With Love Column
By ANNIE WESCHE
Exhausted in body and aching in my soul, I yearned for the smallest measure of reprieve from the intensity our family was walking through. My beloved mum was enduring a difficult battle with brain cancer and the aftermath of a stroke, and for several long months we all felt pressed and stretched on every side.
Though we were uncertain of what the outcome would be with her health, the Lord was undeniably present and intimately known to us as we held tightly to Him. Taking a day at a time, under the great demands each one held, we leaned into His faithfulness.
My mum was enduring the greatest suffering, but I was walking through my own unique valley at her side. I was physically exhausted from giving around-the-clock care, mentally overwhelmed managing all her needs and medical appointments, and in emotional agony over watching my precious mum suffer … and at the thought of losing her. The aching heaviness drew me many times into my room where I would shut the door, fall to my knees, and release my tears in God’s presence.
True to His promise, He was the God of All Comfort. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3.) Even when the suffering didn’t lift and the future remained uncertain, I found peace after freshly laying my burdens in His care and looking once more at His great love and goodness. Again and again, I would enter prayer with my fears, worries, and heartaches, and then rise up from my knees with renewed assurance that He was with us and for us in the midst of it all.
But in addition to the very real comfort found in prayer, there was another element of grace that God used to beautifully minister to me in that valley season: the encouragement of the Body of Christ rallying alongside our family. One of the most significant ways for me came through the reoccurring gentle, “ding” on my phone, announcing a text message. Even before I would open up the text, my spirit would lift by the simple reminder that our family was present in the heart of another. We were not walking through this trial alone. Our battle was not forgotten.
My dear friend, Mandy, was especially faithful to text encouragement throughout the course of those deeply trying months. Her messages often began with God’s Word — giving me a reminder of the Rock beneath my feet that I could confidently stand upon:
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:13-14)
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” (Deut. 33:27)
My heart steadied on His Word.
Soon another “ding” would sound, this time with a personal message from Mandy encouraging me to hold fast to the Lord:
Annie, remember just in this past week how the Lord has tenderly guided you … as you waited upon Him, resting your faith and courage in Him … He strengthened your heart.
God is WITH you, dear friend, and His perfect love is surrounding and leading you. You are His beloved, hemmed in with tender care and His watchful eye upon you. You are in that safe place — IN Christ.
And what’s more, your mum is in that safe place — IN Christ. No matter what the circumstances boast … no matter the physical issues she is experiencing in her body … she is HELD and KEPT in the kind-hearted and fierce love of God. NOTHING can touch her that He doesn’t permit — she is covered in the power of His great love, safe and secure.
Her words ministered to me in the midst of my weariness. As my eyes blurred with tears, I meditated on this life-giving truth and freshly worshipped God for His faithful love over each of us.
Wiping my eyes so I could see, I opened the next message:
“When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2)
Do you remember on our frequent drives to the mountains, how at a certain point as we drive through a small, populated area, there is a sign that says, “In case of flooding, climb to safety”?
When floods come (or when the enemy comes in like a flood!) we climb to safety (lead me to the rock that is higher than I). The rock we climb to for safety? The LORD is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer (Psalm 19).
Climb to that high place of truth, dear friend, and don’t make an inch of descent. Cling to those Words of promise. Hold afresh to His faithfulness. This is the Rock that is HIGHER … higher than the flood waters threatening to overcome.
Her texts continued that day … and many days thereafter. Her sincere heart to share in our suffering was a comfort and an expression of God’s love. And the timely truth she reminded me of was powerfully encouraging. She was living out how we, as the Church, are called to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thes. 5:11). Mandy’s words were “as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29 ESV). Another version says, “according to the need” — what a beautiful picture of encouragement that flows out of wisdom, discerning the needs of the present circumstances.
Mandy’s words brought hope, and they built me up whenever I was growing heavy and weary. Though she was many miles away, it was just as if she had put her arm around me and walked with me to the high ground, to stand upon the Rock that was far above our family’s circumstances, so I could feel the refreshing breeze of God’s peace and see with eternal perspective above the storm.
Our present trials did not disappear, but the words of encouragement from Mandy and countless others were like a strong embrace from the heart of God and like rays of sunlight streaming into our darkened valley. Their encouragement was life-giving, strengthening, and steadying as we continued to walk through what God had sovereignly and lovingly allowed.
I know that it was because of Mandy’s daily walk with Jesus, her time in His Word, and her attentive response to His Spirit’s leading that her encouragement was so effective in ministering comfort, hope, and courage to my heart in that deep valley season.
Perhaps you have had times of genuinely desiring to encourage someone, but your words were not well- received. And perhaps you’ve had moments where you were at a complete loss in knowing what to say to someone in challenging circumstances. I have been there as well. But we can be confident that if His Word has called us to encourage one another, we can — by His enabling — grow in the grace, wisdom, and discernment to do it well. As we walk closely with Christ, He is the very resource we need to be a great encourager! And as we see the opportunity to encourage someone, may we look first to the One who knows what is needful and ask Him for the right words that will effectively build up, bring life, and give hope in Him. What a truly beautiful opportunity He has shared with us — to be encouragers in His name and to lift up the life of another.