So here’s a question for you: would you rather read about someone’s struggles or their successes? Their trials or their triumphs? Burdens or blessings?
We read – and write – to know we are not alone. We draw strength and encouragement from learning how others navigate the turbulence of life. My friend Robin said it true in an emailed prayer request just this morning, “Burdens are easier when the weight is shared.”
But we also take heart and hope from others’ stories of healing and answered prayer. Scripture instructs us to rejoice with those who rejoice as well as to weep with those who weep (Rm 12:15). If burdens are lightened when they are shared, then joys are multiplied in the same way. The divine mathematic! Journeying alongside one another on this trail we call life is not an either-or experience but a both-and.
I’ve been stunned at the responses that have poured in after I shared our story last week of a terrifying time when my pastor-husband despaired of life itself. Many of you have gone through similar seasons or are in one now. We not only empathize, but we know better how to pray for you.
But we also need to celebrate with one another when times are good. When the Psalmist wrote that that his cup overflowed, he knew that the blessings he experienced were never meant for himself alone. When we have what we need, we are better equipped to share it with others.
For Mike and me, the past five months have been a time of abundance in our lives. In August we celebrated two new brides in our family, both named Sarah, both marrying the love of their lives in the San Diego area. (Mike had already left for Norway when our nephew Timothy married his beautiful Taylor in Texas, so we had to miss that wedding.)
In April and again in July, we welcomed two new granddaughters: Elin Grace in Massachusetts and Rosemary Trudie in Pennsylvania. The cup we cradle in our hands as grandparents? Overflowing with joy!
And now we are spending the fall in Norway serving an international church here. We spent this morning with the staff; tonight women from around the world will arrive to study the essentials of prayer. For this brief moment in history, we are journeying together as we share both our prayer requests and our praises, sorrowing and celebrating with each other.
Mike and I are learning so much about the country we’ve adopted as home this fall.
Did you know that Norway is considered by many economic indexes to be the richest country in the world? It was once one of the poorest – the driving force for my grandparents’ immigration to America, along with hundreds of thousands of Norwegians, to scrape a better living from the soil than they could here. But after the discovery of oil in the North Sea in 1969 the kingdom of Norway has entered a time of great prosperity, which the government uses to better the lives of its citizens. All Norwegians are entitled to free university education, health care, 52 weeks of family leave after childbirth, and at least six weeks paid vacation. To whom much is given, much is also required. The government has a policy of welcoming refugees.
In the Stavanger Museum, we discovered fascinating statistics about the lives of Norway’s women. Average life expectancy is 79 years vs. 76 for the US. The mortality rate for children under 5 is half that of the US, while the maternal mortality rate is one-third. The percentage of children under five suffering malnutrition? Zero.
Obesity is rare here. Citizens bike, hike, ski, and swim whatever the weather. (In fact, there is a Norwegian saying that translated means, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”) Given the fact that by some measures winter begins in mid-September, it’s a healthy perspective to have. If residents waited on the weather, they would rarely venture out.
The government encourages physical fitness by granting pedestrians and bicyclists the right-of-way. Our grocery store, Kiwi, is a 15-20 minute walk, and we carry our purchases home in our backpacks. Both walking and biking are safe with wide, paved paths that parallel the roadways.
Are we happy for the country’s current prosperity? Certainly. My grandparents would be astonished at the transformation of their homeland. But we are happier still that Norway uses its wealth to better the lives of not only its own people, but also those fleeing political or religious persecution elsewhere in the world. The country which once had so little now has an abundance to share. Tusen takk, Norge - a thousand thanks!
May we do likewise.