On Thursday, August 12, 2021, we lost Michael McCarthy to life’s pains. He was 39 years old and struggled with PTSD from his days as a Marine Corpsman in Afghanistan. He came to us through our Food Bank Ministry and was a beloved member of our faith community. We are all shocked by the event, and the pain is immense. He was generous in giving of himself and his resources to help others. For the past few weeks, he had been helping his Afghan friend and his family to safety, started a composting project at the church, and worked on a plan for our organic gardening program. We will miss him dearly as we grieve the loss of a wonderful man, a friend, and a colleague in ministry.
At times, life gets difficult, and it can feel overwhelming. This is normal, and nothing is wrong. However, this is not always the message that the church gives. In modern days, we have many tele-evangelists who tell us that if we believe in Jesus, God will pour our special blessings, and we will have a happy and prosperous life. We are told that nothing will ever go wrong if we believe. While this message is popular and many are attracted by it, it is not biblical.
The Bible is full of stories of people who follow God, but not everything goes as planned. Moses performs miracles to show Israelites that God wants to lead them to the promised land, but even after walking through God’s parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites turn against God and vote to go back to slavery in Egypt. David accepts the call to be the new King of Israel, but this leads to Saul wanting to kill him. Jeremiah was a faithful prophet speaking the words God gives him, but he is thrown in prison by his own people because they do not like the message. The pains of these individuals were immense, and they were overwhelmed, discouraged, and angry.
In Acts chapter 14, we find that even as Paul and Barnabas are faithfully executing their call as missionaries, they are stoned and left for dead. This is contrary to some people’s modern preaching, where they say that if God calls us and we are led by the Spirit, everything will go well. The truth is that disciples and early followers of Jesus had life experiences with difficulties no different from our modern struggles. We trust, and we live as faithfully as we can, but life still gets hard. At times life feels overwhelming, and we cannot see our way through it. This was no different for Paul and Barnabas.
Paul and Barnabas took time and were with supportive people. They left the area of danger and found a place where they could be themselves and simply continued their work. In the same way, when we face difficulties, we need to refocus our attention on what gives us joy and be engaged in ministries that affirm our lives. We control what we can control and let go of the things that we cannot control. At times this is easier said than done, but this is made easier by the community. We know that the support of loving friends and caring colleagues restores our sense of life and reenergizes us for another day.
Life will get hard, but the truth is that we do not have to go through it alone. While we are tempted to shutter everyone away and deal with our pains alone, the answer lies in the community. As a community, we share our joys and burdens, and when we share, we are giving them a gift. The gift is that we are sharing our lives with one another, and that invitation to walk with you is the gift.
We are not alone, and the community is there to walk with you. Just as Paul and Barnabas continued in ministry with the help of supportive people, we too can walk through difficulties when we do it as a community. Let us walk together in love.