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Stories of Faith

Robin

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

The Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount has to be one of my all-time favorite Bible passages for a variety of reasons.  In its simplicity, it has provided me with whatever I needed, whenever I needed it.

When I was a child in the early 1970s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons) had a series of TV commercials.  I was about 8 years old when one called “Pass It On” became popular.  It showed people receiving small acts of kindness and then paying it forward with more random acts of kindness, while a catch little jingle, “Blessed are the peacemakers, the Lord says, ‘Pass it on, pass it on'” played in the background.  As a middle child, the natural peacemakers, according to birth order experts, the message struck a chord with me.

I also liked, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”  I was very shy as a child and this verse helped me to be more accepting of myself. Later, as an adult working in a competitive corporate environment, this verse also helped me to stay true to my God-given nature even when manager and mentors pushed me to become more forceful when relating to peers and subordinates and to “promote myself” when surround by members of upper management.

However, I never quite understood the verse which read, “Blessed are those who mourn” until the tragic loss of my 23 year old son, nearly two years ago.  Initially, I struggle; people talked about relying on faith, but in the first weeks and months after Aaron chose to end his life, God just felt very far away and I couldn’t imagine feeling comforted, let alone “blessed.”

I couldn’t relate to the people who said, “I just turned everything over to God and he immediately took the pain away.”  But lately, I have been experiencing comfort in little things:  a single red rose growing in my backyard which I had never noticed before, or a random Facebook message from a young woman who told me that my son had once taken her on a date and had been such a gentleman that she thanked me for raising such a kind-hearted young man.

While part of me will probably always “mourn” at some level, I do feel God’s presence more now that I am learning to recognize that it is the smallest things that provide the most comfort and the biggest blessings.

Lesley

When my little girl gets excited, she raises her eyebrows and makes a strongman, straining smiley face or runs around shaking her hands in the air.  I get a thrill from things like caring for children, setting goals, and jumping.  Maybe most of all, I get excited about seeing good friends.  Similarly, I relish being able to go to God in thanks, in hurt, or needing advice, knowing from the Bible that he wants to hear from me, strengthen and guide me.  But how do we know this is real?  My personal search for truth, which continues to this day, leads me to books on historical evidence and textual criticism and gives me a fresh perspective on the gospel.

Once upon a time, a man walked the earth claiming he could eternally quench our deepest thirst, grant us abundant life now, plus eternal life with a loving, all-powerful creator. He taught great compassion and healed many.  He was crucified for claiming to be God. The earth became dark in the middle of the day when he died, which a historian recorded as an eclipse of the sun, though it was not time for a solar eclipse. Three days later, his body disappeared from the tomb, and many of his followers experienced seeing him alive. Within one generation, his followers had recorded his works and message, calling themselves Christians. Many of them were tortured and killed for their refusal to stop preaching Jesus’ resurrection.

Thousands of years later, we can calculate that it is statistically impossible for one man to fulfill only the undisputed prophesies that Jesus fulfilled.  Even non-Christian historians maintain that Jesus was a Jewish teacher who walked the earth performing mystical acts, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and was believed by his followers to have risen from the dead.  I’m convinced that the Bible contains undeniable truth about a loving, all powerful God who wants a relationship with us.  But don’t take my word for it – find out for yourself!

Terry

God has been my support even before I even realized He was there. I was too young to see His presence in my life and too selfish, but as I have grown and matured, I see Him in my everyday life. I see Him both in joyful times and in difficult times.

I felt His strength and support when my younger sister was very ill in Hospice. He carried me and helped me through that very difficult time. He reassured me that Keshya is His child and that she is okay. I saw and felt Him hold a fragile family together in a very challenging time.

I thank God everyday when I hear my children say and do kind things and use the gifts that He has given them. As my children grow older, I feel uncertain about the future for them and for myself. What will I do? How will I handle them being away? Will they make good decisions? But then I remember and thank God for His support and guidance and for blessing them with their gifts. I know they will be fine, and I will be fine because He is in my life.

Jennifer

I recently turned 50, and it has been kind of a shock to my self-concept. I’ve had such a long time to get used to being young, I’m not sure what to do with “50.” Since the big birthday, I’ve been reviewing my life a bit—accomplishments, things still undone, all my imperfections and faults, health issues, gray hair, wrinkles around my eyes.

As a Christ-follower, I’ve been sharing my insecurities about this new stage of life with God. I’ve been finding so much comfort in His company and knowing that no matter how old I grow to be, I will always be His child, and He will always be my Father. Hebrews 13:5 shares Jesus’ promise, “I will never fail you, nor forsake you.” And in Psalm 27:10, we are assured, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” God has blessed me with wonderful, loving parents, but I know one day they will leave us to be with God. I dread parting with them as they are two of my dearest friends, but find solace in knowing I will still have a loving Father in God.

As for all those other worries—things undone, faults, health issues, wrinkles—I know God’s expectations for me are reasonable, and that my salvation depends only on Christ and what He has already accomplished in giving Himself to pay the price for our sins, so that we may someday be with Him in Heaven. I’m thankful I still have time to serve Him, to accomplish a few more goals, perhaps many, but it is helpful to realize God “knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:14.

Through Scripture, He reminds me all the time that this life is not about me (Thank You, Lord!), but living for His glory. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “…, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Those reminders remove a lot of stress from my life and give me an assignment I can handle with His help.

As for the gray hair, I’m still working on seeing it as God does, “a crown of glory.” Psalm 16:31.

Becky

I was 36 years old, recently divorced with three daughters ages 3, 6, and 11, unemployed, and homeless. My parents now lived in Colorado; I lived in Hawaii. Choices had to be made on where to move. I chose to find support where I felt it most while growing up; I chose to come home to First Baptist Church.

After 18 years of being away, there weren’t too many members left that I knew. My children and I arrived and were instantly welcomed with love and open arms. I joined the Koinonia adult class while my daughters participated in church school, choirs, and youth programs.

Koinonia means, “communion, joint participation; to share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc.” I cannot begin to say how much this relationship has meant to me and my daughters.

Anytime I needed help – even before I asked – they were there for me. My daughters know that if they ever need a “dad,” all they have to do is call one of the men of Koinonia and they will offer help, advice, and unconditional friendship.

God is alive and working in FBC to bring His kingdom to Bloomington/Normal. My home, my family, my koinonia is FBC.