This is my seventh blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. I am posting it a day early to enjoy some rest on Sunday.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
As I began to take baby steps into my fears, trusting in God’s Presence to strengthen and uphold me, I was repeatedly refreshed by the love shown to me by several Christian friends, both abroad and locally. These friends chose to walk beside me, stopping to listen attentively to my struggles, to both rejoice and mourn with me along the way and to lovingly and tenderly turn my heart toward the truth of the Gospel, through both their words and perhaps more importantly, their own God-centered Titus 2 example. And they continue to do so today.
One of these women, encouraged me to trust that God would care for my extended family in their grief. As I sat and told her of my aching heart for my sister, who was expecting her first child, without our Mum at her side and with the rest of her family abroad, she listened with pain in her eyes and then tenderly turned me to Isaiah 40:11:
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
In so doing, she reminded me that God had not forsaken my sister and held a special place in His heart for her. Later, I would also look back on this example, as one of many in which my friend encouraged me to look to and trust in God’s provision, rather than dwell in pain on my own inadequacy to help.
This gentle shepherding into Truth not only came in the form of Scriptural encouragement, but also in prayers, photos of handcrafted art and stories of how God had shown His faithfulness to my friends over the years. What set these women apart from others was that they chose to not only embrace me in my struggles and to share their own past and present heartache and failings, but also to gently open my eyes to see where I was turning away from God in my hurt, fears or idolatry of others’ love and acceptance. They chose to be truthful in their loving kindness, resting in the assurance of God’s love for them, rather than the fear that their honesty would turn me away. Like Jesus, they chose to move toward me in grace, rather than point the finger or flee from my rough edges. Jason Tippetts has spoken on the call to follow this grace-filled example of Jesus in a recent sermon and I would encourage you to make some time to listen to it, as it is both challenging and encouraging.
God’s gentle shepherding through His Body would continue in the coming difficult months, as He would lead me onwards into refreshing worship and additional truth-equipping Christian testimonies, preparing me for much greater steps into my fears and grief.