In our own pain or sorrow, we reach out to expect the love and compassion of God, but I learned something this week. While He is there without a doubt, it is conditional to some degree. Don’t freak out and just read along and this will make sense! It’s simply another layer of growth on the cake that adds another layer of compassion. A good visual is a cake and the icing is love! (I do love icing but I don’t think it applies!)
My lesson started during this past month. August 5, 2021 marked the second year anniversary of my dear father’s passing. This is not just another day. Our family talked about it together, we were sad by the thought of it all. For some reason, these times and specific dates mark occasions that we relive, often, in vivid detail. Some anniversaries are wonderful, but others are not. We mark them in history, so the story will never be forgotten. Regardless, if it’s a wedding, a death, or national event, we do not want this day forgotten, so it’s commonly or respectfully referred to as an anniversary.
Which brings me to this day, where now I can say my heart has been mended, where I can now rejoice in the wonder of Heaven my Dad deserves and imagine who he’s been reunited with. Nonetheless, I still miss him. I have my moments but, that is okay. Deep in sullen thought one night about this day, I proclaimed, “Everybody goes about their business not knowing that this isn’t just another day.”
I heard from the Holy Spirit, “You don’t know that this is ‘just another day’ for other people. Every day is someone’s anniversary date, or time of sorrow, so approach them gently with reverence.”
I was particularly struck by the word reverence. I remembered a wise friend who had taught me, the one word that goes hand-in-hand with LOVE is REVERENCE: “To defer to another, to put them first with awed respect and honor” (as defined by the dictionary).
If we approach people tenderly with reverence, not knowing if this is “not just another day for them,” what a difference we could make! You’ve done it, I’m sure … just noticed, felt, or saw someone who was downcast. Or perhaps they were on your heart and consequently, you reached out. When we do know someone is mourning a loss, we instinctively know to be gentle and empathetic, as well as sympathetic. We will tend to people differently, and be thoughtful around them. What would happen if this is how we functioned daily with others? I’m not saying to act as if every day is like a funeral. I am encouraging all of us to be more aware, as a great songs says, “Everybody hurts ... sometime.” Another quote comes from the great C.S. Lewis: “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
Warning more quotes are coming! I have never forgotten a quote from a sermon, in my husband’s early years of pastoring: “Always minister out of your own need.” If we bear the burden of another, God will take care of us. More often than not, we discover that our problems pale in comparison to what others may be facing, which can help us gain proper perspective. I’ve had to stop a lot of my pity parties by doing this very thing and realizing God will do anything if I step aside and let Him take charge. If I’m in charge, He steps aside!
When we give our needs to God, He gives us the ability to serve others because we are living by faith. We are essentially telling God, “I trust you with this. Direct my path as we walk together in unity. I’m going to be about your business, while you take care of mine.” With that perspective comes peace freeing and opening our minds to understand what someone else is dealing with and enabling us to care for them accordingly.
Another sermon quote I never forgot was, “God is not moved by your need, but by your faith.” I honestly thought I was going to fall out of the pew! All the hours I spent, whining and complaining didn’t move God? What about tears over hurt feelings and difficult times? He didn’t think I was pitiful?! I surely did! However, did I believe and ask God in faith about any of it? Or did I just expect Him to fix it because I loved Him after all, thinking grace would swoop in like a superhero and save the day?! Shhh ... but I admit sometimes, I did. Well, it’s just not that easy!
The best explanation of faith came from Dr. Lester Sumrall who said, ’’Faith is simply knowing God.” Having faith is like a child crying for a parent in a room filled with people. He or she reaches for the one they know because they have faith from experience. They know when they cry, their parent comes to meet the need and put a stop to whatever is upsetting them. They grow to learn that response comes from this incomparable love on which they can depend.
Now, that works for a while until they grow older and learn that a cry cannot give you whatever you want. I tried that as a kid. Then as a teen, when I was told I had a curfew, other rules and boundaries, I did not like it! But my parents had wisdom that I didn’t have, and I had to learn to trust their judgement, like it or not! I hear the echo of my Dad’s stern voice saying, “Huff and puff, sigh and roll your eyes all you want to … it’s not changing a thing. As long as you’re under my roof, you will do what you’re told!” He wasn’t being mean; he was being protective and setting guidelines for my own good because he loved my sisters and me. Parenting, marriage, and our life with God has commonalities for a reason.
This is not a one-way relationship where I give God my heart, pray the sinner’s prayer, and He does the rest. Instead, we enter into a covenant … an exchange of promises and choices. That’s why marriage is the earthly example of God’s covenant with us. He has all these blessings for us, but we have to do our part too.
Deuteronomy 28:1-14 lists the blessings most considered a marital blessing. This passage was read at our wedding both in Hebrew and in English and was very meaningful. I strongly encourage you to read it again, and the following will make perfect sense!
There are so many blessings, but the last verse instructs us what we must do in order to have them. Thirteen verses – all blessings. Yet God just leaves us one verse and one thing to do for Him which is all for our own good! Sounds like a protective Father!
When I was married, we exchanged vows and made promises to one another for life. I couldn’t do that if I didn’t know my spouse, had faith in him, and trust he meant what he said. I took his name as proof of our covenant. The words we said had and still hold their meaning. We both said them; not just one of us. As a result, there were expectations in our marriage on both our parts. Likewise, there are expectations when we enter into covenant with God. God knows me fully, but I must also know Him in order to fully trust Him and believe that what He says, He will do. That comes with relationship. I didn’t meet my husband and marry him a week later. We got to know each other by spending time together and learning about who we were.
One day, I’ll do an entire post on being single, because it is so important to be content with God and feel complete in Him before you ever join your life with another. A needy spouse is a problem. A needy couple is a problem. A needy Christian is a problem. The problem is that the focus is on you, rather than the other person and God. It is called selfishness and self-adsorption. It grows into pride and takes root in this it’s-all-about-me culture. Until your life is all about God and serving others, you will “get no satisfaction” (to quote the Rolling Stones of all things)!
People find the word “serving” off-putting now. It doesn’t mean you’re in a one-down position with your head hung. It is a characteristic that comes from being one with God. It’s that covenant compelling you because you love Him, want to do what He wants, and love who He loves. Is it always easy? The answer is no. But that’s why we are called to be “a living sacrifice.” I really didn’t just cuss, but I felt a gasp coming from someone who might be reading this! Romans 12:1 plainly states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” See! I didn’t make it up!
I have done a lot for my husband and children, which involved sacrifice – putting their needs and wants before my own. I hope you understand what I am about to say, because I think this subject calls for some transparency. If I am being honest, sometimes, I didn’t feel like doing whatever was wanted or needed at the time. Yes, there were times I did, but also there were times I didn’t want to go to Chuck E Cheese or watch Barney that purple dinosaur one more time! There were times I did and didn’t want to travel on a ministry trip somewhere or do something specific. But a greater love compelled me.
I wanted, and still want, to make a good life for my family, even at my own expense. Not all my personal dreams could become a reality. But I don’t grieve over what might have been because I am so thankful for all that God has done and brought me through. So yes, it has cost me personally to be a wife and mother, but I made that choice. I don’t resent it like many have, who feel like they lost themselves along the way. For me, I would not trade one minute of it. Even the rough minutes. Every rough hill got me ready for the mountain! Faith developed on those little hills, becoming strong enough to tell that mountain to move! I KNOW my God is able and He is willing! I still have hills and valleys, but as Tauren Wells’ great song says, “I know I’m not alone!”
The love of God in us will compel us to keep on serving Him and those He loves. One of the last conversations Jesus had with Peter was a three-fold command, post-resurrection (when Jesus appeared before the disciples). He told him three different times, that if they loved Him as Lord, and not as a friend, to feed, nurture, and tend to His sheep (John 21). This is how we are referred to throughout the Bible, “For He is our God and we are the sheep of His pasture, the flock under His care” (Psalm 95:7).
“Jesus is both our Good Sheperd and the door of His sheepfold” (John 10:9-11). He wanted to be sure His sheep were provided spiritual care and nourishment for their souls through growth from spiritual food—the word of God. He had been doing that during His time on earth and He wanted to be sure this act of love and legacy was continued.
I could write a book on the legacy of love, just by hearing my Grandma’s words, following her angelic imprint on the Askoff family, generation to generation, and beyond. The best part of leaving a legacy is that parts of you, your characteristics, and your traits are passed on. We have a choice on how we influence others. We can do so positively or negatively. Each day, may we approach people gently. This may not be “just another day” for them. Maybe they are in need of what you have. You may have the one conversation that slays their Goliath! Maybe you will simply make another feel loved and special. Give your attention rather than them needing it. There’s a big shift that takes place when you honestly listen, whether it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours. Don’t make life all about “me, myself, and I.” That is how any relationship works well; when it’s more giving than taking. You are designed to GIVE just like your Father!
If our eyes are on God, I can guarantee His eyes are on us. Again, there is that covenant. If our eyes are on Self and all that it likes and wants, we can’t be expecting God to show up. There would be no scripture saying, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Obviously, God is watching and looking, but He is not showing up for just anybody. Ouch! God is writing to me too. I am not perfect! The good thing is that God is not looking for perfect people … just perfect hearts.
What is a perfect heart? Other translations say, “God will show Him strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal, fully-devoted, trusting, fully committed, blameless towards Him, faithfully obeying Him, and completely His.” I think that sums up what we want in any relationship. This is not impossible to do when you truly LOVE God or anyone else.
Love is not enough for a marriage to work. If your eyes wander, and you’re not fully committed, temptation creeps in and we know what happens next (hence the divorce rate in our nation). If you only have eyes for each other, are loyal, fully committed, and devoted, “through sickness and health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad times,” then you stay true to your covenant, “until death you do part.“
After 63 years of marriage, that is how my parents parted. My father went to Heaven faithful and devoted until the very last breath. That is an example and a legacy. My in-laws were the same, as were my grandparents, and my aunt and uncle. All parted only by death after 60-70 years together. That is a legacy. Were all marriages perfect? No, because only perfect people can make a perfect marriage and neither exist! So do not expect that or you’ll be sorely disappointed!
However, a perfect heart can keep you together. Why? Because it keeps you devoted. My parents had a strong foundation that kept them clinging to each other through every storm of life. I watched it with my very own eyes. Might I add that what helped greatly: All of them were saved and loved God with trusting hearts, fully devoted to serving Him. If your eyes are on God, your eyes will belong to Him as well as your heart!
These are very uncertain times, and people are seeking a feeling of comfort and safety. As I thought on this, I began wondering, “What makes me feel comforted?”
First, we must try to make home be that place by keeping an atmosphere of godliness with a spirit of prayer and worship. Nothing makes you feel safer in the arms of God than shutting off all the noise and mind-clutter. (This is not a time to indulge; we did that during COVID!) Do something that comforts you, your family, and others. Aside from reading, I personally drive around and play music, worship, pray, and fellowship with God. Every night, I lay in bed scrolling through worship music and just listening so my last thoughts are of the God who calls you and me His beloved.
Lastly, it is safe to go to church. Most churches have safety guidelines to keep everyone healthy right now. There’s a wonderful feeling of comfort in a church where God dwells among His people, and you are among a loving church family. It expels the darkness, fear, and sense of helplessness we might feel currently. You are needed and wanted!
Right now is NOT “just another day” for most people. Let’s be circumspect. Stop, look, and listen while we go about our day. Think of ways you can do something small or huge to help someone else. We have no excuses to “get in touch” with the technology we have. I can’t tell you how many times a text message has been a much needed word in season, or comes at a time where I wanted to feel cared about. The best way to feel better is not sweatpants, a TV remote, or electronics. The best way is knowing you made a difference someway, somehow and made no day “just another day” for anyone! You are a story waiting to be told!