dead and brought back to life by Christ. We aren’t the same. We aren’t who we were. We know the difference, but do onlookers know? And if they do see a change, is it a good one? Does it accurately represent Christ?

I’m not saying that you should care what other people think of you. I wholeheartedly believe you shouldn’t. I’m simply asking if our lives show the Jesus we say is inside of us. Does the world see a love, peace, hope, and joy that can’t be found anywhere else? Do we look refreshed or rotten? We know the world should want what we have, but do they?

When someone looks at my life, do they see a revived, redeemed person living in love or do they see a dried up soul going through the motions and calling that living?

I know this week’s post is a lot of questions and not a ton of answers, but I think these questions are vital. Growth requires some reevaluation, and these questions seem like just as good a place to start as any.

Believers are the undead. We’re spiritual zombies so to speak. But instead of looking like corpses, true followers of Christ look livelier than anyone else. As well we should if the only One to ever defeat death is our power source. He came that we would have life more abundantly (John 10:10), and when He shines through us, that becomes very apparent.

By Carrie Prevette

Seek and Find

Our guest preacher, Peter, spoke very nicely on Sunday about looking for God. If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember that I’ve discussed this a few times before. But I want to speak a little on it here for the newcomers and because it’s sometimes helpful to revisit things. This post won’t be long by any means, but I want to leave you with something to read or think about. And I thought it’d be nice to end 2015, which was a very lovely year for me, with a blog post.

I took a class on Eastern religions my senior year in college to complete my Philosophy and religion minor. One of the religions we covered in that class was Hinduism. “Hinduism” is basically a large umbrella term the incoming British use to categorize everyone who wasn’t a Christian when they arrived in India. So Hinduism isn’t monotheistic because one can worship more than one god as a Hindu and it slams together different people who worship different gods. Some Hindus worship gods who are huge and helped create the world according to their theology. Others worship very intimate gods who inhabit food or drink and are in someone once the substance is consumed.

People probably think I’m crazy when I say that this class helped me grow in my Christian faith, but it’s the absolute truth. That class made me marvel at God in such unique ways. For example, where Hindus pick and choose if they want to love a huge, universe-making god or a god who knows them personally and can be alive within them or both, I don’t have to decide because I worship one God who is both big and personal. I worship a God who is everything.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a spiritual person, but I believe we can find God in everything. I always tell people there’s a silver lining in everything if you look hard enough.

Truth be told, I’ve lived a pretty fortunate life. I won’t deny that for a moment. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t suffered or struggled. I’ve been through things that I thought would end me, but I’m still here because I found God even when it was hardest.

In Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV), God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you want that to be true, but you just don’t know. Maybe you can’t wait for the new year because you need some kind of new beginning to start over or give you hope. Maybe you don’t want to look for God because you’re scared that you won’t find Him and that you’ll be left disappointed once again.

What do you have to lose?

I can’t promise you many things, but I can guarantee that God is always going to be there. God will always show up, whether it’s in a monumental way or a surprising way. So if you think that finding God is a gamble, I’m here to tell you it’s the safest bet you’ll ever make. If you truly want to find Him, He’ll be there. He’s always there. We just don’t always realize it.

If you put your heart into God and put God into your heart, if you seek Him, you’ll find Him every time, without fail. It’s a matter of where your focus is, where your eyes are. If you’re at the bottom and you’re looking down or beside of you, you won’t find hope. You’ll just see misery. But if you look up, you’ll see where you want to go and you’ll be driven. If you look up, you’ll find God and every blessing He wants to bestow upon you. If you look to Him, you’ll rise to where He wants you to be. It may not happen immediately, but it’ll happen. The saying goes that the heart wants what the heart wants, and if your heart wants God, it’ll find Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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