Salvation is Near

There is only one source of our salvation. In our culture, we run to all sorts of things to save us – better diets, better educations, better ideologies, better mindsets, better cars. We look to prescription medicine and television and sweets to drown out the feelings of our own inadequacy and shield us from our own pains. But there is only one Savior. And only through Him can we find comfort, joy, and peace.
When we live according to this truth, everything changes. We live lives of grace, and we can be brave because we know that a God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself to save us is directing every part of our lives. This is the truth that makes us fearless. If he is the defence of our life, whom shall we fear? Of whom shall we be afraid? I lived in a world of machine guns and barbed wire and in that place, I have known abundant peace. Like the hymn says, “My life is hid in Christ on high. In Christ my saviour and my God.” That kind of truth can embolden us to stand against anything – tyranny, suffering, persecution, despair.
We are held in the everlasting arms. The same arms that created the world, go to battle for us, comfort us, and carry us. If we can remember this truth when we wake up in the morning, when we’re walking, when we’re working, when we’re struggling, when we’re falling asleep, then we can endure anything.
If we forget this truth, everything crumbles – our joy, our relationships, our ministry, our society. You can read as many blog posts, Medium posts, or self-help books as you want – and you may well learn a great deal from them to live a better life – but nothing you can ever learn will compare to this one, vital truth. God has sacrificed Himself for you and saved you. Your salvation is near.
If you have accepted His salvation, that doesn’t mean your life will be easy. If you’re really truly living in the light of His salvation, if anything, your life will be more difficult. But you won’t be going through it alone. When I was wasted away to skin and bones, barely able to get out of bed because I had followed God to India, I was filled with so much peace. Because my salvation was near. The greatest suffering we can experience isn’t illness, pain, rejection, or even death. The greatest suffering we can experience is absence from the presence of God. His presence is peace and joy, comfort and strength, love and grace.
Look no further. Salvation is near.
Grace and peace, beloved.
Ashlie Ariel

When You Are in Despair

Despair surrounds our souls sometimes. We don’t like to say things like that usually because it sounds melodramatic. We try to be positive people. When people ask us how we are, we will say we’re fine, even if our soul is — in fact — in despair.

Western culture especially has become increasingly uncomfortable with suffering and has swept even mourning under the rug. There was a time when, after someone died, people wore black to show they were in mourning. Now, we don’t usually do that except at the funeral itself. Sometimes we don’t even wear it at the funeral.

A few weeks ago, my grandfather died. We had been caring for him for two months, watching him day by day slip away, and it was a relief to know his pain was over and he was in a place far better then the place where the rest of us are left behind. At the end, his suffering was intense, but now his suffering is over. Now, we are the ones who live with the empty space he’s left — the hole in our lives and in our hearts. But when people ask how we’re doing, of course we say we’re fine. In a world of positivity, mourning somehow feels uncouth.

It’s tempting to try to compartmentalize — if you can. We feel compelled to find a way to push past it. We ask in our own way, like David did, “Why are you in despair, o my soul?” Some of us can’t push past it. Not alone. When I was sixteen, a good friend of mine committed suicide. There will never be a day when I don’t wish that she had told me that she was in despair. Despair is too heavy a burden to carry by yourself. If you are in despair, please tell someone. Death isn’t the only way out. There is something coming, something you can’t see yet.

When we are walking through the shadow of death, when we are walking through despair, it can sometimes feel like there is nothing else beyond it. When we have been brought so low, it is hard to remember to look up. We have to remind ourselves, we have to remind our souls like David did to hope in God for we will again praise Him for the help of his presence.

There is no balm and no cure for despair like the presence of God. When we are in despair we will sometimes feel like God is a far way off. David said “I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go in mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’” When we have lost someone or something or some part of ourselves, when people and circumstances are against us, it can feel like God is distant, like He has forgotten. When we are deep in our despair we can forget that we are in a spiritual warzone, and the greatest weapon the enemy can weild is the same weapon the serpent used in the garden: The lie that God is not good and that he doesn’t care about us the way He says He does.

It’s a trap. In those moments where the lie feels true, we have to remember like David did. We have to remember Who He is and what He has done. We have to remember that a time will come when we will rejoice again. It can be terrifying sometimes to hope. Because we have been wounded too deeply and have fallen too hard too many times, hope seems like a leap of faith that could turn out to be a leap to your death. But hope is not a safety net that is broken, hope is the life raft that will keep you from drowning and carry you to the shore.

“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls. All Your breakers and waves have rolled over me.” Those words washed over me when I was in India — when my body had wasted away to nothing, when I was sweltering in a bed of fire ants, when I was writhing in seizures, when hunger felt like it had eaten me whole.

When I was about three years old my cousin David who was a teenager would take me to the beach and bring me out into the ocean. We would go head to head with the waves. Alone, those waves would have completely swept me away, but as he carried me the waves would crash against me, splash across my face, even frighten me, but as long as he carried me, they couldn’t really harm me. I would ask if we could turn back, but he would tell me just to wait, that there was something better beyond the waves. We would move into water that was deeper, pass through waves that were higher, and though I felt terrified at times, he was so peaceful. And I trusted him more than I feared the waves. When we had passed through them, he would put me on his shoulders. Behind us the waves crashed down toward the shore, but around us and before us was beautiful, tranquil ocean — stretching out infinitely as far as our eyes could see.

When you are in the waves, dear one, remember — there are beautiful oceans beyond them, and you are held in everlasting arms.

Grace and peace, beloved.

Ashlie Ariel

 

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

For the help of His presence.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan

And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;

All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;

And His song will be with me in the night,

A prayer to the God of my life.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 42:5–8). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Suffering and Comfort

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,”
A friend gave me these verses recently – verses from 2 Corinthians. I keep coming back to them because these words have been exactly what I’ve needed to both express and understand these past weeks.

First, let me tell you of the wonders The “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has worked: In less than two weeks, He has enabled me, with the help of translators, to teach this disability-adapted sign language to over 25 teachers and nurses, whom I oversaw, in turn, teach house by house, room by room, the nannies (who worked with the children constantly) so they could teach the children. Our Father blessed in such abundance. The women learned more than a semester’s worth of sign language in less than two weeks, and within a few days, each time I went to the children’s home, I was surrounded by children who all wanted to show me the signs they have learned. Praise Him for bringing this great thing about!

Now He has led me a day’s journey north to a school of worship where I am helping teach keyboard to women who will be on worship teams in blooming church plants all over the state of AP, about to teach the same women sign language to the Telugu worship songs they are learning (pray for my wisdom in translating the Telugu to sign), and translating and teaching those same Telugu songs in our disability-adjusted sign language to those who can return and teach it to the dear children back at Sarah’s Covenant Home. So that even though they cannot use their voices, they can use their hands to join with their brothers and sisters in worshiping our God.

I am humbled by and in awe of Him.

And I’m pressed to run to Him constantly, because, of course, in the light of all of these victories, there have been a lot of battles.

That’s where the rest of those 2 Corinthians verses come in – the verses about the comfort of God in the light of our sufferings, and the purpose of our sufferings… One of the main purposes being (spoiler alert;) you, dear friends who are reading.

These verses have been a deep comfort to me.

I’ve been sick – vey sick and weak. I’ve had trial by fire-ants 😉 absolutely filling my bed and possessions and trying on my nerves constantly. As I was attempting to get them out of my bed one night, I busted my toe open. I’ve had heat boils and an infected finger. I’ve missed people back home desperately. I’ve had miscommunications with people. I’ve been misinterpreted by people. I’ve made mistakes: I’ve squirted mango all over myself and a restaurant floor to the great amusement of every Indian present haha;) I’ve walked around in complete confusion in this foreign culture and language. I’ve felt like a child. I’ve felt inadequate. I have been incapable and inadequate.

And in all of this, I have been comforted, sustained, supplied, and overwhelmed by the presence and power of God.

And the reason I tell you this – the reason I am so completely honest with you about this is explained in these verses:

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Those verses explain it better than I ever could, but in brief they express that He has been my comfort so I can assure you that He will be your comfort, to assure you of all He is and all He has done and is doing and will do. And they express to the church at Corinth what I long to express to you: I want to remind you and thank you for and show you what your prayers have been doing.

Your prayers have been making disciples and moving mountains, delivering me…. and bringing me comfort.

So much love,
Ashlie Ariel

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