You Will Get Through This

It’s been said that the Christmas/New Year’s holiday is a time when depression sets in. All that holiday cheer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Although, in moderation, it’s fine. I had fun at my sister and her family’s house Christmas day playing tug of war with their dog and her rope. I even tagged teamed with my brother-in-law. Rosie just kept playing hard, even almost doing flips! But being around Christians Christmas day is something more satisfying than rough housing with the family dog.

Not many of us could be down in the pits more than Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was thrown into a deep dark dirty cistern by his brothers who then sold him into slavery. But in the end, the dysfunctional family learned a valuable lesson and it was for good. The spoiled, pampered brat who was brought down, over time, started obeying God. He ran away from his master’s wife after she hit on him and tried to pull him. And he was the one who got in trouble! But in the end, Joseph became Pharaoh’s right- hand man and became the de facto head honcho in Egypt. He walked like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, but kept his faith in God.

Joseph helped save the greater Egypt area from famine. It took a while, but he eventually forgave his brothers and helped them out.

Forgiveness is something I’ve struggled with. It took me awhile, and the occasional gentle admonishment from my late dear friend and companion Sandi to, like Joseph, have some victory in this matter. Former foes reached out to me after Sandi went to the Lord to console me. Even as Sandi’s health wound down, I started thinking more about what’s important in life.

Seeing Sandi withering away, the brain cancer making her increasingly weaker, I was reminded that before God, we are all the same whether we are a Pharaoh or a slave. I’m thankful that Sandi did not die out in the woods like some wild animal, thanks to people, including some Bucks County, PA homeless, helping her.

This past Thursday I went to a candlelight vigil for the homeless. Like all of us, the homeless have intrinsic value, made in the image of God, who breathed life into man and created woman from man so man would not be alone. Homelessness does not define your character! All homelessness is, as Clarence “Frogman” Henry sang, people who “ain’t got no home.”

To help me cope with Sandi going home, I’m reading “you’ll get through this: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times” by Max Lucado. Max epitomizes his message with the lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naïve.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

This Christmas season, when the party’s over the celebration of Christ’s birth continues for those who believe He died for their sins and is always present with them. Although you may not always realize it, God has your back. Like Sandi, she has a future in heaven with the Lord. As the Westminster Catechism states, our chief end “is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Here are Bible verses from Max’s chapter “good-bye to good-byes”:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21: 3-4

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  2 Corinthians 5: 1-5

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:5-54

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the LORD Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” Philippians 3: 20-21

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is1 John 3:2.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

Two Dead Batteries

How should you react when someone tries to take advantage of you or wrongs you in other ways? This is a problem I’ve found in the homeless community. It’s not restricted to the homeless, but it is also the case with people who live in homes whom I’ve interacted with for about the last 2 ½ years.

It’s right to seek justice and stand up for what’s right when someone wrongs you or others, but it’s wrong to deal with wrong  doing in a sinful way. This doesn’t always manifest itself in explosive anger, yelling at someone or threatening violence, but sometimes by harboring resentment against the offender. You may not say something to the person who angers you, but you may internally  deride that person and dismiss him/her as a persona non grata.

This is wrong! The book of James tells Christians to wait patiently on the Lord, who will  judge wrongdoers. The idea is to see the big picture. Don’t, as Curly of The Three Stooges often says, become “a victim of soy cum stances”, and return wrong for wrong. God doesn’t like some things Christians do, but he still loves us. We need to do the same for others. When we do, we reflect Jesus.

This, of course, is easier said than done.

Being a Christian is work and requires effort and dedication to God’s Word, prayer, worship with the saints – to focus on God. We are not to conform to the ways of the world. In ancient Greece, it was considered a virtue not to take an insult or injury without taking vengeance. Writers back then addressed this flaw. Christians are commanded to show patience with those who wrong us.

I struggle with forgiveness and completely releasing resentment I’ve harbored against a handicapped couple with whom I forged an agreement to take care of them in exchange for rent at the family house. They exploited me, and in the words of someone who used to deal with them, became “a slave.” Besides the normal agreed to trips to the doctor’s offices, medicine pickup and household chores, one of them constantly asked me to make a special trip and run out to get monster drinks. I was also conned into paying some bills for them as they gave me a poor mouth story. I was always running to the store to satiate their voracious appetites.

The patriarch, the homeowner, kicked me out after I finally put my foot down and refused to take the couple out food shopping two days after we did the weekly shopping. On top of that, one of the gluttons lied to a mutual friend  about why she asked me to shop two days later.

Recently, these folks showed up at a community meal. I ignored them. I walked in with some friends I met at the parking lot and found a table away from the couple. There were just enough chairs at that table for my friends and I. “Good”, I told my friends, “I don’t have to worry about sitting with a persona non grata.” Someone who had hogged the take home meals at another meal sat down with them. I thought this was like an outlaws’ hideout, only this was a den of gluttons.

Although I was right to not allow myself to be the couple’s unlimited gofer and not agree to share rent with them and my friend, my attitude was wrong.

“Two dead batteries won’t start a car.” This is a saying used at a recovery house to explain why two people being treated for substance abuse should not date. Before developing a romantic relationship, they need to get their own act together. Likewise, I need to get myself right with God in order to minister to the homeless, et al.

People coming together and loving one another right now depends on our relationship to God. There’s a pyramid to illustrate this. As people go towards God at the tip of the pyramid, they get closer to each other.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…” -Ephesians 4:26