The Faith Of My Friend

If we are lucky, we have a friend who has faith that makes you take a step back in awe. If you are friends with Cheryl Binegar, you are lucky, because you have that friend. Cheryl has always impressed me with her reliance, her joy, her care for others and her purity, purity of intention and purity of action.

There was a man in the Bible that most are familiar with, Job, whom God credited like this, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” And to that came the response from the terrifying restless wanderer, the acceptance of the challenge “Surely he will curse you.”

My friend is going through a very tough time, helping her parents through incredibly difficult health issues. There is sense of living loss without absence that can walk beside us when we travel with our loved ones as their health fails, and it is unlike anything else I’ve known. I imagine it is unlike anything Cheryl has known either.

She has been support to so many, and my hope is that she is receiving the same measure of support in return, good support. As Job sat wishing he’d never been born after the decimation of everything he loved and valued, his friends saw him from a long way off, saw his trouble and they suffered with him. In Job 2, we read that “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

These well intentioned friends who loved Job started their attempts to comfort him, just by being with him. Just being present. And that was such a good thing. It shows the depth of their care for him, that they would sit with this man who was ceremonially unclean, covered in sores. They could have looked on and said, “I’ll send a nut and fig basket to the friend of ours who we all believed to be the best of the best, but I’m not going near him til he is recovered.” Skin afflictions were viewed as expressions of soul afflictions at that time, so the watching world, seeing Job’s family, livelihood, property, possessions and finally his health could have immediately declared him to finally be exposed for some secret sin and shame. But they don’t. They come to him and they suffer with him.

They must truly love him, but in the many chapters to follow they try talking him through his situation, but in doing so they express their own questions about Job and God, their own doubts, their own fears, and their own sorrow. We’ve all been there. In a dark place with friends who offer advice or commentary that doesn’t suit or may even sting. If you are honest with yourself, you’ve been that friend, not knowing what to say, saying something that comforted you once and seeing the other person’s face change, and you wish you could have said it better. We’ve all said, “I wish I knew what to say.”

I wish I knew what to say.

Cheryl is facing now a difficulty that is recognizable as painful. If you’ve lived what she is living, even a portion of it, then you will, as Job’s friend’s, see her suffering from a long way off and ache for her. If you haven’t experienced sickness in those you love, I know you know it’s terrible, but when I entered into my own experiences with this, I remember clearly sitting with my brother as we shared that we just didn’t understand before. It is a blessing to be outside of that knowledge.

Cheryl is in a beautifully supportive community and has built for herself with her sweet, funny love for everyone she meets a response team who wants to care for her. I’m not even there and I trust that it is so, because I know those lovely people that she has loved in action and I know that they will love her in action in return. But when anyone sits in presence with someone going through what she’s facing, it is natural to accompany commentary as Job’s friends did, with our own doubts, our own fears and our own sorrows.

And the faith of my friend, y’all….

This girl….

Her heart is not just to graciously accept the comfort given, but to share the peace and the comfort she already has.

I want to share this with you, this bit from a Facebook post she made the other day. She says…

“I will end with this. Many of my friends have really struggled with how long my family has been going through this trial. They don’t understand why God wouldn’t just heal her. I will never pretend to understand the Lord’s purpose for allowing this struggle, but I do know that I have seen so much good arise from it. God isn’t my genie in a bottle who grants my wishes. He does love me and my family and never intended for the world to end up so broken. But He has given me what He said He would. That is peace through this and the hope of a future. He doesn’t owe me a comfortable life here. I get that and honor Him through this painful season. 🙏🏼”

Cheryl has peace that passes all understanding, an incredible thing because these trials she faces are outside of reason. So many would be driven to despair, and yet Cheryl, and I believe her parents who are living this, are driven to hope. Not because they are naive, not because they are simple, not because they are fools and not because they are weak.

They are driven to hope, because they have that kind of friend one in the same as the one who they call Savior.

I will tell you, if you have a friend like Cheryl, you are richly blessed.
Cheryl will tell you, if you have a friend like Jesus, you are eternally blessed.

Pray for my friend Cheryl, and for her parents, and for her family. And pray for those supporting her, that they will have eyes that see and ears that hear, so that they too may know peace like she does.


Do Not Fear?

     Our generation is marked by fear and anxiety, taking pills to manage something we think is a new epidemic. Right now, maybe more than ever, anyone with anything to sell knows the currency value of fear. Write the name of a concern on a price tag, slap it on and people will flock to pay dearly for that product.

Before I go any further, let me pause. This is not a post down on pills. There have been times that I have needed medicine to help breath deeply enough to function, and while long term those have not worked for me, and while long term I FEAR what impact they might have on a person (yes, I just said I’m fearful of that, I get it) I do not begrudge people looking for medicine to receive help for the very real causes and effects of anxiety. Unpause.

Over and over God tells us “Do not be afraid” more than probably anything else in the Bible. Fear has plagued humanity since the beginning of time and from the first moment fear reared up, hiding in the Garden of Eden crouched half naked behind a bush, God was concerned for our fear and looked to relieve us of it.

When I was 17, I was a scared broken girl trying to make sense of my world.In those days the panic would sneak around the corner and stick it’s leg out, causing me to crash to the floor, knocking the wind out of me. It was in one of those moments, post-fall, that I first experienced peace that passes all understanding, and knew, God is real, and if this peace was what He could give me, I wanted all of it.

When I was 18, I was still scared, still broken, and still trying to make sense of my world. Fear had walked around the corner by then, no longer needing to hide and jump out at me, but rather setting up as a roommate. One night through conversation with a friend and a mentor, I realized that God wasn’t doing this to me, that He saw my pain and He longed to pick me up, rock me and comfort me. Oh the sweet realization of God as Abba.

And for 16 years, I evicted fear. Sure there’d be moments of worry, moments of concern, moments of cares, but all in all it was manageable. God had seen me drowning in this internal struggle and had pulled me up.

In the fall of 2015 I was in an incredibly difficult situation, a truly unhealthy work environment. I walked around the corner and bam, tripped right over Panic’s outstretched leg. I found myself back in the clutches of fear and those attacks this time felt double shameful. Did I no longer trust God? Was I failing at my faith?

This time the water washing over me was not an internal ocean, but an external one. I often look back at that time now and think of an animal who licks it’s fur off because off stress. I needed medicine to help me for a time, but it was plain to me reading the doctor’s face that the best rx for me would be a change in circumstances. God got me out of that situation, and I can’t tell that story in one sentence, one paragraph or even one blog post, but it was absolutely the hand of God rescuing me. The next time I went to my doctor, having quit the medicine, to tell her I had absolutely no need of it, her jaw dropped in amazement.

It has been well over a year now since that overwhelming fear has been a part of my life. Certainly there has been worry and concern and care, but never outright panic. Friends, whether it is internal or external, God wants you to hear this, “Do not be afraid.” He has the peace and the power to overcome the terror that is out there and He is so ready to hand them both to you.

I had the blessing of a conversation with a dear friend this week that reminded me of all that God has done for me in the area of fear over the past 20 years. It had been a bit of time since I’d revisited the story in the context in which it was discussed and it served me so well to remember that first time I experienced His peace, peace that passes all understanding.

That is my prayer this morning for my friends, for my church and for my country.  Peace that passes all understanding and power to overcome.

Do not fear.