"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 13, 2010
I recently read a historical Christian book. The main storyline was between a gladiator and slave girl. The girl's father was killed, and her uncle sold her into slavery to the gladiator, who had been given his freedom. In the story, she had been grieving her father and had let bitterness creep into her life. She had a conversation with her owner, and found out that he had endured the tragedy years ago of watching the murder of his whole family. He had been taken to the gladiator school to train at that time.
Upon hearing about his past, the girl was ashamed of herself for taking her bitterness out on him. She made the comment, "As much as I've suffered, you've suffered three times worse in your life."
But it was the gladiator's response that I found interesting. He said, "It's not a competition. Pain is pain."
When Jon had to go back to Singapore the second time, and I was unable to go with him, I was upset when I found out that he was not going to get to come home when he was originally supposed to. He had to end up staying several days longer than planned. I was missing him terribly, and wanted him home with me.
During that time, I had a conversation with my sister, whose son is in the Army. He will be leaving for Afghanistan for a 12-16 month tour of duty in February, leaving his wife and little girl behind. I told her that I felt guilty for complaining about Jon having to be gone those extra days and us being separated, when Jordan and Shelby were looking at being apart for a year or more. It made the time that Jon and I were apart seem very short and insignificant. But I really did miss him!
My sister responded that I shouldn't compare my situation to that of someone else. I shouldn't feel guilty for missing Jon, just because we weren't going to be apart as long as Jordan and Shelby were going to be. Their situation didn't make my circumstances any less important, or my feelings any less significant. It was okay to miss my husband and want him home with me.
I thought of that when I read the line in the book, "It's not a competition. Pain is pain."
I've known people who were going through various circumstances that were difficult or painful; or perhaps something that was just plain frustrating. But then they began feeling guilty that they're not being stronger people or not handling it as they feel they should; or as others think they should. Over and over I've heard comments to the effect that they should be thankful that things aren't like that of so and so. They know or hear of someone who is dealing with a tougher situation than they are, and begin comparing their situation to that of someone else. So does that mean that they shouldn't feel emotion or pain in the midst of their circumstances? I don't think so. It's not a competition to whose life is the worst. We all just deal with what life throws our way whenever or however it comes.
If we look hard enough we will always find someone who is worse off than we are, and also those who seem to have it better. But until we actually walk in the shoes of someone else, we can't really compare situations. We all have our crosses to bear, and God knows each of our strengths and weaknesses.
I have a good friend who at times tends to feel guilty for complaining or feeling bad for things that life throws her way; and sometimes tends to compare what she's going through to someone else she thinks is having a more difficult time. I remember telling her once that I look at everything she's gone through during her lifetime and wonder how she's survived it. From my point of view, it seems like for years now she's been hit with one thing after another. If I compared my life to hers, then it would seem as if she were always carrying the heavier burden. She seemed surprised and said she had never thought of it like that. She just deals with what comes her way; whether she likes it or not.
When the disciples were on the boat and a storm hit, they were scared. Some of those men had been professional fishermen before becoming disciples of Jesus and following Him. They had seen storms, and I'm sure many of them knew of situations where boats had capsized and lives had been lost. Did they say, "We really shouldn't be scared because this storm isn't as bad as others we've been in. We know fishermen who have lost their boats and lives when sudden storms arose. Our situation isn't as bad as theirs, so we really shouldn't complain and feel afraid." In addition to being afraid, all that would have done was add guilt into the mix. Perhaps others had faced storms worse than theirs. They didn't begin arguing amongst themselves over who had faced the worst storm. They were scared, and instead of comparing their storms to others, they looked at the situation that they were currently in.
When Jesus came walking on the water towards the ship, He rebuked the wind and waves and the storm ceased. He did rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith. But He never ever told them that others had faced worse storms than them, nor did He bring up people who were dealing with worse things than they were. He ministered to them in the situation in which they found themselves.
Each time individuals faced situations in the Bible; whether it be sickness, death, storms, persecution, drought, etc., God met them in their circumstances. He never compared their difficulties to someone else, nor did He heap guilt upon them. But God dealt with their pain, their fear, their worry, their sickness, their loss, their doubt, or whatever it was they were facing.
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be sympathetic to the needs of others and always be self-focused. We are to care for the needs of others, and pray for and support one another. God calls us to love, and love many times means that we are called to action. So yes, we are to reach out to hurting individuals and those who are in need.
This past week I served on jury duty. There were about 18 of us that called in to be questioned for a particular jury trial. The judge and both lawyers were able to question us in order to determine a 12 member jury, plus one alternate. When the judge was questioning us, she asked each of us what our hobbies were. There was an older lady on the jury panel. Her answer was that her hobby was to write cards and letters to individuals. The judge found that very interesting, and said that she had never heard anyone who had that as a hobby; but she was sure that individuals really appreciated getting hand-written notes and cards. The woman said that this was something she absolutely loved doing, and you could tell that it was something very dear to her heart. I got the impression that she was a Christian, and I'm sure she used this as a source to encourage people and let them know that she was thinking of them.
However we choose to encourage and support others, that is something that we each are able to do. So I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned with what others are dealing with.
What I am saying is that we all have our burdens to bear, and we should never make it a competition as to who has the heavier load. Not only is it easy to feel guilty when we feel overwhelmed or frustrated about what we're dealing with, because others are facing bigger and worse things; but we can also sometimes look at what we're dealing with and think that we have it worse than anyone else.
It's when we refuse to acknowledge that we are feeling those emotions and need help that we get into trouble. When we feel guilty because our problems or circumstances aren't as dire as another person's, and begin comparing our situations; then that's when we many times begin to feel that it's not worth praying about. We feel like we're being whiners or complainers and that it's too small or insignificant for God to handle. So we hold it inside and try to work through it by ourselves. If we would only talk to God instead and allow Him to work in our situation, we'd find that the solution would come quicker and be far better than what we can come up with.
Regardless of what we face, it is very real to us at that moment in time. But we can trust God in all situations and allow Him to strengthen us and be our source of help. Whatever you may be going through in life at this moment, know that God is waiting with arms outstretch and a listening ear. He loves you and is a always there for you at any given moment.
I've had many occasions to carry a long ladder by myself. It's tough to do, especially when our garage is filled with a nice car, a trash bin, shelves, and many other obstacles. It's much easier when Loretta carries one end while I carry the other. The strange thing is: if we each have a ladder to carry, we're better off if Loretta carries one end of both ladders and I carry the other end of both ladders.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
1 yellow cake mix
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
Mix the above ingredients together. Pour half of the batter in a bundt pan.
3 Tbsp. Brown sugar
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
Sprinkle over batter in pan, then pour the remaining cake batter on top. Bake for 1 hour on 350. After removing from bundt pan, you can sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
My aunt and uncle, Kenneth and Nina Jean, will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on February 5th. What a milestone! I had mentioned this to one of my older cousins, who was about the same age as my mom. She said that she remembers when they were dating. Nina Jean was so shy that she wouldn't talk much. So Kenneth would write down conversation topics, then use his list for things for them to talk about when they were together. Apparently, he thought she was worth the effort. And rightly so, for how many couples live long enough to celebrate 65 years of marriage?
Dream as though you'll live forever; live as though you'll die tomorrow. - unknown
Thank you so much for reading our weekly newsletter. We pray that you will be encouraged and blessed.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon