August 22, 2013

God at Work through Friendship: To Gather Up a Family That Had Strayed Away

A few Sundays ago you sat next to me in church and invited Chris and me to come on Monday nights. Chris and I are soooooo thankful for that,” Sandy writes to her new friend. “Because you took the time to reach out to us, God began changing our desire for HIM... and gave us a hunger for Jesus again.

That Sunday, Sandy and Chris Smith admit they were both struggling in a life without Christ. It wasn’t that they didn’t know Jesus. They had allowed the busy-ness of his job to keep them away from other believers for years, eventually leading them down a path of separation from God and each other. But God pursued them and began healing their hearts and home through some unexpected circumstances.

Just before Mother’s Day, Chris was let go from his job. He’d been working at least 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, managing the construction of multiple high-end homes that sometimes ended up quite a distance from each other. He would come home each day totally exhausted, leaving before dawn and often returning late at night. Sometimes he’d choose to just to go to bed rather than eat, so he could begin it all again the next morning.

The company had provided Chris with a great truck, iPhone, iPad, and laptop, but that fateful morning in May, and through no fault of his, they suddenly took it all away. His employment was simply over. He actually had to ask somebody to take him home! And so began months of uncertainty.

Sandy recalls, “At first, I felt just terrible for Chris and felt the demoralization that he might have felt.” But as the days and then months went by with no work and their savings quickly dwindling, she admits, “I became frightened, angry, and very restless with our relationship.

Chris’s previous work schedule was so rigorous that church had fallen by the wayside years ago. With their new circumstances, they had plenty of time for church and a renewed sense of priority. Having visited Riverside Church the summer before, they remembered the friendly people, relatable sermon, and awesome music. Even their son had enjoyed his experience at Riverside. Chris and Sandy decided it was time to return.

That's where you come in,” Sandy continues in her letter to her friend, “.....inviting us to your home.... taking that time to offer us an experience which has led us back to Christ! We strayed away, and then we felt ‘gathered up’ again to follow Jesus. I believe the angels were joyful and singing praises to our Father knowing what was about to happen!!

A few months have passed now and Sandy says she has never seen Chris more open with his feelings. Thanking her friend, she writes, “He is taking time with Jesus, and it is awesome to experience this alongside of him. He says it is because of the comfort level that he feels in Riverside Church and belonging to Monday night gatherings at your home. What an awesome group of Christian people! We are truly blessed!!!... Always know how you have succeeded listening to your heart and following HIS direction in [our] lives.

As Chris and Sandy draw closer to the Lord, they are drawing closer to each other, too. God has provided Chris with a new job now, but they are not allowing it to keep them away this time. Praise God for pursuing His children and gathering up this precious family that had strayed for a very long season. Praise God for allowing Riverside Church to be a part of His plan for the Smith family.

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