I got news on Sunday that a dear friend had passed away suddenly. I had not seen Linda since 2005, but we had stayed in contact, and especially so these last few months. She was one of my friends who told me that she prayed for me, and for Dante, every night, and that was so encouraging and comforting. So, even though I had not seen her in so very long, Sunday night I could feel that she was no longer with me. I could feel the loss.
The whole incident has caused me to think much about all of my friends who have walked with me through so many of life’s adventures. And I have thought about how important the prayers, encouragement, advice, comfort, and understanding of my friends have been over the last almost a year now, and especially over the last seven-eight months as I have moved here to Oregon, and the events that have happened since then. I truly couldn’t have done it without you all!
I am reminded that this is the way that God intends it to be. In Ephesians 4, we are told that we are members of one body, each with our unique gifts and tasks to be used to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” (v.12) 1 Corinthians 12 also teaches the same concept. 1 Corinthians 12 also adds that we are to suffer together, and to be honored together. (v.26) Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “carry one another’s burdens.” Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” As I type these verses, I am reminded that Jesus said that we will be known as his disciples by the love that we show for one another. (John 13:35) I think this will never be more evident than when we are rejoicing with each other, weeping with each other, helping each other carry a heavy burden, or building each other up.
1 Corinthians 12:25 also warns us to not allow any division between us. Jesus also taught us that a divided house will not stand. (Mark 3:25) The devil likes nothing better than when he gets us to fight with each other, so we must carefully guard against that. We are at our best when we are building and strengthening each other, not tearing each other down. And the world will notice. I can remember one time when a university student in Taiwan attended church for the very first time. When asked afterwards what she thought of the church, she mentioned two things: 1) Wow! You all love each other! 2) What is the meaning of the flowers at the front of the church near the speaker? (Remember, she was used to offerings of various sorts at the front of a temple.) I have laughed often about our flowers at the front of our churches since then, but also always remembered that the thing that impressed her most was the love the church members had for each other.
And so I just wanted to share here with you my renewed conviction of how important the work of the Body of Christ if to the members. This past year has been tough as we have not been able to meet together so frequently. But there are still ways to encourage each other. I have received emails, letters, cards, messages, phone calls, and gifts. In addition, the Lord has given me a friend here in Eugene who walks with me and listens to me; her expressed love and understanding and advice have been monumental in keeping me sane! EVERY ONE has been an encouragement and comfort, and the Lord has used them to keep me going through the difficult times. Thank you to each and every one of you!!
Just as a P.S. For those of you who know him, Dante seems to be recovering from his surgery very well. Saturday, I saw him at the game (via TV) walking without crutches and bending those sore knees. (He had surgery on Jan. 20th on both knees!) I even saw him jump up one time and walk to a teammate who was on the floor to help him stand back up! Thank you so much for your prayers for him!