Week 26 – BE Strong!

I find myself in need of an extra a good dose of strength this week. How about you? I am not ashamed to admit that at this moment I am weak and feeling completely ‘undone’. You see, I am writing from Thailand where I am visiting an HIV/AIDS orphanage and hospice with my family. We have come to encourage our dear friends who serve the precious people here. However, what we have already witnessed and experienced has thoroughly shaken us. Until this week, I have never before met in person the ugly face of HIV/AIDS. Most surely I have met and battled with the cruel face of cancer and at times ghastly images of this disease claw at my mind and torment me. But now there is another image that strikes out in terror. Yes, I have heard about the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but have never been close enough to smell the kind of suffering and death inflicted by this monster – until now.

The loved ones I have previously entered into suffering with have all been given the very best of care. My family members left this life surrounded by those who loved them and in luxurious conditions. To discover that the women dying here are outcasts because of their condition, and that there is no funding for this little ‘haven of grace’, has uncovered another level of pain and injustice. One nurse works here in the most basic of conditions, ministering to up to seven women who have nowhere else to go to die. What is going on God? This is so unfair! What do you want me to do about this heartbreaking reality?  Where is the hope in this?

Outside the window, orphaned children run about laughing and playing – they now have a place to belong, breakthrough drugs to prevent the disease from getting hold of them and unconditional love lavished upon them here at AGAPE HOME. A knock on the door and in enters our dear friend with a beautiful bunch of flowers to show ‘agape’ love to these women. He informs me later that God used visiting Beth in her last months with us as preparation for this ministry. Again I am humbled and undone, only to return the following day to take part in a funeral. No more pain for one of these daughters who has been gently carried to her eternal Home.

We have talked about this ‘agape’ love of God before and indeed this is what is on display here in multifaceted ways.  These women have come to know Jesus as Saviour in the midst of their suffering through the tender care of His people. Many of these adorable kids are now following Him too – learning about the Father heart of God and His great love for them in their plight. Love, hope, faith, strength, courage and joy – all mixed with the pain and rising above it! I begin to receive His peace and the call to BE Strong summons my heart again…

“My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness; In this world, you will have all kinds of trouble, but don’t worry – I have overcome the world!” These words of Jesus infuse my soul with strength and hope – not just for me, but for each valued soul I have met over this past week.

Yes! BE Strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! In Him is strength to keep loving, living and serving. There is strength to keep moving onward and upwards and sometimes simply enough strength to just keep breathing.

You know, I used to be able to live on ‘borrowed strength’ in the sense that the limited spiritual food I took into my spirit could get me by for days – well so I thought anyway. A good message at church on the Sunday morning and a little bit of Bible reading at some point in the week seemed to be enough to sustain me spiritually. I knew I needed that spiritual food, but life was so busy and going along well – I wasn’t as spiritually hungry then as I am now and I would often just ‘snack’ and neglect eating well. My, how things have changed!  Now I am so desperate for God and NEED to spend time with Him each day in His Word just to survive!

Some days I am so weary of the journey and I long for an easier path to receive this strength. Yet I know in my heart of hearts, like Beth did, that the way to real strength takes courage and determination. It takes waiting on God, it takes patience and it takes some intentional strategic planning to make the time! Our ‘psalm of the week’ (84) is the ‘pilgrim song’ and inspires us that as we trust God, He will indeed keep leading us from strength to strength (with ‘agape’ love) on our pilgrimage. As we stumble and make our way Home to His heart each day, He has promised to fill us with the strength we need. Not only that, He has promised to make our valleys places of refreshment for other weary travelers. Friends, there are SO many more precious promises in this psalm to strengthen all who walk the path of life!

If you are feeling weak like me this week, I hope you are now ready to receive the strength you need. Yes, God commands us to BE Strong, but like every other command He has given us, He is the One to provide the full supply – and the provision is endless! Our Beth learned the secret and so have the staff here at AGAPE – the strength we need to endure and to bless others in the midst of suffering cannot be conjured up on our own. There is only one way to BE Strong”Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord…”

Song to encourage you:

Everlasting God by Chris Tomlin

Email from David:

This week Beth asked our pastor, Geoff, to pass on a message to our church family, “Would you tell the people that it is God who gives me strength each day because I could not do it without Him.” It has been a hard couple of weeks and I couldn’t agree more. (September 2010)

A book to build you up:

When Grief Comes: Finding Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow by Kirk H. Neely