Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Telling It As It Is

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

At last! Someone who tells it as it is. Who is this someone who is under great pressure, far beyond his ability to endure, despairing even of life? Paul wrote it, but his words might well describe feelings that I have felt. I don’t claim to be manacled in a prison and under a death sentence, but there have been times when I have reached the end of any resources I thought I possessed and no light at the end of the tunnel gave me hope that there were better days ahead.

Did I inform anyone about my hardships? My knee-jerk reaction is to say “No”, but having thought about it, there have been times when I have shared my hardships with people. There has always been a determination to try not to say anything, to keep silent. Inevitably something will be said, or done, and the floodgates will open.

Paul didn’t give the impression anywhere that he was ashamed of having to admit to such feelings of despair. He didn’t sanitise his words. He didn’t make light of his situation. He didn’t gloss over how he was feeling. He didn’t try to wrap up his faith-children in cotton wool. He shared the reality of his experience.

He didn’t paint a depressing black picture and leave it at that. He went on to declare “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” and that “He (God) has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. Sometimes it is all too easy to bring to mind the times when it was not apparent that we had been delivered. Paul had his fair share of being stoned and ship wrecked, flogged and imprisoned. Paul chose to remember the times when he was delivered and declared his confidence that just as God had delivered him in the past, He would continue to do so in the future. Right now, in the present, he couldn’t see it happening – but faith said that it would.

What helped Paul was knowing that his friends and his faith-children were praying for him.

“You help us by your prayers”.

What is the opposite truth to helping someone by our prayers? If we are not aiding someone, supporting someone or serving someone by our petitioning God on their behalf what are we doing instead? There doesn't seem to be an obvious opposite to "Help". "Hinder", perhaps?

If we are not helping someone by praying – I think we are hurting someone by failing to pray. I don’t think that it is just the case that with the absence of prayer nothing positive happens – but I believe negative things are given free reign to happen because we failed to make a stand.

I know that when times of hardship happen I am better able to cope when I know that someone is praying for me. If they didn’t know what my hardships were, they wouldn’t know where they need to make a stand on my behalf. If I didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t know.

Tell it as it is. It’s not negative talk. It is not speaking curses on ourselves. It is a first step. Telling it as should be by faith is our second step. Sharing how it is and how we would believe it will be with others is the not an optional ingredient. It’s the third step

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