"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1 ESV) Reading in Philippians this morning, this verse caught my eye. Perhaps it caught my eye because I had also read Psalm 13. That Psalm starts with the words, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must i take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" (Ps. 13:1-2a ESV) And I thought of those who carry a tremendous burden on their heart, those who face a crisis like no other crisis, those who struggle each day to face the rising sun because the night has brought them terror or sorrow and the day will only cause their hearts to ache even more. I thought of you.
Like Paul, my heart aches for those who are struggling in their lives. I love each of my people deeply. Who are "my people"? Those whom God has given to me to serve and shepherd. Through these 26 years of ministry, the Lord has brought me to love and care for many people of many congregations. Currently, He has brought me to the saints of St. Paul's, Troy. They are the ones that are near and dear to my heart, even as the Lord has given me others who continue to be near to me or are becoming that way. The love of Christ touches lives in the parish and outside the parish. Like Paul, I can say, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy..." (Philippians 1:3-4 ESV)
One of our members brought up the thought of those who are going through tragic incidents in their lives have the choice of facing those times as victims or survivors. She was looking at it from the clinical point of view, which is very valid and very important. But what she said is so very true. You will either survive the crisis, the tragedy or whatever you are facing or you will be a victim and tormented by it day after day. Those are the choices. To be a survivor does not mean that you forget or are instantly "healed" from the pain or suffering of the moment. You still face all those emotions, pains and sorrows. The difference becomes in whether you are going to overcome or are you going to be overcome. The answer is not easy. Nor does it come from a resolve that lies deep in our heart. We cannot look inside and find the strength that we need to face the crisis of life.
Instead, we must look outside of ourselves, much like David shows in Psalm 13. "How long?" he cries. "How long?" you cry. At that moment you wonder if David is a victim or a survivor. But things turn in the Psalm. They turn from the focus being upon David alone to his relationship with the Lord. He writes, "But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13:5-6 ESV) The situation of his life hasn't changed. What changed was David. He changed from focusing upon being overcome by the situation to turning to the One who gives strength to overcome - the Lord.
In another Psalm, David writes, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright." (Psalm 20:7-8 ESV) Only in the Lord is strength to be found. Only in the Lord is there power to overcome the crisis of the moment or the challenge of life. He gives strength. He gives power. He gives all that is needed to face whatever you are facing at this time. He can and will help you through the pain, the suffering, the heart break, and whatever else is encompassing you.
Back to where we began: "Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1 ESV) Stand firm in the Lord - today. Trust in Him. Let His love encompass you. For in the end, it is only the power of the Lord that will help you to survive and overcome whatever you are facing at this moment. He has overcome for you. Through faith in Him, you can also overcome.