Saturday, November 12, 2011

When You are Overwhelmed with the Need of the World

What do you think of when you hear that word?
What do you think of when you hear that word?

Do you feel excited and full of potential, ready to give? Or do you feel overwhelmed at all the need in this world?

Do you feel jaded by all the commercials over the decades that paste poverty-stricken children on the television screen and do you think to yourself, "oh, they're just getting the worst-looking kid to pose and they just want my money - my money won't actually reach them."

Are you thinking, "somebody else will take care of them?"

Maybe you feel guilty when you hear 2 Corinthians 9:7:

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Are you not exactly a cheerful giver? Please. Do not feel guilty. I have thought long and hard and have had it placed on my heart: God does not want you to feel guilty. Let me explain further.

Right now, a number of my favorite Christian writers are blogging from the Compassion International trip to Ecuador. You can read the many inspirational and heart-touching blogs and stories here.

I'm reading Ann Voskamp's blog posts the most because she speaks to my poet's heart. In her November 10th post, she writes about meeting one of her sponsor children, Lidia, in Ecuador. Ann writes,

"All poverty is first poverty of a relationship." 

And who is that relationship with? She continues:

"Falling out of relationship with God was our first fall into poverty  — and into conflict and sin and hardship.  And all subsequent poverty —- All poverty stems more from an absence of right relationships than a right resources. Anything that takes the place of the primacy of the Christ-relationship leads to a place of poverty."

Tears spilled over as I read her 11-10-11 post, as she marvels at how she "fritters" away $38 a month when this child, Lidia, has waited THREE YEARS to find a sponsor. Or rather, for a sponsor to choose her. I looked at my bank account and felt ashamed at all the menial purchases when so many children are abroad, sick, starving, dying. 

And then I felt what you might feel: complete ovewhelm. I can't do it all, God! I cried. I CAN'T! How can I help them? Do I go on a missionary trip and lend my services? I wondered if I could make a quick phone call, drum up some money, and join Ann, Shaun, and their friends at Compassion and quickly go there and lend my aid. 

Then I realized I am a wife and a stepmother who is dearly needed at home. What was I to do?

Then...something else came to mind. I remembered an interview Susie Larson had done on "Live the Promise" with a family who had sold all their possessions (after learning that riches did not cause true happiness) and bought and R.V. and began their ministry, Passion to Action. You can hear their amazing interview here.  (particularly important is the talk at 32 minutes and 40 seconds and on).

To fully understand the connections I am trying to make, I urge you to look at these links I am giving you. Listen to the podcast of the husband and wife's interview on Live the Promise. 

Jay and Beth Loecken packed their 4 kids up and took an R.V. and decided to bring their family on the road to serve and love others. They say a lot about serving others and focusing right in our own community. They are not saying to disregard the needs in third world countries, but they made the point that there are needy people right next door to us. 

And that made me think. What does God call us to do? I looked at Scripture:

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:1-4

He calls us to give, but to give quietly, without "trumpets" and fanfare. Basically, do not give for your own glory, but for His. 

And then I read 1 John 3:17:

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

So for the love of God to be in you, you must think of those in need. To have a heart for the needy, is to have a heart for Jesus. 

But what about all of us who feel guilty/overwhelmed/jaded by all the need that is in the world? Whether we don't actually believe that much is out there (I don't believe that) or whether we think that we can't possibly make a dent in this world...

Well, you know what? Yes, you. You. YOU can help. YOU are called to help. 

BUT...God does not call you to do anything that He has not equipped you with. 

So... do we do the BIG and go be a missionary for Compassion International? 

Or do we serve our own communities? Do we bring a casserole to the recently-widowed woman down the street? Do we offer babysitting to a family whose parents are overstressed and burdened (that recently was blessed upon me)? Not that that kind of serving is "little," but it isn't as BIG-SOUNDING as the above mentioned example? 

Big or little? Far or near? This or that? 

I don't want to judge one or the other - the point is that you need to ACT. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17 once again). 

Yes, I understand there are so many cries for help. So many men, women, children, abroad and in our own country, state, town, street. Where ought we put our focus? 

Do we need to worry so much on the Where? On the How? Ought we just focus on the DOING of something? 

Stay with me here. 

What if EVERY ABLE person donated money to either a sponsorship program or money to a program that helps the poverty-stricken? Or what if EVERY ABLE person donated time at local soup kitchens, hospitals, or cooking dinners for that sick neighbor...

does God care about the HOW? He helps makes things happen.  But we have to make the WHAT. We need to make the first step. The ACTION. God will make the HOW of our steps. He will use us to do His good if we allow Him to. 

Now listen to this:

Our God is a God of HOW. He needs us to do the WHAT. He will direct us, guide us, if we let him.  

Do you feel a little less overwhelmed? When I realized this - that I didn't have to fret over how my help was directed - just that I had to make that step to help...when I realized that God would take my help and use it for His glory and good, I felt so much lighter. 

We all try to be God once in a while, don't we?

But God is God and we are human. Flawed humans who sometimes don't know what to do with all of our privileges, yet at the same time some of us don't know how to ask for help for what we need. 

Let God be God and let us do what we need to do: take action. 

I feel so passionate about this, folks. I was explaining this whole concept to my husband in the car and I was almost crying. I was so grateful to God for laying these thoughts and realizations on my heart because I feel it's so important to share. 

You don't need to feel guilty or overwhelmed or jaded or think you can't possibly make a difference. The TV may make you think you have an obligation to this or that in a foreign country. And maybe you do. Is that something that calls to you? For some, it is. And God bless their souls and acts!

But maybe you feel called to help out locally - for the homeless or needy families in town. 

The point is, my lovely friends who have stuck with me and are still reading this long blog post, is that you must first do something in order for the glory to go to God. 

If I may digress a little, let me say that I am the first to admit that I am a bit selfish at times. I want to do my thing the way I want to do it. But I am tired of the selfishness. And I do feel called to go abroad and place myself in a country that is in desperate need. I want to force myself to serve others. Am I going to book the tickets next week? No, I know that trip will have to wait until God provides. 

BUT I know I can work on that selfish nature by looking around in my own neighborhood. There is a woman at church who is in the hospital for a brain aneurism. She is such a sweet soul and I want to check up on her. And God has called me to serve my stepchildren. They are broken in their own ways. They have food, clothing, shelter, but they are very needy in emotion. They crave love and I need to make myself available to them. That sounds easy, but trust me - for me, it isn't. 

So what I am trying so hard to say is...

just act. Don't worry about the HOW and just do the WHAT. 

God is a mighty God, God is an awesome God. He is a mover and a shaker. 

Trust in Him. Act. Be His vessel. Glorify Him with your good deeds and kindnesses. Look outside of your own personal box and make yourself aware of the needs around you. 

In giving, we receive. 

My dears,

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  

 Colossians 3:12

May God bless you with ideas and passion and may He work your work, may he make your WHAT glorify Him and what Christianity is all about and may He work a miraculous HOW through your efforts.

Now, enjoy this song that has the lyrics that talk about what I've been talking about:
Steven Curtis Chapman's "Do Everything."

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