Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Alone No More

Dear Friends,

My heart breaks for those struggling through the quicksand of life and just trying to make it on their own from one day to the next. I’ve been there - done that. Most of you know my story. Born into a Episcopalian family. Acolyte at age nine. God’s call on my life as a teenager to be a priest. Walked away from church. Jesus had always been my Savior, and still was, but now He was no longer the Lord of my life. I was in charge now. I was still a “believer,” but I was living my life without God. I was living it my way.

I don’t know when the nightmares started. I never had them when I was young. They were terrifying dreams. They were regular. I dreaded them. In the nightmare, I’d be grieving over a loss, an emptiness. I don’t have the words to adequately describe the gut-wrenching emotional trauma I was experiencing in these dreams. This over-whelming feeling of loneliness was so intensely deep and pervasive that I  would wake up sobbing. My whole day would be ruined by the residual of the dream which just seemed to permeate my soul. I couldn't shake it off. The nightmares of this vividly intense loneliness were so horrendous that there were times I didn’t want to fall asleep at night because I was afraid I’d dream it again. I had them for two decades.

Then in 1994 I walked into a church and the Holy Spirit seized my soul and has never let go of me. Years later, I remembered those nightmares of that loneliness and realized I had not had one since fully giving my life over to God. In the very next moment, I heard the small, still voice of God. He said, “That was your life without Me.”

In my sleep, my soul had been crying out to connect with God. It has been said that we have a God-shaped vacuum in our heart that only God can fill. When that space where God should be is empty, we experience loneliness. And like in my own situation, many feel that emptiness but are unaware that the only One who can fill that void is waiting for them to ask Him into their life. That’s why my heart breaks for those struggling through life without God and trying to make it on their own from one day to the next. They’re doing everything they know how to do and it’s just not working. They’re discouraged, dejected and depressed. They struggle along. Alone and afraid.

Many of them grew up in a Christian family and so they check the “Christian” box under the “religion” question on the survey. But there’s a pervasive loneliness that lingers just under the surface of their days. They are experiencing life without the One who makes it complete. Some try to relieve the pain of that loneliness with alcohol, drugs and television. But the loneliness remains because only God can fill that God-shaped void.

This feeling of loneliness can become even more acute as we age. Children grow and move or are too busy. Illness, death and divorce change our family dynamics. America’s churches enthusiastically create programs and events to reach young families and too often ignore those who are older. 

In the last decade, there has been a huge population increase in Sylmar. Now, 75% of the residents are Hispanic families. In Sylmar schools, 11,544 students are Hispanic and 337 are White. 

The older population in Sylmar is mostly White. Approximately 17,000 of the residents are over the age of 55 years and the large majority of those  are the non-Hispanic Whites. Those who moved families to this rural community many decades ago and never left. This is the people group that the community leaders are concerned about. Making certain this generation has access to health care and activities appropriate for seniors is a priority.

But only the church can take care of their pervasive and unrelenting feelings of loneliness. That’s because we have the One they need. There are few churches in Sylmar which hold services in English. For example, of the six churches in the category of “Spirit-filled,” only one other small church besides ours has their service in English. We will always be a diverse church reflective of our future in Heaven (Rev 7:9) and always reach out to the marginalized and under-served. In Sylmar, that means the older English-speaking generation!

Many of the older generation, face uncertainties and fears as they feel their days coming to an end. The most commonly reported feeling they experience is loneliness. More than ever they need the grace of God, the love of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And, that’s why God brought New Hope Family Church to Sylmar.  Amen?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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