Giver or a Taker?

One Sunday not too long ago, a friend of ours approached me and gave me a hug. She said she had been thinking of us often and wondered how we were doing. This dear Sister has been privy to some of the heavy things on our proverbial “plate” of life.  So in response, I immediately set about telling her all that was going on, never once really coming up for air.  You know what I mean, monologue style, rehashing every last uncomfortable detail… Throwing in a, “but God is so good,” and a “despite it all, I feel so blessed” here and there for a good measure of Church Speak.

My husband, likely noticing my friend’s eyes glazing over, stepped into the conversation and asked her how things were going for her at school (she has gone back to take some college courses).  I was immediately embarrassed, realizing how focused I was on my own problems.  I had chosen to forget that those around me have their own lives and things to work through.  She gratefully smiled in response to his concern and said that she loved her classes and so the long commute was worth it.  However, the day before, as she was driving to school, she had been in a pretty bad car accident.  UGH!  She had suffered a significant scare and set back.  If my husband hadn’t asked, I would have continued on about myself, never knowing what she had been through.  Even more convicting was her faith.  There was no complaint of, “Why me?” or fear of, “What shall I do?”  She was trusting God in the details and sincerely grateful that she was not injured or worse.

I realized that I had again let myself sink into the arms of self absorption.  Believing that my time, my life, my problems are most important and imperative.  There in that self-wallowing place, we are less sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His call to minister.  There in the mire of our hearts, we are unable to love and sympathize with others since our interest is tied up in our own problems, and we are paralyzed by selfish preoccupation.  We miss the blessing of loving others, encouraging others – the very thing that will swiftly lighten the load of our own struggles.

Years ago, a dear friend of mine had lovingly committed to praying for me and my family.  We were going through a pretty wide and dry desert at the time, and I was so grateful for her listening ear and willingness to pray.  However, my fears and flesh began to slowly suck the blessing out of the love this Sister offered.  I began to see the relationship as a way to dump all my problems, describe all my woes, and explain every wretched detail of my troubles.  I chose to ignore that this friend was also living a life mottled by problems, speed bumps, and grief.  I was so wrapped up in my need to be heard, why I thought my life sucked so bad, and wanting to explain why I needed prayer and how I wanted God to answer, that I forgot to be a friend to the one who was taking so much time for me.  Worse yet, I had forgotten that we are to thank Him even in the midst of our troubles; I was missing the sweet assurance that His perfect plan will bring all things good AND bad to beautiful fruition in Christ. (Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, James 1:2)

Finally, after many woe-is-me letters and phone calls, my dear Sister lovingly and courageously told me to shove it.  OK, not exactly; she was much gentler than that.  In fact, as I look back, I can’t believe how kind she was.  She spent time relaying to me how God loves us and would take care of us.  Then came the sentence that hung in my mind for months, well actually, years.  She wrote, “It is time to become a giver, and stop living as a taker.”  She told me how God had things for me to do that would bring Him glory—those good works He prepared in advance for me to do! (Ephesians 2:10)  She assured me that as I trusted Him, gave, and let Him use me as a vessel to pour out, I would be abundantly blessed in unexpected ways.

She was right.  I began to take every thought captive to the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5) and find things to thank Him for even in the days where it seemed difficult to simply function. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  As God gently retrains my mind and heart’s perspective (Isaiah 64:8, Romans 12:2), my thoughts are less likely to be hovering over the troubles I am experiencing.  When worries, fears, or complaints come to mind, I am better able to see through an eternal perspective and realize that they are no where near as weighty as I would like to believe. (Isaiah 55:8-9)  It is amazing how self absorption throws reality out of whack and causes us to believe we are suffering far more than we really are, or that our problems are more important than someone else’s.  I don’t know why it is so easy to slip into a proclivity of doom.  I haven’t the foggiest why self pity feels so darn warm and cozy, vindicating and right, because it isn’t; and we must take caution to avoid that lie that only leads to an ineffective and powerless frame of mind.

In no way do I intend to belittle the problems you face.  Instead, I want to encourage you to ask God to help you view these things through His eyes.  Nor would I suggest that you stop talking to godly counsel about your problems; this is so important, and the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  But the verse says, “Bear one another’s…,” not “Dump your troubles and run.”  Sure, it isn’t going to always be a fifty-fifty deal, but the intention is not to take advantage, spill or heap our burden on others, or assume our needs are greater; instead, we are to give, and share the load.

So… reality-check for me.  Yes, hell or high water may come, but it is nothing that our mighty God cannot handle if we only open our hearts and lives to Him and surrender it all.  God is greater! (Genesis 18:14, Matthew 19:26)  No sense in pretending anymore, dear Sister, we have never been nor will we ever be in control.  So, why not let the Almighty take the helm and enjoy the opportunity to be used of Him and witness first hand, the work of the Lord?  Being a ready and open vessel is the ultimate drown-er and squash-er of troubles; it is a divinely appointed remedy for woes.  No, those trials will likely not vanish, but your choice to focus on something or someone else will help you to keep things in perspective, help keep you from reacting out of emotion, and help alleviate the stress and strain on your spirit and physical body that comes with worry.  The best part is: our heavenly Father is patiently waiting for us to ask Him to do this work in us!  The Word says, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength!” (Philippians 4:13)  He is ABLE!

All Scripture NIV ©2010

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