Friday, January 9, 2009

Sharing Distress

Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi:
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. Philippians 4:10-14
I admire Paul's honesty. On the one hand, he wants to let the people he's writing to know things are "okay" with him. In the verses above he let's them know that he has faith, that he's not afraid. On the other hand, however, he admits to the fact that he is in deep trouble. These "troubles" are many. He's under house arrest, has been ill, and will eventually be executed. He's also unemployed. Paul's thanksgivings involve finances. We know that because the occasion for writing this letter to thank them for the gift they had given. In Philippians 4:18 Paul writes:
I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent...
He sent the letter back to the people who had helped him in Philippi with Epaphroditis, who had delivered the gift.

Paul was distressed. He had faith, but was also in need of help from his brothers and sisters in Christ. When we are in distress of any kind, we can learn from Paul that it's okay to let others know we are in need, to help others, and to give thanks.

Yesterday Wayne and I went to Litchfield for a meeting of pastors and laypeople from ELCA churches. One thing we talked about was impending layoffs. We're hearing about them these days. When you learn about someone in any kind of distress, please don't stay silent. Let us know, help as you can, and pray! When I hear of a situation, I try to contact the person directly to check out the information and ask permission before passing it on for prayer. If you hear a rumor that concerns you, call or email me and share what you've heard. I won't just pass it on without checking.

When we share together, with care and prayer, many will be thankful. Many will be thankful like Paul, in that an opportunity can then arise to show that concern. Prayer, specifically for those affected by layoffs and foreclosures and the like, will be at the center of our strategy for dealing with challenging economic times. And so will practical caring and sharing of resources. But we can't join together in prayer or care unless you share about those in need (or when you yourself are in need or are fearful)! The danger comes when people turn inward. As long as we love one another and trust our Lord TOGETHER we can get through.
Added 6:30 p.m. - an event related to this in St. Cloud is coming up very soon... Please click here to download information and a brochure - 3 pages pdf, or call me.

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