Friday, March 16, 2012

Living the Gospel Right Where You Are

I know I have shared once or twice over the past year or so that this has been a tough year for our family, in more ways than one. After being diagnosed with various health problems, including auto immune diseases, I have struggled to adjust to my limitations and still continue being a wife and mother to eight {soon to be nine} amazing children.

And with Trever now medically retired from the military, he has run into some unexpected challenges trying to secure a decent job.

No one likes talking about struggling, maybe most especially financially. I'm not sure about all the underlying reasons for this, but certainly part of it is pride. It is difficult to admit that you are struggling in this manner.

Maybe in some ways it is even harder for those with larger families, because this is when some people tend to judge your decision to have had a larger family a bit more vocally.

We make do, we get by. God has taken care of us. I have had family come out and help me with my house, doing things I could not have physically have done by myself. Once, a friend sent us gift cards to the grocery store without even knowing we were struggling- I consider that a God thing. My mother bought us a grocery gift card once as well. And recently, a couple of my dearest friends as well as my mother and aunt have picked up, bought or made some adorable baby girl things for this new baby. I am so grateful for all of that.

Still, things have been hard. Sometimes I get stressed out because of my limitations and the lack of help I regularly have when I am so fatigued or in a considerable amount of pain. I wish I could do more.

I wonder what I am going to do if labor comes on quickly and we can't get someone over here to watch our children. {Living in a military community, we have had most of our friends move away as they got new assignments.} I wonder how much help I will need right after this baby is born, and whether my illnesses will make recovery harder than usual.

I am thankful we have been able to pay our monthly bills every month, but I stress about any other thing that comes up- when one or two of our kiddos need new shoes or a pair of jeans or when a medical bill comes up unexpectedly or the fact that we don't have dental insurance and we have child with a cavity that needs to be filled or when we need to take our children to different church activities but don't really have the money for gas. Things like that.

I have said it before, but these are not easy things to share. In fact, sometimes it makes you feel like a real loser. {Just being honest here.} Sometimes, even in a faith community, you get the underlying feeling that if you are talking about these kind of things, you are not really a very faith-filled person, or you would not be struggling and worrying. I have been told many times, in relation to my declining health or struggling finances, that I would be prayed for. But I have rarely- almost never- been offered any practical help.

I'm not bitter, I'm not angry. But I do think it is a huge problem. Especially in the body of Christ.

It makes me think of James 2:14-17.

" What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."


I have a friend who was struggling financially recently, and was asked by some fellow Christians to let them know if there was anything they could do to help. She reluctantly admitted that she didn't have enough gas to get her husband {who has cancer} to his doctor appointments, and that she didn't have money to buy any. They replied by telling her they would pray for her, that God would provide, and then proceeded to walk into a nice restaurant to buy themselves dinner.

I have felt a bit out of sorts at times when I have read blogs about traveling to foreign countries to aid people groups in need, because while I certainly think this is a worthy cause and I am glad there are people doing it, I find it strange that sometimes those same people ignore the needs of their own neighbors, friends and church members. It seems a lot of people are more excited at the thought of taking care of people they have never seen rather than reaching out to those in our communities who are struggling right in front of our eyes....

And in the middle of all this, in the midst of these struggles, my friends have written blog posts that have really resonated with me. I would love for you to read them, and to hear your thoughts/ideas on them as well. More than anything, I ask you to truly consider what is being said....

Tonia's post- This post addresses the fact that it sometimes seems more glamorous to us to aid struggling people far away than our own neighbors, and questions whether we could perhaps challenge this tendency by living the gospel right where we are. For those who have been called to *stay* rather than *go*.

Amy's post- This one hit me hard. I could almost have written it myself. Almost. It certainly gives perspective to this issue, and describes what it can be like to be the one who is struggling- in church- here.

And if you've read this far, thank you. It's not often I write about things like this, but I think this is such an important issue, friends.

What about you? What do you think? I'd really like to know...
{Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments box below.}


~amy danielle

6 comments:

  1. Amy, I so appreciate your story, your sharing. I think both you and the other Amy are doing some very important work here, highlighting the crazy ability we have to give compassion and help to anyone except the people in front of us. Thank you so very much for the vulnerability in this and the gentleness with which you are helping us see the truth. I know I have been the one to be embarrassed and walk away from need (not knowing how to meet it...does handing someone money insult them?) and sometimes, just being so thick I don't get it. I am convicted and I hope and pray, I am changed, by the honesty in these posts. Love you.

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    1. Thank you Tonia. Your words here are very encouraging because, as my sister and one of my closest friends could testify, I strongly considered deleting this post all together. It makes me feel pretty raw and vulnerable. But, as you said, it is important. Maybe it will find it's way some place it is needed. Love you back. xo

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  2. I'm an older Christian mom to nine & grandmother to seven now! I'm just lovingly going to give my opinion & humbly admit that the Lord continues to teach me! Sometimes my children have an attitude of entitlement, sometimes I have an attitude of entitlement! Prayer is ALWAYS the first step to fulfilling a need according to God's plan! It puts us in a position of looking to God alone (not man) to provide our needs. (He is FAITHFUL to to this!) We also have to each learn God's definition of needs. His ways & thoughts are different than ours! Our definition may not be the same as His. I have had to learn NOT to compare myself with anyone & to always be grateful to the Lord for His provision! I try to teach my children to give up some luxuries so we are able to support missionaries who literally help STARVING people. I'm not even proud of our efforts because we STILL have so much than they do!I am going to end this with the encouragement that God does faithfully provide & that we should continue prayerfully & perseveringly to look to Him (& even pray for our selfish brothers & sisters!) Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

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    1. Hi Cynthia,

      I want you to know that I read your comment here more than once, and I *do* understand some of the points you are making, I think the biggest place where we disagree is the idea that God provides for our needs- not man. Man is God's instrument to meet needs, and God rarely works independently of man. We are privileged to be trusted as stewards of His resources, but it is still up to us to distribute them.

      Certainly all good gifts come from God, but the truth is, God uses PEOPLE. I believe there are enough natural resources on this earth for every man, woman and child to be fed, yet millions are starving every day. I don't believe for one second this is what God wants.

      We can and should pray. Of course. But still, God meets our needs through other people, and when His children fail to meet the needs of people around them, fail to be compassionate and generous and responsive, fail to SEE, to care- others go without.

      I agree that many, especially in more wealthy countries, have a sense of entitlement, and that we can get needs and wants mixed up. But just for the record, that is not what I was writing about. I was trying to express here that there are legitimate needs going unmet because many people in the churches turn their faces and hearts the other way when confronted with real, hurting, struggling people with true needs, right there in their own communities.

      Finally, I hope that no one who read this post got the impression that I am suggesting we not help those in other places who need aid. That was not my intention at all. I am simply saying that writing a check to support a missionary or sponsor a child overseas should not make us blind or oblivious to our neighbors or coworkers or even fellow church members who can't buy groceries or who have termination or collection notices coming in the mail or who are sick and can't take care of themselves. And we should not assume that someone *here* in our fancy churches or nice communities, is somehow less worthy of our help.

      I guess that was what I was trying to say.

      ~amy danielle

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  3. Amy, my heart was with you as I read your post, as a mom to a bunch who's struggled with autoimmune issues. We too have weathered difficult times in the past years, and while our circumstances and needs were different, I've seen some of what you mention. Now, a few years later I read this and want to search my heart. A gift of suffering is that it makes us aware of a world of hurt we didn't know existed; oh that I could be as compassionate as I had wished others to be (and some, blessedly, were).

    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    I believe as you do, that God provides, but that it is through us, His hands and feet on earth. It is sometimes easier to write a check to a foreign missionary than to sit with a suffering church member and hear the hard stuff happening right here and act; easier to offer prayer (which is good) or sponsor a child or organization than to do laundry or meet financial needs or help with the challenging child or other needs of a struggling family. Thank you for being vulnerable.

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  4. Wish I were your neighbor, as I can relate to you post much...
    Blessings, Sheri

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