He is Alive!
Mary wrapped barley bread, dried olives, dates, and figs in a cloth and placed them in her husband’s pouch. Cleopas extended his arms, allowing his wife to tighten his girdle with a clasp then tuck coins in one side of it and on the other side a small serving of figs and nuts. When Cleopas lowered his arms, Mary beckoned him to raise his left again so she could slip a water-filled goatskin up his arm and over his shoulder. Mary tugged at the sword fastened to his girdle. Satisfied that it was tightly in place, she took a step back and looked him over. Her sad penetrating eyes grew with concern.
“I wish you would stay with us,” Mary whispered. “There is danger.”
Cleopas kissed his wife on the forehead then held her tight. “I will return before nightfall tomorrow. Do not worry.”
Mary gazed over her shoulder at the disciples. “Everyone is so worried what the Romans will do next. I am afraid for you.”
“Meydad is with me and we will protect one another if anything goes wrong. There is no need for concern. If Ha’Adon is willing, I will return.”
“Be safe,” Mary said.
“Meydad, come. We must go.”
Cleopas took one last look at the disciples, each one standing or sitting in various areas of the room, their faces perplexed from the stories they had been told by the women, and Peter. Earlier this morning they discovered Yeshua’s tomb was empty. Peter fled the house with John (whom Yeshua loved), Cleopas and several other disciples at Peter’s heels, all rushing to the tomb. It was as the women had said. The tomb was empty. Yeshua was gone. Distraught and weakened by what he had seen, Cleopas returned to the house, wondering what all of this meant.
The disciple hugged his wife again then he and Meydad set out for Emmaus on foot. They took time to labor through memories of the last three days, how they had gone from joy to that of sadness. Cleopas couldn’t believe that one day he had witnessed Yeshua riding into the city on a donkey, everyone rejoicing and praising the Messiah. Then the next day, Yeshua was carrying his cross on that long walk to Golgotha.
Cleopas couldn’t reconcile the live Messiah with the dead Messiah who had succumbed to a torturous beating and crucifixion. To complicate matters, the women and Peter claimed to have seen him. Cleopas didn’t know what to make of this.
I am the resurrection and the life . . .
Those words burned in his soul even now, but he no more understood them today than he did yesterday.
“What are you thinking, Cleopas? You have not said a word since we left Jerusalem,” Meydad said.
“I am searching for understanding.”
“I am too. Do you still believe Yeshua was the Messiah?”
“I do, but there is so much that does not make sense to me.”
“Now that he is dead, the answers may have been buried with him,” Meydad said.
“I do not get it, Meydad. One day he is preaching ‘I am the way,’ and the next day he is gone. And we do not even have a body to prove he died. I know he died. I saw him. Bloody linen in the tomb attests to the fact that he was there.”
“You think the Romans took him?”
“Perhaps. No! I do not know. But if the women and Peter saw him, then where is he?” A long silence wedged between Cleopas and Meydad as the two men pondered the question. “You should have seen him in the temple, Meydad. There has never been anything like it. He sat among our people teaching with authority. He spoke of love and unity . . . of G-d the Father. He spoke of a new heaven . . . a new earth. His words brought peace and hope.”
“That may be, but we are still under Roman rule,” Meydad said, stating the obvious. “There is no new heaven or earth here. He failed to rescue us from the hands of these butchers. All he may have done was make things worse for us. Our people are nervous . . . scared. They have no idea what will happen next. It seems to me that we are far worse than we were at the beginning.”
“I do not believe it,” Cleopas said, trying his best to hold on to hope.
“You mean you will not believe it.”
“Here is what I know, Meydad. Yeshua was crucified for a debt he did not owe. He died in place of Barabbas. It is Barabbas who should have died on that cross. Not Yeshua.”
“Why do you think Yeshua let it happen?”
“Meydad, what makes you think he allowed it?”
“For one thing, he never defended himself. Is that not odd?”
“That is so troubling to me.”
“For another thing, the miracles he performed are widely known. Are you forgetting about Lazarus, how he raised him from the dead?”
“How could anyone forget Lazarus’s resurrection?”
“Then why Yeshua did not prevent his own death? Did he not have the power?”
“Of course he did. He fed five thousand people with three fish and two loaves of bread, Meydad! He made the blind see and he healed the sick. Of course he had power.” Cleopas stopped for a moment and dragged his hand on his face. “That is the very part of all this that I cannot comprehend. He did not need to suffer.” Cleopas walked ahead, his feet pounding the dusty road in anger. “There he was standing in the midst of all Roman and Jewish authority at a perfect time to destroy them and declare his kingdom. He had the power to end all Roman rule with a mere word from his mouth, but he did not do it. He never said a mumbling word. Why? Why?” Cleopas was clearly frustrated.
“Maybe it was just his time to go,” Meydad concluded.
“But there is so much more work to be done,” Cleopas said. He wasn’t quite sure who he was trying to convince, Meydad or himself.
“Do you believe the women? Do you believe Peter? You think he is alive?”
“If so, where is he?”
“What is it that you are discussing?” a traveler asked as he joined in their walk.
Cleopas and Meydad stood still and looked at the traveler with dismay. The traveler had sandals on his feet, a scarf loosely covering his head and draped around his neck. But he had no provisions—no food and no water.
“Are you the only one in all of Jerusalem who has not heard what has happened there?” Cleopas asked, his emotions on the brink of collapse.
“What things?” the traveler asked.
“The things about Yeshua of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of G-d and all his people . . . how our chief priests and rulers ridiculed him, falsely accused him, then delivered him to Pilate to be crucified. We were hoping he was the one who would redeem Israel. But now he is dead. He has been gone away from us for three days. Our hearts ache for him.” Cleopas choked up, tears welled in his eyes.
“Then something strange happened this morning,” Cleopas continued. “Our women went to his tomb with spices to prepare for his burial, but they came back to the house claiming he is alive . . . that his tomb is empty . . . that they had seen him. I followed Peter to the tomb and we found it indeed empty. How can all this be? How is it that he is now alive? What does it mean? And where is he?”
“Oh, foolish men who are slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for Yeshua to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moshe (מׄשֶׁה) and all the prophets, the traveler explained to them all things found in the scriptures.
By the time they reached Emmaus, it was nightfall and they pleaded with the traveler to stay with them.
Women and children helped prepare the evening meal, lit candles, and set wine on the table before their guests. There was something different in the air—an unusual warmth, a welcomed peace that neither Cleopas or Meydad understood. They enjoyed
the traveler and admired his knowledge of the scriptures. In fact, Cleopas hadn’t heard such teachings since . . .
Cleopas furrowed his brow as memories of the Messiah flowed through him like warm honey. “. . . have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Cleopas also remembered, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.”
He almost fell to his knees when he recalled how Yeshua sat on the mountain, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth . . . .”
The disciple wiped away tears and forced himself to leave the memories behind him and join the others at the table. When everyone was poised and ready to eat, the traveler gave thanks and broke bread, passing a portion to each of them.
At once, fear and elation rushed through Cleopas, then Meydad, for they recognized the traveler as Yeshua!
“Yeshua . . . Ha’Adon!” Cleopas and Meydad shouted.
Then Yeshua disappeared.
Cleopas and Meydad stared at one another, in awe of what they had seen. Their hearts pumped with joy. They were so excited that they tried to talk at the same time, but it was Cleopas who was the most outspoken.
“Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” Cleopas asked. “Hurry! Hurry!! We must go to Jerusalem and tell the others.”
When Cleopas and Meydad returned to Jerusalem, they pounded the locked doors of the house where the apostles were gathered. John (the one whom Yeshua loved) opened the door and Cleopas rushed pass him and declared, “It is true! The Lord has risen and he appeared to Simon just as he said. And now he has appeared to us!” Cleopas grabbed Nathaniel by the arms and shook him. “It is true, Nathaniel. Thomas, James, Philip, do you hear us. It is true! We have seen him! We have seen the Lord! We have seen Ha’Adon! He is alive. I tell you, he is alive!”
At the beginning of each year, we have the good intention to achieve new and important goals. But I can’t recall a time when I’ve intentionally given up anything to the point of death. I’m not referring to the giving of my time, or putting extra money in a collection plate, or filling someone’s gas tank. All of those things are within my power. The type of sacrifice I’m speaking of is one that hurts through the marrow of your bones; a sacrifice you’ve chosen to perform that causes great spiritual and emotional anguish.
The one real life example that comes to mind is a situation one of our brothers is in today. He’s been accused of stealing money from the church, but unbeknown to his accusers he and another brother are the ones who donated money to make needed repairs to the church building when the church didn’t have enough funds to pay for the repairs. The accuser is threatening to take one of the brothers to court, claiming he’s been threatened with bodily harm. Of course, there’s no basis for this accusation, but the accusation embellishes the accuser’s point so he can acquire sympathy and support from others.
The question is this: Who will back down? Who will deny themselves? And how did things escalate to this point?
Testosterone is high and each man’s pride is at stake. One saying: “You better pray because I’m not backing down for anybody.” The other saying: “I’ve been at this church forever and there’s no way an outsider is gonna come in here and take over my church.”
Is it possible to clamp down on your pride and fall to your knees before the Lord and give him your burden? What happens to us when we face encounters like this? Are we so bent on getting our way that we lose focus on the Word of God? Does it no longer matter what we’ve been taught by the scriptures? As I await your comments to these questions, and perhaps the sharing of your own stories in similar situations in the church, read about another sacrifice that was made, one that, despite all the noise, was given out of a unimpeded freewill to save others.
John Griffith, the Bridge Operator
(Originally posted on CRI at http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/ )
This is a story that takes place in the roaring 20’s in Oklahoma:
John Griffith was in his early twenties. He was newly married and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful baby. He was living the American dream. But then came 1929—the Great Stock Market Crash—the shattering of the American economy that devastated John’s dreams. The winds that howled through Oklahoma were strangely symbolic of the gale force that was sweeping away his hopes and his dreams. And so, brokenhearted, John packed up his few possessions, and with his wife and his little son, headed East in an old Ford Model A. They made their way to the edge of the mighty Mississippi River and found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges there.
Day after day, John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Each day, he looked on sadly as those ships carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.
It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be birthed in John’s heart. His young son was now eight years old and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life, a life in which Greg, his little son, would work shoulder to shoulder with him. The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and fresh purpose. Excitedly, they packed their lunches and headed off towards the immense bridge.
Greg looked on in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive. He marveled that his Dad could singlehandedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure.
Before they knew it, Noon time had arrived. John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through. And then taking his son by the hand, they headed off towards lunch.
As they ate, John told his son in vivid detail stories about the marvelous destinations of the ships that glided below them. Enveloped in a world of thought, he related story after story, his son hanging on his every word.
Then, suddenly, in the midst of telling a tale about the time that the river had overflowed its banks, he and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that it was already 1:07. Immediately he remembered that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.
In the calmest tone he could muster he instructed his son “Stay put.” Quickly, he leaped to his feet, he jumped onto the catwalk. As the precious seconds flew by, he ran at full-tilt to the steer ladder leading into the control house.
Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight. And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below. As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest. For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.
Apparently Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gear box. Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed. Then an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind. Lowering the bridge would mean killing the apple of his eye.
Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down towards his son, pulling him back to safety. Then in an instant, he would move back down towards the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.
As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the futility of his plan. Instantly he knew there just wouldn’t be enough time. Frustration began to beat on John’s brow, terror written over every inch of his face. His mind darted here and there, vainly searching for yet another solution.
His agonized mind considered the four hundred people that were moving inextricably closer and closer to the bridge. Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed, but this was his son…his only son…his pride…his joy.
He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do. He knew he would have to do it. And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express—with its 400 passengers—roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.
John Griffith lifted his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the morning newspaper. A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly as his large vest pocket watch. Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars. A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a large dish of ice cream. Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.
No one even looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gear box that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and his dreams.
In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room. He cried out “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? What’s wrong with you?”
No one answered. No one heard. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. The train disappeared moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.
Even now as I retell this story, I’m moved by emotion. For this is but a faint glimpse of what the Father did in sacrificing his Son to atone for the sins of the world. Unlike the Memphis Express, however, an express that caught John Griffith by surprise, God in His great love and according to His sovereign will and purpose, determined to sacrifice his Son so that we might live. Not only so, but the consummate love of Christ is demonstrated in that He was not accidentally caught as was John’s son. Rather, He willingly sacrificed his life for the sins of mankind.
Well, the story of course doesn’t end there. Three days later, Jesus arose from the grave. For this reason, we celebrate throughout the year and particularly during Easter, the broken body, the shed blood, the mangled remains of our Savior with joy, because Jesus overcame death and the grave through His resurrection. Moreover, like Jesus, we too shall rise. You, I, John Griffith, his son, and those who believe, we will live forever with our resurrected Lord in Paradise Restored.
This story was taken from The Christian Research Institute and can be found at: http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/
Keeping in mind God’s sacrifice for us, is it really so hard to give of yourself in order to serve or save others? Is it not godly for us to suffer for what is right rather than escalating a situation and making it worse? (I Peter 3:8-22) And isn’t it moments like these that reveal who we really are in Christ Jesus?
What’s your agenda? Are you willing to deny yourself for the cause of Christ Jesus?
by Donna B. Comeaux
Need another nudge toward forgiveness?
(a fictional short story based on Bible truths and ancient customs)
“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”
“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you. Let her be. Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.
Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door. “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”
“No! Ephah, do not.”
“Are you not curious?”
“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business. We should go. We have work to do. The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”
“Humph. Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people. “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”
“No, Ephah. No. Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach. We have one week left to get ready. Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone. We have too much to do. Come, go quickly. There is so little time.”
A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith. Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away. Avi stopped weaving and listened. “Adonai, thank you. It is peaceful again.”
Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it. The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay. The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now. Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.
Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup. From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor. A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days. In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.
On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall. Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.
For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk. Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.
Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession. Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it. Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless. But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.
With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work. Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.
Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart. Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth. As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.” They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine. Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey. She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths. Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.
She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about. The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine. The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead. The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water. Avi couldn’t put that story to rest. It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.
Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments and bought fine expensive yarn. Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it. What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber? Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly. So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.
Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith. Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles. She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.
Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down. Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never without necessities.
Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred. She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it. “Perfect,” Avi said. Delight filled her eyes. She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her. Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.
Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low. Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .
Their eyes met.
No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face. If they had, their report was inaccurate. There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed. Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes. The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him. Before she drew in a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”
“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”
“I am he,” Yeshua said.
Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him. After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face. In a low muffled voice she praised him. Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word. Yeshua touched her arm. Avi stood.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever. All is now well with my soul.” Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time. As she worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished. Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.
Point of Interest: Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.
Definitions: ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.
Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013. Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux. Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.
Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.
This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine. Click here to purchase a hardcopy: https://www.createspace.com/6972935.
This story can also be found on The Christian Post: http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
“. . . but the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth,
and the desire for other things come in and choke the word,
and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19)
Everyone is angry. Those who don’t approve of the new transgender law imposed by North Carolina; the LBGT community who thinks many Christians are hypocritical in their determination to stay in line with the scriptures; the highly educated, riled by their fruitless efforts to find a decent job; and marginalized wage-earners who picket for a better pay raise. All of us live with a degree of fear because of constant terrorist threats. If that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, consider how consumed parents are over their daily warfare against outside influences on their children.
It doesn’t give us any comfort when, on top of all of our concerns, we must also deal with the political change in our country and a dysfunctional judicial system.
I could probably impress upon you how different things were when I was a girl, but in all honesty every generation has had its burden to bear. I think of the 1940s and 50s when pop, R&B, and jazz artists like Billie Holliday, along with young wayward teenagers, struggled with drug abuse. All Jackie Robinson wanted to do was play baseball, but he had to muddle through years of racial discrimination. It’s the twenty-first century and women are still fighting for equality. Amazing how the poor is still hungry and living in poverty and the rich is much richer and living lavishly—a fact that’s held true no matter which generation you examine.
Pinpoint a day in time and see if there weren’t problems induced by evil forces, cultural changes, different ideologies, wavering opinions, or religious traditions that didn’t create stumbling blocks.
Comparing generations is simply a waste of time, doing nothing more than further alienating us from the young. Evil has always challenged and weakened leadership, and will continue to do so until the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We shouldn’t look at life in generational increments. If we think our country didn’t have evil and complicated issues to overcome generations before, then we have arrived at erroneous conclusions about the realities of the world in which we live. Sin is just as prevalent today as it was centuries ago and it’s constantly spinning and devouring everyone in its path.
It’s more about what you and I do about our relationship with God and man than how we perceive the changing times.
I hate to admit this, but murmurs for a new political party or new presidential candidate sound a lot like the Israelites’ plea for a king. God wasn’t enough for them. Thousands of years later we still tend to think that if we get a new president in office we’ll somehow find our footing and put this country back on track.
Do we need to be reminded who is really in control?
Consider this: God promised Abram that he’d be the father of nations and his sons and daughters would be as numerous as the stars. Through faith Abram believed though he experienced several failures because of his human reasoning (lying about Sarai being his sister; laying with his handmaiden instead of waiting on the promise to be fulfilled).
Unlike Abraham, you and I have the scriptures for daily guidance and spiritual strength. Within it are examples of many who have endured and suffered great trials (for I’ve never wandered through a desert for 40 years, fought my enemy with a sword, or been stoned and left for dead).
The brotherhood needs to renew their focus and concentrate more on their individual relationship with God. Our aim should be to fall in love with the Holy One . . . to place no one above him. That involves a daily dying to self, spending quality time with God, questioning him, voicing our requests, nurturing our families with his holy word, placing the burdens of the church at his feet, and praying for the brotherhood of believers—especially those undergoing persecution.
The Holy One has not left us defenseless as the wicked one would have you believe. God cares about us and provides a way out long before we discover we’re in a sticky situation. The last thing God wants you to do is feel so much weight of the world on your shoulders that it distracts you from what is really important—your relationship with him.
God is so sensitive to our needs that all he asks is that you have the faith of a mustard seed. A mustard seed is not much bigger than the eye of a needle, so why would God request such little faith? Because the Holy Father in all his glory will do the rest.
This past year has been a treacherous mountain for me to climb. My family is dealing with a bone disease and other health problems, in-law issues, personal failures, distrust, and anger. In all the imperfect ways that I’ve reacted to my situation, God kept bringing me back into his presence. I had no one to confide in, no one to ease my burdens with laughter. It is clear that the Holy One is gently telling me that his grace is sufficient.
Like me, you may be on a journey that seems unfair and too heavy. Let me be the first to encourage you that you’re not climbing steep mountains alone. See, that’s what the evil one wants you to believe—that you’re alone and no one cares about you. Too often we forget that we are surrounded by a heavenly host, in a spiritual brotherhood, clothed with godly love. Think of it this way—
You and I are in a canoe, riding the rough waves of life. Violent waters almost overturn the canoe and threaten to throw each of us into an angry sea. But off in the distance is a constant light, guiding us, encouraging us to press forward. Some brothers and sisters are thrown overboard by turbulent waves and we struggle to rescue them. With all our might, we tug and pull, frantic to get them back inside the boat. The reasons our sisters and brothers fell from the boat are numerous, many of the reasons like my own—weakness, fatigue, loneliness, a ghastly past, a hopeless future, a sense of worthlessness. But the light shining in the distance gives us strength then we pass our strength onto another, then another, until an unbreakable chain forms and we’re able to pull another from the vicious grips of destruction.
You and I are never alone. Each one of us is significant. We’re in the canoe together fighting the same fight; battling the same sins; harboring the same anger; constantly being distracted by the evil one. But the light binds and strengthens our faith.
Listen to these scriptures and believe:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)
9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ 11Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. (Isaiah 41:9-11)
. . . If God is for us, who can be against us! (Romans 8:31)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:8-10)
4My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 6Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. (I Corinthians 2:4-7)
Believe and build your future on these words of truth. Do not allow the weight of the world to distract or interfere with your love for the Lord and brotherhood of believers. Replace your fears with faith and don’t grow weary with doing good. The world will always be evil, to one degree or another, but you have been given a way out, an escape from death and destruction. Empower and gird yourselves with the whole armor of God and live by it. For by doing so, you may influence those around you and win many to Christ. (Galations 6:9; II Thessalonians 3:13; I Corinthians 10:12-13; and Ephesians 6:11-13)
Donna B. Comeaux is a Christian writer, poet, and author who resides in Oklahoma. She is married, has two children and eight grandchildren. She is part of the Ruby for Women blog team: http://www.rubyforwomen.com.
I want everything to return to normal. A silent phone. No one barging through the door and pulling me in different directions. A thousand miles placed back on the odometer of my car. For loved ones to live in those same old houses. Favorite church members to resume their proper places and greet me with the bright smiles I’ve grown accustomed to. For rundown buildings, corner grocery stores, two-lane highways, and old bridges to rise up and once again become landmarks so I can find my way to Grandmother’s house, to old schoolyards, to off-the-road ponds where we cast fishing lines years ago.
I have this idea in my head that I’ll be the first to go, leaving everything exactly as it’s always been, a lot like bookmarks between yellowing pages of dusty old books I have yet to finish.
Happy events turn the pages of our lives and cart us off to places far beyond our imagination. Marriage is a great example of that–transporting us from all that we’ve known to cities and states, sites and venues that unsettle the nerves until we form new customs and connect to those with similar views. New jobs disrupt our routines, bringing us face-to-face with unfamiliar cultures, different languages, and a host of inconveniences.
But none of those events have a more profound effect on us than trials and tribulations. Nothing transforms our souls and spur spiritual growth like a horrible trial.
If you’re anything like me, you hate trouble and the worry that comes with it. Tribulations press you in spiritual soft spots that make you twist and turn, tug and pull in unexpected directions. They rub against the grain. They are uncomfortable.
Often, I’m so busy analyzing ways out of a trial that I don’t appreciate how it can create a good work in me. I’m totally unaware that the spiritual fire burning underfoot is preparing me for my final dress rehearsal before I see the King. While I’m in this fire, I don’t understand it. God’s word has grown cold and I’ve forgotten that fiery trials are present to reshape me like molten glass. I’ve fail to comprehend what’s really happening and I’ve lost sight of the fact that I’m not fighting “flesh and blood,” but “evil in the heavenly realms.”
To ease our distress, we point fingers. “If the doctor hadn’t been so arrogant and full of himself, my baby wouldn’t have . . .” “I tell you what, if she marches in here today with that attitude, I’m going to nail her.” “Well, if you had just listened to me, then . . .” “I don’t trust you! I thought I married a better man. I trusted you!”
“Why me, Lord?”
Isn’t that our first cry?
Sometimes we get in our heads that we should take the high road and be more “proactive.” But all that does is create more fires and before you know it, the heat and flames implode and consume us.
God’s word tells us:
“2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
God warns us that trials will come and we are to be prepared by:
11Put(ting) on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 17And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:11-17)
How can I do any of this?
Begin by changing the way you look at suffering.
For too long, we have taken to self-pity—overburdening the brotherhood of believers with our trials because we either refuse to pray or feel as if we are too weak to do so. At times, we’ve become stubborn and feel like it’s God’s fault that I didn’t get what I wanted.
Losing a child to suicide, a disease, accident, or in any manner, is a tragedy. It hurts. Unexpectedly burying a husband or wife is almost unimaginable. Hearing that your step-father wouldn’t feed your mother in her last days is disturbing and enough to send you into a fitful rage. (Ask me about that some time, and one day I’ll share how I got through that season of my life.)
But isn’t God there with you through it all? Did he not see and hear the calamity around you? Do you not remember that God said to repay evildoers with good so that hot coals are heaped upon them? Did God not say that vengeance is his?
We don’t get to choose our trials. Satan does a fine job poking and prodding us until he finds the right mixture of trouble to bestow upon you and me. And when he finds out what works—guess what?—he will continue to work it until our death.
Let’s not fool ourselves. This world is wicked. It’s nothing like the world God first created. We’ve done a fine job of mistreating it. Every minute of the day, evil spirits work tirelessly to convince others to spiritually attack. And Satan has you and I on his hit list. These attacks come from within your household–from birth mothers to second cousins; from the head of companies to the lawn care service.
If I must suffer, I don’t want to suffer as a murderer, thief, or as any other criminal. I want my suffering to mean something. I want to be accused of believing in God and laying my life down for him. I want to do so while calling out his name. But I can’t do that until I change my views on trials and tribulations.
To change our outlook, we must:
1. “. . . not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
2. “. . . rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, . . .”
3. “. . . so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When he reveals his glory through your sufferings, you will be overjoyed, indeed.
4. Know we are blessed. “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
5. Be not ashamed to suffer for Christ Jesus. “. . . do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (I Peter 4:12)
The benefits of suffering are to mature us in Christ Jesus. No child has ever grown to adulthood without hardship. I don’t care how much college education you’ve received, you will need training for your new job—and you will be tested and tried before you’re given that promotion. How is it that we know these things about life, but can’t wrap our arms around the fact that trials and tribulations exist to strengthen us? Since we are children of God, we must go through many growing pains to reach the rewards of our faith.
Many of you know what it’s like to call on God when the flames reach your earlobes. When my son was diagnosed with a bone disease this past summer, I had no idea where God was leading us, but I knew he was leading. It never occurred to me to doubt or become overburdened with fear. If this diagnosis had come ten years ago, I would have been a mess.
I remember having a talk with God on the way to the hospital, “God, I have no idea what you want to do about this, but no matter what happens, I know you’ve made the right decision. I know you’ve got this.”
I confess. I like routine. I want things to remain the same. I want Grandmother to still be in that long, narrow, white house where the floor creaks right before you get to the kitchen door; where closets smell of mothballs; where living rooms have more vintage whatnots than I can count. I want to hear Momma’s flip-flops tap the hallway floor; I peek through the doorway and find her asleep with her eyes half open, snoring the roof off the bedroom ceiling, her iced Pepsi melted to a murky liquid.
Things change. Loved ones die. Friends move away. Many loved ones have traded this chaotic world for a heavenly, peaceful rest that’s beyond our understanding.
And here you and I sit, left behind to fight through trials and tribulations that we hate and for which we don’t have the patience.
Be assured of this one thing: God never commands us to do something we cannot do. So, if God says to “Consider it pure joy when you face trials, . . .” then I think you and I can safely say, “We can count it pure joy.”
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1)
I hope you feel encouraged.
I love you!
Donna B. Comeaux
no credentials other than I’m
your sister in Christ Jesus
Writer, Poet, Author
All scriptures from the NIV version of the Bible.
(adapted from my original article in the Ruby for Women Magazine, 2015 Autumn Issue)
Ministry and Missionary Workers who are heavily involved in the Lord’s work are usually so absorbed with taking care of others that they neglect to properly care for themselves.
Years ago when I was Nursery Coordinator for a large congregation, I had to undergo many failures before I finally learned how to rest. When I wasn’t rested and refreshed, there was no way I’d be any good to those I served. Remember this passage:
21Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace. . . . (Exodus 18:21-23)
In order to become a more effective minister of God’s word, there are several things you must do. They are:
1. Don’t set out on a mission or go into a ministry without a life jacket.
– Be well-equipped (or well-versed) in the word of God. You can’t teach what you don’t know.
– Have a well-established prayer life. Don’t pray only when things go bad; pray always, and pray about everything. To lead without seeking God is like the blind leading the blind. We can do nothing without his counsel and leadership. Our earthly wisdom will not go far enough.
– Memorize songs of thanksgiving. We forget that songs of thanksgiving are expressions of our joy in Christ Jesus. Express your joy through song. These songs of praise and thanksgiving will also refresh your spirit.
– Daily remind yourself of your priorities: God first, spouse second, children, local church family, those in need. The moment you get these priorities out of order, expect trouble. Watch for warning signs that indicate you’re spending too much time outside of the home. What good is your ministry to the world, if you can’t first take care of your home? Our diligent service to our families is a testament to the world.
2. Accountability with a purpose.
– Choose spiritually strong individuals who will hold you accountable. You want people in your life who will not “sugarcoat” issues that cause you to stray and disrupt your relationship with God and with your family.
Don’t buy into the idea that you can walk this Christian life alone. Though we constantly fail one another, we are to keep fighting the good fight and press forward. Relationships are messy, no matter how few or how many you may have. It’s better to pray for and continue your pursuit for meaningful relationships than to muddle through life alone. Don’t buy into Satan’s schemes by allowing him to convince you that you can do this all by yourself.
– Share weaknesses and stumbling blocks that you experience in your ministry work.
– Plead with these individuals to pray for you.
– Meet and share with these individuals on a regular basis. Be mindful not to treat these meetings as gripe or gossip sessions. This is about your relationship with God and if you are aligned with his will.
3. Set aside specific times to sit and do nothing.
– Plan the day, week, month, time, and place to have your quiet time.
– Be responsible by informing your family and other ministry workers that you are taking time off for yourself. For safety reasons, be sure to give them a return date, a phone number, and a place you can be reached in case of an emergency.
– Quiet time is so important that Jesus Christ went to the mountain to pray and rest. Notice in John 6:3 below, Jesus has led his disciples up a mountain, pulled them aside, and the crowd is still waiting.
12It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles . . . (Luke 6:12-13)
2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. (John 6:2-3)
– Take a fresh look at reasons for having quiet time: (a) it allows you to rest; (b) it offers you a moment to refuel; (c) it gives you more opportunity to commune with God; and (d) it helps you look at things from a different perspective.
4. Self-Reflect / Introspect.
Meaning: Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. (Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection)
– Self-reflection is a key element needed in order to become an effective minister of God’s word. During your quiet time:
— self-reflect by re-examining your spiritual purpose / ministry;
— meditate and pray;
— sing spiritual songs;
— recite / memorize new passages of scripture;
— remember the trials and tribulations God brought you through; and
— remember God’s blessings in as much detail as possible.
– Visit your favorite beauty salon / barber shop.
– Indulge in a spa treatment.
– Take a walk (no jogging; you are to rest, not continue a rigorous schedule).
– Wake early. Sit with God . . . just sit in his presence. Drink tea / coffee and admire God’s beauty from a porch or mountainside.
– Soak in a bubble bath (don’t shower – showers are quick and easy; remember you are trying to slow down and refuel).
– Take a nap or gaze at the stars at nightfall.
6. Seek Help With Your Ministry.
– Don’t be afraid to revisit with those of whom you’ve previously solicited help. These people might be in a better position to offer you assistance with your ministry.
Stopping long enough to refuel is hard. I constantly battle with physical and mental exhaustion. At times, I’m not aware that I’m on overload until it’s too late. It’s only then that I’m forced to stop everything and regroup. If I don’t stop, it will take me twice as long to get back up. I have come to the realization that if I’m to be an effective sister in Christ Jesus, I must:
12. . . work out your (my own) salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
If I don’t rest, I won’t be able to:
14Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. (Philippians 2:14-17)
And neither will I be able to:
- Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
- Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Being overwhelmed is a real issue in the family of God. We must be diligent to overcome this weakness by implementing a plan of attack against this stumbling block.
Hopefully, these steps will help reboost your energy and stabilize your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I pray you will spend more time with God and become an effective leader in the church . . . rather than an exhausted leader.
May your love for the Lord grow deeper each day.
Donna B. Comeaux
No notable pedigrees, other than being
your sister in Christ Jesus our Lord
(as originally published in the 2015 Autumn Issue of Ruby for Women at http://www.rubyforwomen.com)