Friday, May 29, 2015

Trading My Sorrows

It has been said that Philippians is the book of joy in the Bible, at least for the New Testament.

Having gone through so much tribulation lately, I felt that I was living part of Job’s life when his friends sat by his side night and day for seven days. 

With all the new medications my husband has been taking it leaves him in a state of sleeplessness.  To help him during these hours of anxiety, I stay close by to give aid wherever it is needed. 

My prayers have been steady for others who have been going through similar trials, and I sought out passages of scripture that would guide us into trading our sorrows for the joy of the Lord. 

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Good News is Always Needed 

When I was a teenager, there were things that I did to “get me out” of the very full household where I lived.  Call it selfish, but sometimes I just didn’t want to wash the dishes, clean house or get dinner started.  The only things that could clear us from such duties were if there was a “chore” of a better nature to do.  

I found a task my mother approved of that would permit me to forgo my responsibilities for at least once a week. So when my sisters would tell me to do something I’d smugly say, “Sorry I can’t. I have to read to the elderly today.” 

Every Thursday in the late afternoon, I would walk to the nursing home down the road from our home.  When I showed up as a volunteer it sort of surprised me as well as the nun who greeted my eagerness at the front desk.
 
I inquired if there was anything I could do for a few hours to help, but she didn’t think there was.  Then I asked if it would be alright if I read the newspaper to some of the patients.  That lit up her face and we went from there.                                       

Sitting bedside reading local news wasn’t up my alley, but it did give me a reprieve from my regular life.  After a few visits, my attitude changed and I looked forward to those afternoons.  For some though, my simple sitting by the bed ended in sorrow as they graduated to Heaven.  Oh but there was joy watching people come back to life, so to speak, and get more involved as I read the good news of the Bible, magazines, books as well as the newspaper to my weekly friends.  

Little did I know that those bedside vigils would be relived many years later with my family and friends. I’d like to share a few of them in particular that happened recently.
 

Say a Prayer for Me 

Over the past few weeks we have been targeting prayer over specific things concerning healing.  A dear friend of ours telephoned to say that she was going to have surgery due to thyroid cancer and asked us to pray.  The message was posted on our refrigerator so our requests before the Lord would be regular. 

The day of the operation came last week. Marie was surrounded by prayer and loved ones. Throughout the entire process her daughter stayed bedside administering to the needs of her mother until she left the hospital with good results.  I was reminded of that answered prayer while waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office on Wednesday (May 27th, 2015) for a follow-up appointment for hubby.
 

If Any … fulfill Joy through Unity 

Like you, I cannot count how many times I have read this passage, but the Lord showed me something I never saw in the past. Take a glance at the beginning sentences in Philippians 2 and see if you don’t look at it differently. 

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NKJV) 

My interest in reading to the patients at their bedside was totally selfish as a child, not like this young daughter of my friend.  The only “if” I was concerned about was “if I could escape” my reality for a few hours.  Thankfully my attitude has been changed through fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  That brings me to my second friend.
 

Eight Days Left 

For the past year we have been blessed to meet up with friends from our childhood.  Elizabeth and Ruth were as close as any sisters could be.  As a matter of fact, their mother referred to them as her twins because of their bond. 

A few weeks ago we were given a bad report that the younger sister only had about eight days left to live, and Hospice was brought in to carry out her remaining days in comfort.  Ruth was given large doses of morphine to ease her pain and remained in a coma like state.  
 

Each day the elder sister would go to the bedside and minister to her sibling by telling her Bible stories, singing or simply sit and watch Ruth slip away.  She had not eaten or drank anything for seven days. With only one day remaining our prayers seemed to be of no avail. 

Elizabeth refused to give up and continually stayed by her sister’s side through the day as much as possible.  Through tears she made her requests known to the Lord for both her sister and my husband.  She was not only looking out for her own interests, but for others of like faith in what they believed.  Her prayers were united with the Body of Christ as in Philippians 2:4. 

The hospice team instructed her to only speak to Ruth in a soft voice as a whisper.  She did as told but there was no change in her sister’s behavior. By now things looked close to the end.
 

Jesus Loves Me 

Then Liz remembered the wise advice of her husband’s caregiver when he was in the hospital and decided to speak to Ruth as if they were in a regular conversation.  Instead of caring for her sister as if she was dying, she ministered to her as she would a healthy person just like Jesus did in the Bible.

 
Elizabeth would remind Ruth through Bible stories, songs and scripture of how Jesus loved her.  When she quoted a passage, Ruth began quoting them back to her.  It wasn’t long before something changed. 

“Ruth, come on, let’s get up.” said Elizabeth.  Right then she sat up.  They gave her something to drink and eat.  The next day she was walking outside and was back to eating.  Three days later her husband took Ruth to a Wednesday night dinner at the church.
 

Mercy in Sorrow 

As I scrolled down my electronic Bible in the waiting room that day, I handed it to my husband to read when I came to the end of the chapter.  

The Apostle Paul writes about Epaphroditus, who was not only a comfort to him in ministry, but also a valuable asset of the gospel of Christ Jesus.  He had become so sick that he almost died, but God showed mercy on him through the prayers of the Saints.  Paul spoke of the sorrow that would have happened had he passed away, but also that God showed grace to those who would have also suffered in sorrow had Epaphroditus died.
 
“ … For indeed he was sick almost unto death,
         but God had mercy on him, and not only on him,
         but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
        (Philippians 2:27 NKJV) 

My husband had tears of joy in his eyes in victory over our situation. Like our friends Marie and Ruth, God had delivered us out of our sorrow through His mercy and favor on the Righteous, just as He said in His Word. 

Hospice doesn’t know what to make of it. Some call it a miracle, but to those of us in faith it’s answered prayer, because we really believed what we said we believed about God’s word.  

Not every sorrow we face turns out the same here on earth.  However, that doesn’t change the promise of God for everyone who truly believes.  God’s favor is for life. Though tears may fall, joy will come one morning!
 
         “For His anger is but for a moment,
         His favor is for life;
         Weeping may endure for a night,
         But joy comes in the morning.”
         (Psalm 30:5 NKJV) 

 
This Week’s Challenge:
Trading Sorrows 

God has said his blessings and favor will be on those who believe He will do as promised.  Elizabeth took the Word of God to heart and acted as if her sister was healed, by being diligent as she waited for manifestation of united prayer. 

This week God will have us do the same by making a visit to someone who is in need of comfort, encouragement and like-minded in the gospel.  The individual may be in the hospital, nursing home, retirement community or even in their own home.  

Our task will be to sit by them as a friend in faith, believing the Lord will deliver them out of the sorrow in which they bear.  We will become a part of trading their circumstance for the joy of the Lord, as they believe God for deliverance. 

As you go about your week, remember to thank God for all the times that He took your sorrows as a trade in return for His joy. Say yes to the joy of the Lord!
 
Yes, Yes Lord, Amen!
 


  

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Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Gateway Bible
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Image:  Philippians the book of Joy  Good News Paper  Sister by Bedside  Jesus Loves Me Lyrics
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