Listening to Blair’s sermon this week about the Scriptural pattern of desperation leading to delight in the Lord reminded me again of how our lives are full of seasons, of cycles, of ups and downs. Blair’s warning that the times in our lives when we are going through the motions out of “duty,” may be precursors to some pain or suffering — so that we can become desperate, so that we can then find our delight in the Lord — was especially striking.
As we stood up to sing the last song, I found myself slightly afraid of what could be ahead in life. What suffering would have to come my way for God to draw me closer to Him? (Surely not coincidentally, I just started reading the book of Job this week, so the topic of suffering has already been forefront in my mind.)
Then, as we started to sing, my eyes fell on a couple of women a few rows ahead of me, who were worshipping enthusiastically, hands raised in the air. I know these women and some of the suffering they have gone through in life, and what an encouragement it was to me to see that their delight clearly is now in the Lord!
It reminded me of an article I read this week from Christianity Today, called, “The Casserole-Toting Church Ladies Hold the Secret To Happiness.*” The author of the article points out the futility of some of the prevalent pursuits of happiness in our culture, and makes the claim that “we need some new heroes.”
She had recently met several older women who started attending her church, often toting along casseroles to share, and was surprised at the depth she found. Here are some excerpts:
Because these women showed up to church week after week wearing pearls and carrying peppermints in their purses, I assumed they had equally shiny spiritual experiences…
Over the years of worshipping alongside these women, I learned their stories. … One woman had suffered domestic abuse. Another spent her days caring for a husband with dementia. Altogether they had suffered illness, mistreatment, and the death of loved ones. They had experienced trials that, for others, might have been the first page in a story of spiritual wandering.
In the church, too, they persevered. Over a lifetime of churchgoing in various places, they had at times been frustrated by the worship, offended by the members, and disappointed in the elders. And yet, here they still stood. They had worked and worshipped, suffered and yet rejoiced, asked God hard questions and searched diligently for his answer. They had stuck around. And out of their experiences emerged a single story: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:4–6).
… We must never assume that someone who is happy is naïve, someone who is content must also be ignorant, and someone who is faithful just comes by it naturally. Do we want to overcome doubt and persist in the faith? We can learn how from the church ladies.
When I finished the article I had the singular thought that I want to be a CASSEROLE-TOTING CHURCH LADY! (Bonus – I do love casseroles.)
Yesterday, though, as I looked around and saw our own “seasoned” women – ones who have gone through so many of the ups and downs of life – I was struck by the gift that God has given Redeemer through them. Not only do they make us very tasty food at all of our lunches, dinners, desserts, and brunches, but they also remind us that seasons of desperation can end in delight in God. He has not abandoned them, and will not abandon us. Their roots are strong, and their arms are raised, and what an inspiration and example that can be to us all.
One of Blair’s application points in the sermon was to surround ourselves with community, to turn to the Body, when we’re desperate, because misery loves company. But whether miserable or not, I think we’ll all be benefited by spending time with our seasoned women – and men. Seeing how they have made it through suffering with their faith ever stronger makes me not fear suffering as much. Their stories and lessons learned can encourage us all…. and the delicious food is just a bonus!
Mrs. Amy Frank
*The views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the official position of the pastors or the elected leadership of Church of the Redeemer of the Presbyterian Church in America. This is a form for the free expression of views and opinions of our members and others who are invited to write.