Hard Times

The area I grew up in is well-known for its blue crabs.  In the summers, my dad would bring home live crabs to cook for our family.  On one particular occasion when I was very young, I remember carefully watching the baskets of crabs and being amazed at how the entire basket pulsated from the panicking crabs.  I also noticed there wasn’t a top on the basket.  I became highly concerned that the crabs would escape and bite someone . . . namely me.  I asked my dad if someone (namely him) should put a lid on the crabs.  He told me the crabs wouldn’t escape because the others wouldn’t let them.  I wasn’t 100% sure I believed him, so I watched carefully and it was true!  None escaped. I watched as crab after crab climbed to the rim of the basket only to be pulled back into the basket by the next would-be escaper.  If those crabs would have worked together they all could have escaped (and I wouldn’t have chased them).  

Some years ago, when the Rescue Mission was facing financial difficulties I went into survival mode.  I felt if the organization failed, I had failed the organization.  I started my days very early with prayer.  The earliness of the hour wasn’t because of my selfless love for God or my great faith, but because I was stressed and couldn’t sleep due to the burden I was carrying.  I prayed for God to take care of the problem and then ran around in a panic trying to help God answer my prayer and save God’s reputation.  I ran until I had nowhere else to run to and no more energy to run with - then I would pray again.  Although I knew God would take care of us, I still stressed because He wasn’t working fast enough (for me) and He wasn’t sharing the details of His plan.

The Board of Directors came together to discuss the situation and create a plan but first we prayed, asking God to have His way.  We asked God to show us what He wanted us to do and not do, and what He wanted us to learn from our situation.  Coming together with them helped to ease my worries.  Seeing their trust and peace helped mine.  The situation didn’t immediately change, but I no longer felt alone.  Their faith gave me faith.  During those prayer times, I heard God whisper to me, “You can trust me; the Rescue Mission is mine; the people are mine — and you are mine.”  I stopped running and began waiting and listening.

The staff here is awesome and they do a lot to help people overcome their hardships.  Our approach is to help people help themselves and our team genuinely cares and works hard to empower the people they serve.  However, we are not the only assistance our residents receive in-house.  What most people don’t know is the people here are not only helping themselves, they are helping others as well. A lot of ministry, support, and healing take place when the staff is not around.  Seeing the compassionate spirit in the people here is a blessing.  Although they are going through equally difficult circumstances, they are able to give comfort, impart confidence, and share camraderie.  We’ve witnessed residents coming together to pray for each other.  We often see the older women helping a young mother with her kids.  We see people stepping into another’s loneliness.  

It’s unfortunate that so often when hard times come, we do the exact opposite of what we really want or need.  We go it alone.  We isolate.  The truth is we’re built for relationship and hard times make the need for relationship even more apparent.  It reminds me of this passage of scripture. 

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

It seems there are two responses we can take when hard times befall us.  One is the blue crab approach-- I’ll get myself out of this.  The second is the Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 approach--let's help each other.