|Volume 22 Number 6 June 2020||
Martha Lynn Rushmore
What can we do to encourage one another during this time of the coronavirus pandemic? We can call, write notes, send cards or postcards, etc. What have you done to be an encourager?
One sister in Christ sent postcards to every member of her congregation since the lockdown because of the virus as encouragement to her brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not sure how many are in attendance there, but I am sure this was not cheap. Glory be to God for her thoughtfulness.
There have been a lot of women from churches making masks for those of us who do not sew. In our congregation, we had at least two ladies making masks for anyone who needed them. This was thoughtful. They did not take any money for doing this good deed. Others provided the material. This was their part as they do not or cannot sew. So, you see these are encouraging things that can be done.
You can take food to older people or to those who are sick. You do not have to go into their houses. Just knock and leave the food on the porch. Then, they can come out without any contact. If you do not want to take the food, you can call a restaurant that delivers in their area and have a meal delivered to them.
What else can we do to encourage each other? How about the use of Facebook? This is a very good way to keep in contact with one another. Most people today have a computer and are on Facebook.
There are a lot of preachers using the Internet to preach sermons or to give 5-minute talks, etc. Many congregations are leading worship services online at least once a week so we can fellowship this way. Some congregations are doing Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday Bible Study. We have many choices for sound Gospel preaching over the Internet.
Some congregations are handing out communion in packages already prepared so we can worship together on Sunday morning. Handing out these items is done as safely as possible. Our members drive to the church building to pick up what is needed and do not get out of the vehicle. Those handing out the communion, the bulletin and anything else pass the items through the car windows. Those passing out these items have on gloves and masks. They also use sanitizer and put on a new pair of gloves between each car. These servants sit in the drive through 6-feet apart, ready to distribute supplies. This is what my home congregation is doing to help fellowship and also be safe as possible during this trying time of the coronavirus.
God bless and stay safe.
Kill Me Now
“God, please just kill me now!” Does it surprise you that the sentiments behind this statement, if not the exact words, were uttered by at least four of God’s Old Testament prophets? Why would Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah and Jonah make such devastating statements? What was God’s response? How does any of this apply to you and me today?
Numbers 11 records one of many occasions the children of Israel grumbled and complained as they wandered in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. This time, the Lord destroyed some of the people by fire for their complaining. However, God’s children did not learn their lesson. They complained about the food God provided for them. The text records:
Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” (Numbers 11:10-15)
Moses was discouraged, frustrated and maybe a little depressed because of the children of Israel. He was tired of dealing with their complaints and their disobedience. His solution was for God to put him out of his misery.
In First Kings 18, Elijah demonstrated God’s power to King Ahab and the Israelites in a contest with the prophets of the idol Baal. After a resounding victory, Elijah slaughtered the false prophets, as commanded by God and in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:20). In retaliation for the slaughter of the false prophets, Queen Jezebel promised to kill Elijah and actively sought him (1 Kings 19:1-2). Elijah ran away to Beersheba in Judah and left his servant there. “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah was discouraged, frustrated and maybe a little depressed over the sins of the Israelites and the wickedness of her King and Queen. His solution was for God to put him out of his misery.
In Jeremiah 20, the prophet was put in stocks for a day for prophesying that Judah would fall to Babylon as a punishment from God for disobedience. After being released, Jeremiah again told of the coming destruction of Judah. The prophet then described the persecution he had endured on behalf of God (Jeremiah 20:7-12). After a brief praise of God’s power (vs. 11-13), Jeremiah expressed his regret that he was ever born. “Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me!” (v. 14). “Because he did not kill me from the womb, That my mother might have been my grave, And her womb always enlarged with me. Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?” (vs. 17-18). Jeremiah was discouraged, frustrated and maybe a little depressed over the continued sins of Judah and her unwillingness to repent. His solution was to wish he had never been born.
After trying to run away from God’s command to preach to the city of Nineveh, Jonah repented and did as God commanded (Jonah 1-3). The people of the wicked city heard Jonah’s message from God and repented (3:10). However, Jonah was unhappy that God did not destroy Nineveh (4:1). In fact, Jonah was so angry and unhappy over God’s righteous decision that the prophet prayed to God, “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (4:3). Jonah was discouraged, angry, frustrated and maybe a little depressed when events did not go according to his wishes. His solution was for God to put him out of his misery.
God told Moses to gather seventy men, elders of the people, to help him (Numbers 11:16-17). Moses needed support and help to deal with the possibly millions of Israelites. God’s reasoning for the gathering of the men was “they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone” (vs. 17). God recognized the need for a support system and the delegation of responsibilities.
After Elijah made his sad declaration, he went to sleep. The Lord provided Elijah with food and drink, allowed Elijah to sleep and then provided sustenance again. Afterwards, Elijah traveled to Mt. Sinai where God again demonstrated His power (1 Kings 19:5-12). There, Jehovah gave Elijah a couple of jobs to do—God put him to work (vs. 15-16). One of the jobs was to recruit a helper. Again, God recognized a need for his prophets to have a support system and a way to share responsibilities. God also gave Elijah a reality check. Part of Elijah’s complaint was the lack of any faithful Israelites. God reminded Elijah, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (v. 18).
God’s response to Jeremiah’s lament is not given. However, Jeremiah 21 begins with the prophet doing his job. He got to work.
The Lord confronted Jonah’s attitude. “Then the LORD said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’” (Jonah 4:4). God then taught Jonah a lesson using a plant He caused to grow, provide shade and then die in the morning sun (4:6-11). The Lord made it clear He was displeased with Jonah’s selfish, pouting attitude when the people of Nineveh repented. Jonah’s focus was in the wrong place.
You and Me Today
Just like the prophets of old, we also may become discouraged, angry, frustrated and maybe a little depressed. Sometimes these feelings result from the circumstances around us. Like Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, we may feel discouraged when others do not live the way we think they should live or feel frustrated when others do not make changes in their lives that we believe are best for them. Like the prophets, we may feel alone in our struggles to live as faithful children of God in this often immoral world. Many other circumstances of life may bring us feelings of depression or despair. The same things God told His prophets to do in times of discouragement are the same things we should do today.
Get busy. Elijah and Moses were given jobs to do. Getting to work allows us to focus on something besides the circumstances that trouble us. Find something to do around the house or at the church building. Send cards or make phone calls to the sick and the shut-in. Offer to babysit so a couple at church can have a date night. Help a Bible class teacher prepare materials for class. The options for getting to work are endless.
Develop a support system. God provided Moses and Elijah with support systems. Moses gathered seventy men to help guide the people. Elijah sought Elisha to help him in his work. While we may feel alone, we are not alone. Neither are we the only ones to ever experience feelings of discouragement, depression or despair. Reach out to trusted friends and family members. Let them know you are struggling and need their support. Allow others to help you, and be honest about your feelings and struggles. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Allow others to help bear your burdens and be willing to provide that same comfort to others in need.
Pray and study. Though not specifically given this instruction in the texts under consideration, God’s prophets spent much of their lives talking and listening to God. Today, we listen to God when we study His Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). God listens to us when we pray (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). When our focus is on God, we will not have time to concentrate on our circumstances.
Do a reality check. When Elijah felt alone, God reminded him there were over seven thousand faithful Israelites. Frequently in distress, we exaggerate how bad things are. Stop and think about what is real. Count your blessings (Ephesians 1:3). If necessary, ask your support system to help you take a realistic look at life and the things that trouble you.
Check your attitude. Jonah felt angry and discouraged because his attitude was wrong. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to be punished, and when God did not destroy the city, Jonah pouted and wallowed in self-pity. If one’s attitude or view of a situation is unrighteous, it is imperative to fix the mindset. Focusing on the right things will help. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Get professional help. Not all feelings of depression, discouragement and despair result from our circumstances or attitudes. In some cases, depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the body. Also, traumatic experiences often result in feelings of depression and despair. These situations may require prescribed medications to restore the proper balance or to ease anxieties resulting from trauma. Seek professional counseling if you have feelings of despair that do not go away with efforts like those listed above, that persist for an extended length of time or that negatively impact the ability to function in daily life.
At least four of God’s prophets experienced a period of depression, discouragement, frustration or despair. God gave them what they needed. God will provide for us what we need if we will but seek Him (Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 7:7-8).