It was Saturday and Ede was at the Harvest Seventh-day Adventist church, hoping that she would get a chance to speak to Pastor Hank before she left. He was in the foyer, flanked by members of the congregation and visitors. She was happy to be there. It was on Wednesday night when she made up her mind to go and her grandmother who encouraged her. “Go. You might learn something. And when you come home, you can tell me all about it.”
“And ask Pastor Hank if he’s free next week Saturday and if he is, invite him to have lunch with us.”
“I will. Do I look all right?”
“You look fine.”
“Thanks, Grandma.” She went over to the window. “They’re here.”
“Say hello to them for me.”
“See you later, Honey.”
Ede kissed her on the cheek. “See you later, Grandma.”
Ede left the house and went down the steps to the waiting car. The Issifou family lived about twenty minutes away. They were members of the Harvest church. Ede called Mrs. Issafou on Thursday to ask her if she could get a ride to the church with them. “Ede, We’re happy you’re coming to Harvest,” Mr. Issifou said now when they were on their way. Ede was sitting at the back with their pre-teen daughter, Omolara.
“I’ve been trying for years to get you to come. What made you decide to come today?” Mrs. Issifou asked.
“I heard that the new pastor is very good.”
“Yes, he is. I think he’s the best pastor we’ve had so far.”
“I agree,” Mr. Issifou said. “He has a way of bringing God’s Word to life and so easy to understand.”
“Yes, he does. If you need anything explained to you, Ede, he’s the best one to do it. He gives Bible Studies too. If you’re interested, ask him about that.”
“Dear, try not to pressure her,” Mr. Issifou said to his wife.
“I’m not pressuring her.”
“I’ve met Pastor Hank before,” Ede informed them. “And he has explained some of the things in the Bible to me. If I have more questions or want to do a Bible Study, I will get in touch with him.”
“Yes. You can call him directly or the church secretary,” Mrs. Issifou told her. “I hope you will be blessed by today’s worship service, Ede.”
“I’m sure I will be, Mrs. Issifou.” Ede was looking forward to seeing Pastor Hank again. The last time she saw him was on Wednesday when she went by the community center and he invited her to watch him and a group of young men play football. Ede’s expression changed when she remembered that Anaïs was there too. It was so obvious to her that Anaïs had her eye on Pastor Hank. Had she no shame? It was sickening how she kept trying to monopolize his attention whenever he was talking to Ede.
When they were alone, she had made it very clear to Ede that she resented her being there. “It was much better the last time when it was just him, me and the guys,” she told her. “Why do you have to be here now, ruining what could have been a fun afternoon?”
“He invited me to come, remember?”
“Yes, but you didn’t have to come. You could have made up some excuse.”
“Why would I do that when I wanted to come?”
Anaïs shook her head and went off in a huff. She was petulant for the rest of the afternoon while Ede enjoyed herself, standing up and cheering. After they left the field, they all went to a place to have burgers and fries before Hank gave Ede a ride home. Outside her grandmother’s house, he said, “I’m happy I saw you today and that you were able to watch the guys and me play football.”
“I’m happy I saw you too and that I was able to enjoy a friendly game of football.”
“Don’t forget that you and I are going to a game on Sunday.”
“I won’t forget.”
“I’ll see you on Sunday.”
“See you on Sunday.”
She smiled now as she thought about how surprised he was going to be when she showed up at Harvest.
Hank saw her when he was on the platform and his eyes scanned the sanctuary. His heart leapt in his chest and he smiled. In his mind, he thanked God for encouraging her to go. He looked away as the special music ended and got up to go to the podium to begin his sermon. “What do you do when life knocks you down? Where do you turn? Do you call a friend or family member? Do you search for the answers online? Do you listen to your favorite music? Or do you reach for the Bible and pray? At some point in our lives, we have do all of the other things before or instead of reading our Bibles and praying. God is always available unlike our friends and family members. And He already knows the situation. We don’t have to explain anything to Him. He knows exactly what we are going through and how we are feeling. He has more answers and wisdom that any search engine or resources online. His peace and comfort are better than what any favorite song can offer. And, we have His promises in His Word which we can claim. They are there for us when we need to trust God in the tough times. For me, personally, Scripture and prayer work the best. They have helped me through some really rough times. I have 10 Bible verses which I use when I need to trust God in difficult times.
Ede sat there and listened intently as Pastor Hank went through the 10 Bible verses one by one. She found a blank page at the back of her Bible and jotted them down. The first one was Matthew 11:28-30.
“When Jesus tells us to cast our burdens on Him, He is basically saying that we should focus on finding strength in Him because He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. When we do this, our burdens become lighter because He is there, doing the impossible, speaking and working miracles in our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust in the Lord instead of trying to fix our problems or brave the situation alone. We’re better off trusting in God who is all knowing than in ourselves or in others. We submit to Him and He will direct our paths. Isaiah 41:10 tells us not to be afraid because God is with us, strengthening and helping us. He is there upholding us and always close by our side. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry. Worrying doesn’t help the situation. God takes care of the birds who depend on Him and we are more valuable to Him than they are. So, we can be sure that He will take care of us too. Nothing happens to us without His knowledge. Sometimes the battle isn’t ours but God’s. In 2 Chronicles 20:15 and 17, God encouraged King Jehoshaphat and the people who lived in Judah and Jerusalem not to be afraid or discouraged because of the vast army which was coming up against them. Why did He tell them not to be afraid? ‘For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” When faced with adversity, don’t run from it but stand firm and trust in God’s faithfulness which He has shown in the past. Isaiah 40:29-31 reassures us that God is by our side and He will give us strength when we feel that we can’t go on because we are weary. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us that these hard times are for a season. They won’t last. Remember weeping lasts for the night but joy comes in the morning. In Isaiah 61:1-3, the prophet is describing how God wants to comfort and console us when we mourn. He wants to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. People put ashes on their heads when they were mourning. God wants to replace those ashes with a beautiful ornamental headdress or a tiara which was worn in times of joy. And the oil was perfumed ointment which was poured on the guests at feasts. During times of mourning the ointment was set aside. The garment of praise was a bright colored garment unlike the sackcloth which was a garment of mourning. Is it possible for us to take off the garment of mourning to put on the garment of praise when we are hurting? I know of a mother who was able to rejoice in the Lord and praise Him even as she was still mourning the loss of her 11 year old daughter. In her time of sorrow and heartache, her faith became stronger as she drew nearer to God. James 1:2-3 says, ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’. It’s hard to find joy in trials but we are told why we should. If it weren’t for these trials we wouldn’t know what we are made of–what kind of faith we have. We won’t know if our faith will hold up or not. It’s easy to have faith when things are going well but not so much when they are not. In verse 12, James declares, ‘Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.‘ Matthew 19:26 reminds us that God is more powerful than anything we are facing. He is greater and compared to Him, the problem or trial becomes small. It goes from a mountain to a molehill. And in Philippians 4:4, Paul tells us that we have God’s peace which is beyond our understanding. Instead of worrying, we go to Him in prayer. We lay our worry at His feet and allow His peace to fill us instead. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:49-50, ‘Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles‘. Like him, we ought to take comfort that God keeps His promises to us. God’s Word is what sustains us in our trials. In verse 92, the psalmist tells us that if it hadn’t been for God’s instructions, teachings, he would have perished in his affliction. God’s instructions, His teachings and His promises are what anchor us to Him. They keep us from sinking into despair or from being overwhelmed by our troubles. Think of God’s Word as our life jacket. It keeps us afloat. It prevents us from going under when life hits us hard. When troubles come your way, grab that life jacket instead of the phone and just as Jesus saved Peter from drowning, He will save you. Fix your eyes on Him instead of on the problem. Remember, it was when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked around him and saw the boisterous winds, that he became afraid and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, ‘Lord, save me’ and immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and pulled him up. When you are going through tough times, don’t look around like Peter did but look to Jesus who can help you.”
Pastor Hank stepped away from the podium and everyone stood for the closing hymn, closing prayer and the benediction. He and the elder who said the prayer and benediction left the platform and walked down the aisle to the the lobby of the church. As he passed the pew where Ede was, he glanced at her and smiled. She smiled back and watched him go through the double doors which were propped open.
“So, how did you like the sermon?” Mrs. Issifou asked her.
“It was very good. I took notes.”
“Good. So, did I. I always take notes so that I can share them with other people.”
Mr. Issifou excused himself and went to talk to one of the elders. “Where’s the washroom?” Ede asked Mrs. Issifou.
“It’s downstairs. Come, I’ll show you.” They left the sanctuary through the front as opposed to through the doors which led to the lobby where Pastor Hank was. Ede was hoping that they would have gone that way. She followed Mrs. Issifou, hoping that before they left, she would get a chance to talk to him.
Ten minutes later, she went back upstairs to the sanctuary through the way she had come and stood at the back, waiting for an opportunity to speak to Pastor Hank. Finally, he went into the sanctuary and she went over to him. He smiled broadly when he saw her. “Hello, Ede.”
“Hello, Father Hank.”
“I’m surprised but very happy to see you here at Harvest.”
“I decided to come this morning.”
“Did you come alone?”
“No. I came with Mr. and Mrs. Issifou. They live right next door to my grandmother and me.”
“They’re a very nice couple.”
“Yes, they are.”
“So, how did you like the service?”
“I liked it very much. The worship music was very uplifting and I found the Sabbath school very interesting. What I really enjoyed was the sermon. I took notes.”
“That’s great,” he replied as he loosened his tie. “There’s a fellowship lunch downstairs. I think the Issifous might be staying. You’re welcome to stay too and meet other church members.”
“Are you staying?”
“No. I was invited to have lunch with the Sabi family. Oh, by the way, I’m free to have lunch next week Saturday with your grandmother and you.”
“I’ll let her know.” Ede tried hard to hide her disappointment that he wasn’t going to be staying.
“I’m sorry, Ede, but I have to go now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Goodbye, Pastor Hank.” She watched him walk through the same exit at the front of the sanctuary she had just come through a few minutes ago. She would just have to wait until tomorrow to see him again. Half-heartedly, she left the sanctuary and went downstairs to partake of the fellowship lunch.