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  • Scott Wittig

Encouragement During Crisis

Taking it From Mess to Message If ever there was a time for us to learn how to find the message in a mess, it is right now. Having put many hours and a whole lot of passion into writing Mess to Message just last year, we have decided to pull together the main idea of each of the twelve stories shared and applied it to the circumstances we are facing as a society right now. Following each ‘✝’ you will find helpful scripture, commentary and prayer. Our hope is that we can inspire hope at a time when it is so very needed.

Invite people to a new way of thinking. My friend Allen had the guts to step out of his comfort zone and invite me to a faithful life. As you encounter people dealing with the pandemic in an unhealthy way, dare to share your perspective on another way they could do so. Approach and choice of words are paramount but, done right, may help in immeasurable ways. ✝ Maybe you simply say, “I know you don’t consider yourself “religious” but if there’s something specific I could pray about for you and your family, it would be an honor.” But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Cor. 4:7-9

Consider what passions this pandemic may be igniting in you and act on those strong feelings. We are all connecting to different challenges that are being faced right now. Pay attention to that story you read online and can’t get out of your head, then act on it. Maybe you’ll make PB&J sandwiches for truckers or package food for families in need or make masks for healthcare workers. There is a very small space between inaction and in action. ✝ If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and strive to follow His ways, consider all the times God has nudged you. How many times were those things 1) never what you would have chosen or expected 2) took you way out of your comfort zone, but 3) left you more blessed than before? It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. Deut. 13:4 NIV

Push yourself really hard to find something good or positive to come from this. One of the hardest things I’ve done in my life was to bring together for coffee two dads who each had to bury a child. The purpose of the meeting was to try to get them to articulate anything good or positive or helpful that resulted from their unfathomable loss. They did it and so can you. ✝ PRAYER God, you are more than just a name. You set the planet in motion and threw the stars in the sky. The mountains bow down to your great majesty. As we face uncertainty and heartache that seems too much to overcome, I pray we remember that you can do immeasurably more than we can even think of asking you. Please give us holy courage to lean into You and rely on You when all seems lost so that You can turn our despair into restoration and our hope a reality. In Your Son Jesus’s name, Amen.

Take time to think of the influence others have had on you and how you can honor them by living that out in your actions. If you know someone fighting for their life or who has lost their life in recent days, take a quiet moment to reflect on the good of that person. Were they always telling jokes or doing good deeds or did they simply have a fantastic work ethic? Focus on their good and find a way to live out that good in your life. ✝ David penned Psalm 91 after Saul began hunting him to end his life. It’s a miraculous story I hope you will read in 1 Samuel. In the end, God prevails and restores Saul’s heart from the hatred it had been simmering in (1 Samuel 24). The verses from this Psalm are filled with awe and praise to God for delivering him from his enemy. For us, there are some marvelous reminders of the protection God promises when we are dwelling and abiding in Him. Psalm 91:4—putting us under His wing, Psalm 91:5—gives us confidence so we will not fear, Psalm 91:11—promises us assistance from His angels, Psalm 91:14—promises to rescue and protect us IF we love Him.

Understand that your efforts to do good may not be immediately rewarded and that is ok. Millions of us have seen the acts of kindness video that starts with a man walking down the street who puts a bucket under a stream of water coming from a gutter. This is followed by scene after scene of people committing positive acts toward others, mimicking the behavior they just witnessed. The multiplier effect of your kindness may be huge and you may never know it - be ok with that. ✝ PRAYER Father, give us eyes to see and ears to hear the tasks you want us to pursue in Your Name. Turn down the volume of this world and turn up the one to Your voice so when you call, we answer and act without delay. Give us a heart for Your people and may Your light burn so bright in us that there is no doubt it comes straight from Heaven. Give us courage and strength to follow Your lead even when we can’t make sense of the request. Please grant us peace when you pull us back and we don’t feel as if we have done all we can. Guide our hands, feet, and hearts as we seek to know and serve You daily. Amen.

When faced with your own mortality, knowing that it is not too late for redemption can be a life-saver. None of us are immune to this virus so none of us are immune to thinking about the fact that it could take our life from us. If you are feeling like your scale is a little heavy to the “I could have done better” side, it is never too late to make an effort to balance it out. Reach out and apologize, serve your neighbor or write a check. The main road to redemption has many little roads that merge into it; start out on your own side road and start now. ✝ Ask God to reveal the things in your heart that are creating obstacles to trusting in His plan over yours, following His lead, basking in His love and forgiveness and believing He has the best story written for your life and those around you.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. Psalms 139:23-24 (HCSB)

Assume that others are doing their best with the words they are given and the actions they think to take. We are on a journey through Covid-19, not a guided tour. Not one of us has been through this before, not one. Giving grace to others as they fumble through and say and do what they think is right is a gift we can all give. ✝ Sometimes people don’t need an answer, a solution or a “Don’t worry, be happy” song. They need someone to cry with. Solomon wisely explains that to a weeping person, stories of unicorns and daisies can be damaging and make things worse than they already are. I know I don’t always enjoy it when someone tries to bring sunshine to my rainy day. There are times I need a short pity party.

Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda. Proverbs 25:20 (HCSB)

You will have your own narrative and story to come from this - pay attention while you’re going through it so it can be a story that can serve others in some way. I have been asked more than once what qualified me to write a book. My answer - I had something to share that I thought would help my fellow man. While we are not authors of this story we are living through, we can be the authors of our own story (spoken or written). Pay attention, take notes, keep track - all with a slant of how all that you are witnessing can do something for someone else, now or down the road. ✝ PRAYER Father, today we ask that You enter our hearts and lives. That You take all that is flawed within us and shape it into something new and beautiful. Take our sins, doubts, fears, and shame and cover them with Your love and grace. Mold us and guide us into the children You always desired for us to be. Teach us to lean on You and to trust in Your grand plans for us. To know that You never leave us or forsake us. May we be Your light in this dark world and never pass up an opportunity to share our story and Your great love with each person You place in our path. Amen.

Listen. Whether you are a religious person or not, listen to your inner voice. We live in a noisy world and this is an extremely noisy time. Finding silence and solitude is much easier right now for some and virtually impossible for others. We are all being told what to do to stay healthy mentally and physically but don’t have to only be informed by screens. It may come in prayer time or when you first wake up in the morning or in a quiet moment you are blessed with during the day. Listen. ✝ Sometimes we have to dig into the fear or our first instinctual feelings and ask ourselves why it’s so scary, makes us angry or causes us anxiety. Why do we have a negative response? Once it’s out in the open and we have processed the emotions, they shrink to the size of a sunflower seed compared to the glorious promises of our Creator, King, and Father. May His word continue to pierce our hearts and uncover any offenses so that we can continue to grow stronger in our faith and shine His great Light into the world.

“Lord, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, Lord our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this large army. Yahweh, You are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You.” 2 Chronicles 14:11 (HCSB)

Live a life worth imitating. Be mindful that your last thought could be your last thought, your last action could be your last action and your last word your last word...and others are watching. Your positive attitude, service to others and communication with your world can build a body of work that others will hopefully want to copy. We are all so powerful. ✝ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (NIV) It is impossible for us to change our hearts without God’s help. I urge you to search your heart for the things you have been holding on to but need to let go of. Go to God with the pain, hurt, anger, fear, guilt, embarrassment, stress, and worry. Place it at the foot of the cross.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing your story may do wonderful things for others. The good, the bad and the ugly of your life can serve the rest of us. Sharing how it felt when you had a Q-tip stuck up your nose for the test or how it feels to not be able to visit a loved one in the hospital or what the steps were as you journeyed from a positive test to being back to good health; it is valuable to us and helpful to you when you share it. ✝ With God, who is the same today as He was yesterday and will always be, we can count on a consistent strength and supply of grace, love, and forgiveness. We can trust that when He calls us, no matter what He calls us to do, He will equip us with all we need to complete the task.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

Give it away. Whatever your worry, fear or anxiety may be, find an outlet to give it away. Throw your worries in the lake as you walk by. Write down your fear and toss it in the firepit. Put up a post that tells us what you’re anxious about. You are not alone in your feelings. Fear can disappear once you have the encouragement from others and learn to focus forward. ✝ AND PRAY! On those days when you aren't sure what to pray, are overcome with grief, boredom or such undesirable circumstances you can't think straight but know you need to be on your knees in prayer with God, Psalm 86 is for you. It is called David's Prayer. It is a treasure and covers all we need from the Lord daily. I call it my "God Please" prayer. PRAYER Heavenly Father, please answer me (v. 1), protect my life (v. 2), be gracious to me (v. 3), bring joy to my life (v.4), make me rich in faithful love (v. 5), listen to my pleas (v. 6) and answer me (v. 7), teach me your ways and give me an undivided mind to fear to your name (v. 11), turn to me and be gracious to me, give me Your strength (v. 16), show me a sign of your goodness, help and comfort me (v. 17). In Your Son's Mighty name, Amen. (From Psalm 86)

We wrote Mess to Message for you. Our friend, Jim Ellis, recently recorded the audiobook for you. We all share the beliefs cast forth in the book and we share the belief that we are here to serve each other. Should you choose to buy the book in any of the mediums available, know that every penny will go to help this Coronavirus battle we are in. https://www.amazon.com/Mess-Message-Perspective-Encouragement-Forward-ebook/dp/B07QH3CGK9 © Scott Wittig & Allison T Cain, 2020

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