But First, Pray.

Feeling a burden to help out? Have you asked God for direction?

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

- Isaiah 1:17

When we think about all of the injustice in the world, it can paralyze us. We think we have to do it all. But, let me unburden you right now. 

THAT'S. NOT. YOUR. JOB.

Your job is to follow Jesus. That’s it. You seek him. You pray. You fall on your knees in gratitude for his extravagant love for you. You just sit at his feet and listen. THEN, and only then, will he show you what he has planned out for you to do. But, we tend to get this backwards. We think that we need to go and do good things, pile them all up, and then impress him. Oh no, that’s not the heart of Jesus. His heart is to carry that burden WITH us, to equip us, to lead us, even to carry us as we respond in love to the needs of others. Let me give you an example from my own life.

Several years ago, I felt this overwhelming burden to do something to help refugees. I saw their plight everywhere on the news, and it just broke my heart. I had to do something. How could I not help? But, the local organizations that I reached out to were all closed doors. There simply wasn’t a place for me to do anything. I was super frustrated. I wanted a way to help even just one displaced person. I knew they were out there, in my own community. But, what could I do? How could I meet them? In my helpless frustration, I started praying. 

Do you see my problem already? Prayer was my last resort, not my first response. I was going to do something, I was going to be a part of the solution, I was going to make a difference! But, I hadn’t taken into consideration Jesus' plan at all. So, I backed up and started over, this time with him at the center. It’s not that my desire to help out was bad, I simply went at it half-cocked without even asking Jesus what I should do with the desire that he had so clearly given me.

Not long after this, a new friend from church asked me if I would think about teaching ESL classes and Bible lessons to local refugees. She asked me! And, I knew it was precisely what my God had planned for me. This was it! He had heard and answered my prayer. He made a way for me to use my passion and my gifts to help the people I felt so burdened to serve.

I could tell you tons of stories of how Jesus blessed me through that time. But, I’ll tell you just one. I ended up mentoring a Syrian woman named Elham for about two years. I would go to her house a few times a month and hang out. She had seven kids and I always had at least one or two of mine in tow. It was a crazy, fun chaos. Sometimes, I taught her practical things like counting change. And, sometimes I showed up to a pair of scissors and a box of hair dye (no joke).  But, visits always involved giant trays of food that we ate together with our hands and strong tea with enough sugar to give my kids the shakes. I can say that I taught her some English and I taught her to drive (maybe the scariest thing I’ve ever done), but she taught me so much more. She taught me about ceaseless hospitality, resilience, and love. She opened her home and her heart to me. She became my good friend, and we still keep in contact years later despite distance.

You see, Jesus had more in store for me than I could ever have hoped or imagined when I first felt the burden to help. I just needed to trust him with the plan. My plan was merely about helping. His plan was about friendship, love, joy, and blessing not just for others but for me too. This is just how he works. When we walk in Jesus' plan, there's a reward and a joy inherently present because he's in the midst of it and that’s just who he is.


 Do you feel a burden to help out in some way?

Have you asked Jesus to show you his plan?


 

Natalie co-founded Dwell with her sister, Vera. Together, they're committed to helping others connect with God each and every day. Natalie also hosts our weekly podcast, Dwell Differently. She and her husband, Jason, live in Chicago with their 5 kids, where Jason pastors  First Free Church


2 comments

  • Thanks for your encouraging words. I am so glad that you took the opportunity God put before you. There is no better place than being smack dab in the center of his will for us!

    natalie
  • Your story touched my heart. Praying as a last resort . . . You’re not alone. I’m making an effort to pray first! Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. But recently God worked in my life in a very similar way as in your story. An opportunity for ministry opened up in a place I never considered. Ugh . . . and I almost said, “No”. But I didn’t! These glimpses of answered prayer are such an encouragement to trust God more.

    Susan

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