Psalm 23: 1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”
Psalm 23:4 “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
From the beginning of the 23rd psalm we learn some important things that bear remembering wherever life takes us and whatever life throws our way. With the Lord as our shepherd, we have “all that we need”. It doesn’t say all that we want. It doesn’t say all that we’re used to. The Lord meets our needs. You either believe it or you don’t. If you woke up above ground today, you have life. You will eat and you will work within your capacity. You are alive. You have a God who will provide everything you need to get to the end of your day. This God is “close beside you”. You are not going through life alone. You do not go through trouble alone. He never leaves you or forsakes you. You have not been abandoned or forgotten. He has a rod that protects you. You have no idea the terrible things you have been spared. With his staff he will comfort you. He can be leaned on, trusted, and he knows the hurt you feel. He has been there. He knows. He weeps with you. He mourns with you. He will be your strength when you have none.
Pray: “Dear Heavenly Father, what a joy to know that my needs will always be met by you. What a comfort to know I will never face anything in this life alone. In Jesus’ holy name, thank you, Lord, for my protection and care…today and always – Amen.”
Ephesians 6:18 “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
For those who are endeavoring to live a life reflecting the Savior we claim to follow, there are three important (and simple) steps to follow when preparing to step into someone else’s mess. The first is prayer. This might seem to be a ‘no brainer’, but it seems prayer is only a ‘no brainer’ when something terrible happens. What about before something terrible happens? What about after. What about weeks after? We are told in scripture to pray “at all times” and “on every occasion”. We are told to be “persistent” in our prayers. Someone who persists does not give up. With so many people dealing with so much tragedy everywhere, we must make a concerted effort to pray…every day…and often. This should be our first response anytime trouble strikes. It should be a continuing conversation so long as there is need (hint: there is always need someplace…always). When Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers from the temple, he said his father’s house was a “house of prayer”. Today, we are his temple. His Holy Spirit resides within all who have called upon his name in earnest. And so, this temple, you, are to be a “house of prayer”. Make it so.
Pray: “Father, forgive me the times I should have prayed and didn’t. Not a day passes when I don’t need to be crying out to you both in great thanksgiving, and in my own need and the needs of others. In your Son’s powerful name, help me remember that this is and should always be my first response – Amen.”
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The second thing we need to do when stepping into someone else’s “mess” is simple – to be “present”. Jesus modeled this for us. He was always where the need was. I know that sometimes we don’t know what to do. Many of us are at a loss for the right thing to say. But in truth, sometimes all that is needed is just to be there. Another person sharing their misery. An arm around a shoulder or perhaps a shoulder to cry on. A brother or sister who is willing to shoulder their burden for a while. Yes, we meet the need if we can. Thirsting people need water. Hungry people need food. But even when you have no idea what else to do – sometimes it is simply enough to show up. As the church, we are called to this very thing. We do the things the rest of the world won’t. We go places others don’t want to or won’t. We are not constrained by color, age, surroundings, smell or social status. As God is our “refuge and strength”, we are to be his hands and feet in this world. And when there is trouble of any kind, we too are to be a “very present help”.
Pray: “Lord God, sometimes people don’t need things – they just need to be reminded they are not alone. In your Son’s holy name, remind me, Lord, that if I am nothing else…I must be “present” – Amen.”
1 Corinthians 9:25-26 “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
The final step in jumping into someone else’s mess is to keep in mind a greater purpose than the immediate, physical need. Yes, we need to help in meeting the physical needs and sustenance of the unfortunate. But all the things we do in this life, even the “good” things, will eventually fade away. Our awards will be forgotten and our trophies will gather dust. Our accomplishments will become buried in the passing of time. When we act, it should be with purpose. And our purpose should be something greater than the here and now. We should do all we do with an eye towards the eternal. Do the things we say bring people closer to knowing Jesus? Do the things we do show them the selfless love of God amidst the selfish world in which they live? We have been given gifts with which to fulfill the purpose for which God put us here. It is not just a present purpose. It is also an eternal purpose. Ultimately, the second is far greater than the first. We are not just to be purposeful occasionally. We are not just to be purposeful seasonally. We are to be purposeful “in every step”.
Pray: “Heavenly Father, it is far too easy to lose track of my eternal purpose when dealing with the everyday circumstances of life. But this life and all that is in it will eventually fade away. In the name of my blessed Lord and Savior, let eternity ever be on my mind and before my eyes, as I attempt to live each day…every step…with eternal purpose – Amen.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Mankind had fallen and we were in “real trouble”. There was nobody (and I mean nobody) to help us. The only one who could was under no obligation to do so. So great was his love, that Jesus was not afraid to leave the comforts and glory of heaven and step down into our mess. Scripture is clear why Jesus came: “He reached down from heaven and rescued me” (Psalm 18:16), “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him” (Matthew 14:30-31), “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). He came to rescue us from our trouble. We had fallen and he came to lift us up. We are called to be that second person. We rescue those we have the ability to rescue. When someone is sinking, we need to be the hand that grabs them before they go under. And in the strength the Lord gives us, we help to raise up those who have fallen for when we were down he came and raised us up.
Pray: Lord God, we were never intended to go through this world alone. Even those on the ark traveled two by two. When we separated ourselves from you – we were alone. In Jesus’ mighty name, thank you for not leaving us in our trouble but sending Jesus to be our second, to pick us up, and to one day raise us up to be with you…forever – Amen.