The power of “I’m here”

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2017

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”

(1 Thessalonians 3: 9-10)

I have learned over the years that if you’re going to give someone bad news you should tell them in person, but if you’re going to encourage someone, it should be written down.

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Why? Because negative things don’t need to be thrown back in your face. Bad news is burdensome, it’s for the here and now, and it’s not meant to be carried around. Encouraging news, on the other hand, is powerful. When you are able to look back upon it in trying times you are able to find comfort and strength.

I have been there before. As a pastor, I have seen troublesome and discouraging times. Unfortunately Christians don’t always behave like Christians (if you’re reading that for the first time, I’m sorry to disappoint you). We can be rude, unmerciful, insensitive, unforgiving, unloving, betraying, and just downright hurtful at times.

Notice I said WE. I have been tempted to have those same reactions towards my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have even given in to that temptation before. Nevertheless, I have been on the receiving end of the aforementioned as well. I have felt lonely, disappointed, discouraged, hurt, betrayed, and attacked, and it’s in those moments that I have received some of the kindest, most genuine, and uplifting words from my family in Christ.

And I have proof of those words. I keep them all. Yes, I am a pack rat of just three things: baseball cards, North Carolina Tar Heels memorabilia, and encouraging notes and cards from my church family. Now that I just lost half of my reading audience because I unapologetically proclaimed my love for UNC, I will continue on.

I have these encouraging cards stored in small boxes in my church study. These are letters written to me in some of my ministry’s most difficult moments. You have no idea how much they have helped me press forward over the last ten years. Simple, yet powerful words that have brought me out of despair and into the loving embrace of God.

Whenever I am being tempted to give up in my hurt, I just look into the box of encouragement, and I find strength because someone took the time to say: “I’m here. I love you. I care.”

Paul did the same thing for the Thessalonian church. If you have never read these two powerful letters before, it would be well worth your time! This was a new church, young in their faith, and they were going through times of persecution, fear, worry, pain, temptation, and deception from their enemies. Unfortunately, their three pastors, Paul, Timothy, and Silas, were pushed out of their homeland due to the rising threats of persecution, and couldn’t be with them physically.

So what does Paul do? He writes to them. He encourages them. He prays for them in their intense struggle. He calls them to persevere in their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and reminds them that better days are just ahead. And in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, he reminds them: “I’m here. I am praying for you. I thank God for you. You bring me joy.”

To me, the absolute best form of ministry that you can offer someone who is going through trials is your love, your time, and the affirmation of presence. I have lost count of the number of times that I felt like that I was in over my head and overwhelmed with discouragement and hurt, and then received a reminder from someone who cared that they were there to pray and help if I was ever in need.

I write today to bring you that same encouragement today to someone who may be reading and in need of hope, strength, and encouragement. Know today that God infinitely loves you, and He will see you through the season you are in no matter how difficult it may be.

Also, for what it’s worth, know that I care, I’m here, and that I will pray for you and minister to you if you are ever in need. I want to encourage you to make yourself available to those around you as well. Be a source of encouragement and hope to those in need of strength and hope. Make a call, write a letter, or make a visit. Don’t ever underestimate the power of “I’m here.” 

– Rev. Peter McDonald, Midway Baptist Church