“The last three years have been painful – physically and emotionally…” begins an email from a close friend who was suffering from work-related injuries dating back to the year 2000. These injuries have not only affected my friend (“It’s been a long battle and is getting tougher.”), his dire circumstances have also taxed his dear wife: “she is and has been going through a lot with and beside me in this battle – getting me back up and functioning the best I can.”
My friend is quick to acknowledge that is the Lord who has enabled them to “endure much and accomplish some remarkable things.” He confesses that he needs help to carry on (“to continue we could use some prayer support…”).
From this brief description, it is plain to see that my friend has been stretched to the limit. If he is to persevere, he needs help and encouragement. Please permit me to pass on three observations learned from experience.
- God has provided my friend with a good wife – a helpmate who has taken her marriage vowels seriously. Indeed, she has endured “… for better and for worse; in sickness and in health…” God has graciously used her to benefit her husband, my friend. He is quick to acknowledge how much he needs her and depends on her.
I can personally identify with my friend. I too live in difficult circumstances and have a godly wife. I recognize her as a gift from God and greatly depend on her to meet most of my needs. In recent days, we have experienced a heavy snow – about 8 inches, which is a lot for coastal Virginia! After four days, the streets are finally passable and things are getting back to normal. However, in the meantime, we have been without our morning helper. This means that my dear wife has had the heavy strain of my complete morning care – a three-hour workout with heavy weights. Surely, this is more “worse” than. “better.” I love her and am thankful for her faithfulness to me, our wedding vows and to the Lord.
- Next, my friend mentioned above recognizes the importance of prayer. He specifically asked for prayers. He needs prayer to continue facing the circumstances, in which God has placed him. He recognizes that God hears the prayers of his people and gives his grace in response.
There are very many places in the New Testament (and the OT) which encourage us – even command us, to pray. To begin with, check it out the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6.9–13), so called because the Lord Jesus taught us to pray this way, which focuses on the plural (our, we, etc.) rather than singular (I, me, my, etc.) That is, the instruction is not merely for one individual, but for all of Jesus’ disciples. We can prayer together and we can pray for one another. We can pray this prayer by itself or we can use it to introduce or conclude other prayers.
Jesus also taught us to pray persistently and specifically: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11, ESV)
Another example is found in 1 Timothy 2.1 where we are instructed to make supplications, prayers and thanksgiving for all people. Ephesians 6 tells us to make supplications for all the saints. Wonder what supplication is? A supplication is a petition or request; it involves asking or begging earnestly and humbly for another.
Praying is natural for Christian. It is natural for us to petition or ask our Father in heaven for the things that we and others need. My friend recognizes that he needs God’s help and knows that God hears his people when we pray. Our heavenly Father loves to hear from his children, especially when they have concerns for one another.
- Finally, my friend needed a word from the Lord. God speaks to his people through his Word, the Bible.
So I read 2 Corinthians 4.16– 18 to him: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Even though I have been a pastor for many years and ministered God’s word like this on more times than I can count, I am always amazed at the power of God’s word to speak to our specific circumstances. The Bible is opened, simply read out loud and briefly explained. In this the Holy Spirit works to encourage and build up God’s people through his word. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. The book of Hebrews tells us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV) Scripture is like a surgeon’s scalpel which cuts to the heart of the issue and does God’s healing work.
So, in times of exhaustion, frustration, confusion, crisis, or any other time of great need or devastation, we need at least these three things. Him
- We need God’s physical help, usually delivered by someone close to us, such as a spouse or close friend.
- We need to look to the Lord for help, specifically and humbly asking for him to meet our needs.
- We need to be strengthened through Scripture by reading it and applying it to our lives. I’d like to close by saying this works for me. But truthfully, this is how God works. He may use of the things, but he rarely uses these.
So, take a moment and thank God for things he uses to keep it going. Thank him that he hears prayers. Thank him for his word. Thank him for those who he uses to strengthen and serve you.