According to recent Pew Research, people who regularly attend church are happier. While believers can rely on God to help manage their suffering and endure hardship whether they actively attend church or not, those who regularly attend services have the added support of social connections. It seems that friendships built at church are important.
For the next few weeks, we will be looking closely at our Methodist roots. While I won’t give you the whole history here in our daily devotions, I would suggest further reading if you’re interested in this sort of thing. For a short synopsis, check out this online resource.
This week, we have been looking at how to encourage and pray for people in pain or crisis. One simple way to help is to direct them toward a resource, person, counselor, or group that might be able to assist them in their struggle.
Pray for peace. Not world peace, though that prayer never hurts, rather pray for internal peace, peace for the soul. This is what most people are seeking, it is what their soul seeks, though they will tell you they are pursuing happiness. As the Apostle Paul explains, this sort of peace, the kind found deep in our souls, literally confounds us;
This week we have been looking at ways to encourage and pray for friends who are going through hard times. Today, we remember that it is often our very faith in God that is shaken when we experience difficulty. We wonder why or how God can allow evil, suffering or atrocities. We doubt that God is with us, or even if God really exists. Doubt is OK, so is anger.
For the person who does not know Christ, trouble may produce nothing but misery. Where does a person turn when they have no faith in a God bigger than themselves and their problems? Hopefully, friends will provide comfort and help, but if there is real crisis or deep pain, human words may carry very little power. It is the sitting with, the being present and the walking through difficulty that makes a difference.
When we go through difficult times, the hardship drains us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Struggle, pain, loss, confusion, and uncertainty have an impact on us, even if we think we are strong enough to endure. We may initially find energy to power through hard times, but eventually, we need someone to come alongside us and help us make it through.
There seem to be seasons of loss and suffering in all of our lives, and even in our institutions. Our church has been through a recent season of much loss. Many people in our church have gone on to be part of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
In the final chapter of The Deep End, Pastor David writes, “Open listens. Had I been given the opportunity to develop a long term relationship with Chris (whose story was shared in Monday’s First 15),
Openness requires conviction. Here’s what Pastor David shares about this idea in The Deep End. It would be easy for us to misunderstand openness as a response that looks more like lukewarm tolerance. Our culture tends to encourage us in that direction. People with convictions are often portrayed as intolerant and close-minded. But I think the reality is quite different from that.
What is it that’s so powerful about being open in our conversations about faith? Defensiveness makes it all about me. Aggressiveness makes it all about them. Openness is about us.
What is the most important element in a conversation about faith? Here’s what Pastor David wrote in his book, The Deep End. “I am ashamed to say that the time I spent in church world in my younger years produced more arrogance in my life than humility. I don’t blame anyone for that but myself. I was comfortable with my black and white answers and I learned in my youth that I had a gift for presenting and argument.
How do we prepare for conversations about faith? Here’s what Pastor David shared about that topic in The Deep End. If you feel intimidated by the thought of a conversation about faith, understand that you are not alone. And it just might be that this discomfort you feel is a sign that you are heading in the right direction as you think about a conversation about faith.
In The Deep End, Pastor David shares this story, One of the students (in my college religion class) was a young man named Chris. Regardless of the day’s weather forecast, Chris never wore shoes. Bathing did not seem to be one of his regular routines. In fact, grooming in general did not seem to be high on Chris’ priority list.
In the past few First 15s, we have been wrestling with two big questions that are encountered in the journey of faith: “Where is God?” and “Why is there suffering and loss?”. There are, of course, other tough questions that we may encounter as we seek to swim in the deep end of faith, but these questions can represent some of the more serious and mysterious challenges that we encounter along the way.