Watch, read or listen to the news and you’ll be told a lot of bad news.
Turn on social media and what do you see? People arguing, calling each other names. Not listening. Being rude and disrespectful. Acting like anyone who disagrees is automatically a bad person.
How does all this make you feel? Anxious? Angry? Afraid?
If so, you are not alone.
According to the American Psychological Association’s October 2020 report, Stress in America, 60% of adults in the United States of America say the number of issues America faces currently feels overwhelming to them. When asked about the future of the U.S.A., 77% responded that the country’s future is a significant source of stress.
Are people in other countries worrying about issues going on? About the future? Statistics say yes.
So, what are you going to do? Keep worrying and feeling stressed? Argue with someone else on Twitter? Binge watch another show on Netflix? Scroll your news feed some more? Stay away from anyone who has a different opinion than you do?
Maybe God put you here right now–with all that’s going on–because He created YOU to help solve problems. To live your life so you really make a difference in the lives of other people.
Merriam-Webster defines making a difference this way: “to cause a change; to be important in some way; to do something that is important; to do something that helps people or makes the world a better place.”
Maybe the information you need has been with you all along.
When asked which is the most important commandment, Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31.
So, if you want to make a difference in the world, live a life of love.
Are you ready? You can start today.
Begin with the people in your home
Ever tell the woman in the checkout line behind you to go ahead of you because she’s only carrying a jug of milk, while you have a grocery cart filled with a week’s worth of groceries? Good for you. That’s showing kindness to others.
But, do you then go home and yell at your husband because he forgot to take the trash out again?
How does that even make sense?
Being polite to strangers can feel so easy. Showing love and respect to people in your immediate family can be SO hard.
Maybe because the people you are closest to can push your buttons. Get on your last nerve. Say and do things that hurt your heart and are hard to forget.
The world says it’s okay to lash out in anger when people are unkind. Plenty of people will tell you there is nothing wrong with speaking unkindly to your family when you are hurt. Give them a piece of your mind. Pout. Or withhold affection.
But, if you are a Christian, you are accountable to God for how you treat people. All people. Including your family. Even when you are hurt, stressed, tired, hormonal, pregnant, sleep deprived, feeling sick, and at all other times, too.
Sometimes you just need a good cry. And that’s okay. The hurt, anger, frustration, unmet needs, and struggles of life can build up inside you like pressure inside an Instant Pot. Crying can help release the built-up pressure like turning the pressure release valve on an Instant Pot does at the end of cooking.
Other times your body and heart have to recharge so you might have to get away for an hour to pray, to sleep, to go for a walk, to listen to a Christian podcast or sermon or music, to read the Bible or read a book just for fun or to spend time with a godly friend who really gets you. You could also truly need a night off or even a weekend away.
The point is: when you get to the end of your rope, don’t hang yourself. Or anyone else. Stop and recognize how you are feeling BEFORE you say or do something that will hurt the people you love.
Look for guidance daily in God’s Word, the Bible. God gives us clear–but counterintuitive–instructions in the Bible for how to do life on earth. For example, here are three Bible verses that will help you deal with your family members better:
- “In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26.
- “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19.
- “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.
If you want to make a difference in the world, start right now with the way you treat the people in your immediate family. What you do and say matters. You will either build up or tear down with your words and the way you say them.
The words you speak to your children give your kiddos their understanding of themselves. What you say and how you say it tells your children they are loved, competent, valuable, intelligent, wanted, capable, can succeed, and have much to offer.
Or, you can cause them to believe they are failures, not good enough, are unattractive, will never win, can’t possibly please you, have no value, and even worse.
Your God-given job as a wife is to build up your husband. Your respectful words can help your husband feel like he can take on the world because you believe in him. No one else in the world can do that like you can. That’s a privilege.
So, if you are angry about that whole garbage-not-being-taken-out thing, you have a choice to make. You can let angry words spill out of you onto your husband like battery acid, causing him pain–and to get defensive.
Or, you can recognize that you are angry and go into the bathroom and close the door. Take some deep breaths. Lift your eyes to Heaven and ask your Heavenly Father to help you NOT sin in your anger. (Tell any kids beating on the bathroom door that you will be with them in 5 minutes.) Next, thank God for several wonderful character traits of your husband’s that you truly love. Traits like:
- Being naturally intelligent.
- Having a tender heart.
- Working hard to provide for your family–whether you work outside the home or not.
- Enjoying playing with your children.
- Making you laugh.
- Knowing how to fix things or build things around the house.
- Loving God.
- Being physically strong.
- Showing kindness to your parents.
Once you’ve refocused on the fact that there are good things about your husband, ask God to guide your words and your timing so you can address the garbage can issue without sinning. In a way that treats your husband with respect.
You can choose to apply this same refocusing technique to everyone who lives under your roof. You won’t do this perfectly, but God will help you if you ask Him.
As a woman, you set the tone of your home. Choose to be intentional with the words that come out of your mouth.
Note: There is a place for Christian counseling. Don’t hesitate to get help if you feel you need it. Some issues, such as addictions and affairs, really do require professional help. Also, if you are in an unsafe, abusive home, please seek help immediately from your pastor or from police officers at a nearby police station.
Show love to your extended family
If you are thinking that you are glad to help people in your family because you have a close, loving, supportive, godly family, then this should be easy for you.
On the other hand, the thought may have popped into your head that you’d rather have dental work done than do something kind for your relatives.
No matter how you feel about the people to whom you are related, the fact is that God put your family together for His reasons and purposes.
Before anything else, be sure to pray for the people in your family tree–specific prayers for specific needs. Is your brother looking for a job? Are your cousins struggling to take care of a sick parent while still raising their own children? Do your in-laws need help with yardwork? Ask God to help your family members.
Then, ask God if He wants you to help.
Maybe you could provide a meal or share some clothes and toys your kiddos have outgrown. Or babysit. Or trim some shrubbery. Possibly mow the grass a few times.
Be open to how God wants to use you. God can see ahead. He knows how your acts of kindness and generosity today can make a difference in the lives of your extended family–and those around you who are watching what you do. Including your kiddos.
Your simple acts of kindness could be what God uses to lead a family member to be saved.
Do life with your neighbors
How do you do life with the people who live nearby?
First, pray for your neighbors. Pray over any specific situations or needs in their lives, such as an upcoming surgery and recovery to go well, without complications.
Is one of your neighbors looking for a job? Ask God to provide a job that suits him/her really well.
Do you know a neighbor struggling with an issue with a child? Take the struggle to our Heavenly Father. Request that God show that neighbor exactly what to do for that child.
Here’s a thought: You can even offer to pray with your neighbor. You don’t have to sound eloquent. You don’t need to have a degree in theology. You just have to care enough about another person to spend a couple of minutes taking that person’s needs to Almighty God.
When do you offer to pray with your neighbor?
When your neighbor confides in you, being honest about a real struggle in his/her life. Listen. Really listen to what is being said. Show compassion for what your neighbor is going through with a simple statement, such as: “That must be so hard for you.” Or, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Say something that shows you are listening and you care. Then, ask: “Is it okay if we pray about this now?”
If the person says yes, pray right then, out loud, together, in the Name of Jesus. Ask our Heavenly Father for help with whatever the need is–healing, a job, clear direction, comfort, strength, wisdom.
My kids tease me sometimes because they have seen me do this at school, in the neighborhood, at church, at the ballfield, even at the grocery store. They’ve rolled their eyes at me, laughing, and told me they can’t believe I’ll pray with other people anywhere, anytime.
I’ve told my kids over and over that I take Romans 12: 15 very seriously: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
And Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.“
Maybe you are afraid to offer to pray with a neighbor because he/she might say no and think you are weird. Well, in all the years I’ve been offering to pray with people, I’ve only had one person say no. (I’m pretty sure she already thought I was weird.)
How do you respond if someone refuses your offer to pray? Be respectful and polite. Understand that your neighbor may not yet be in a place in his/her life to seek God. So, when you pray during your daily prayer time, lift up your neighbor in prayer, asking God to soften his/her heart to a relationship with God.
In addition to praying, God may show you other needs your neighbors have that you can meet.
Have you heard that a family on your street is sick? Drop off a meal. Or some brownies.
Is a neighbor going back and forth between her home and the hospital, where her husband is battling a serious illness? Cut her grass. Or volunteer to walk her dog.
Maybe an elderly widow needs a ride to a doctor’s office because she doesn’t see very well anymore and her kids all live in another state.
You could volunteer to trade babysitting with another couple who can’t really afford to pay a babysitter but could really use a night without kiddos.
Consider starting a women’s Bible study in your home and inviting your neighbors. Talk with your church’s women’s minister or other staff member for help with resources, such as Bible study videos, books, and even leadership training.
You will be amazed at the life changes that will happen when a group of women study God’s Word together:
- Someone will be encouraged to keep going.
- A woman will be convicted of sin and realize she needs to stop.
- Another will find the specific advice she needs for her situation.
Showing love to your neighbors through prayers. Through practical help. Through maybe even leading a Bible Study. Sounds like making a difference in the world around you, doesn’t it?
Build community at church
What do you know how to do? Play with kiddos? Cook? Pray? Do calligraphy? Read? Blow up balloons? Post on social media? Use scissors? Teach? Put candy in Easter eggs? Write notes of encouragement? Think about all the skills you have. You have many.
Put some of your skills together with some of your time and you can make a difference in other people’s lives.
One of my all-time favorite children’s ministry directors, the joyful DeDe Reilly, says that what really makes a church come alive is when everyone does something.
Are you able to teach kids on Sunday mornings? That’s certainly needed. But other skills are, too, DeDe explains.
“There are so many places to serve that are not Sunday mornings,” DeDe says. “I have art teachers come up with art for tshirts or banners. Some provide worship art.”
DeDe enlists parents to make a dessert for occasional events and moms who can write a few handwritten notes to kiddos in the church for milestones like learning to ride a bike or becoming a big sister or brother. She recruits women to fill out happy birthday postcards to children in the church.
“On time change Sunday, I had the children all arrive in the welcome center so they could get to see community,” DeDe continues. “I gave a mom a toaster and chef’s hat. She toasted Eggos and squirted sugar free syrup on them and handed them out to the kiddos.”
Sounds like a sweet way to serve.
Another mom helped the children’s ministry get ready for Christmas by taping birthday candles onto pieces of paper that contained this message: Happy birthday, Jesus.
“She had a whole month to get it done,” DeDe says.
Other volunteers help make Easter happen by cutting out pieces of white fabric for Easter or putting candy inside plastic Easter eggs–all on their own schedules.
“We egg the houses of our children before Easter,” DeDe adds. “I need drivers to drop off bags of (plastic) eggs. I give each volunteer five houses that are near them and five door hangers and yard signs saying: You’ve been egged by McEachern United Methodist Church.”
DeDe says she tries to keep jobs super simple and give volunteers plenty of time to accomplish projects.
“Everything doesn’t have to be done right now,” DeDe notes. “There are always small things that people can do to help.”
DeDe explains that, when you serve in your local church, “you get to be part of the small moments of celebration in other people’s lives. You share the sacred moments. You build community.”
She believes everybody can do something. Everybody can pray. Everybody can live a life of generosity. If all of us in the body of Christ do something, over time, we will make a world of difference.
For other practical ways churches are showing the love of Jesus to kids, check out DeDe’s inspiring blog: https://dedebullreilly.wordpress.com. You can also download her encouraging podcast on Spotify: In The Trenches with DeDe Reilly.
One of the great benefits to belonging to a local church is that you can work with other people in your church to meet needs and solve problems together–in ways you could never do alone.
Is there a Sunday School class for special needs people? Talk with the people on your church’s staff to find the right space and get one started.
Does a family in your area need a wheelchair ramp built at their home? Get some people together and build one.
A church in our area raised money and built a special needs playground at a nearby park.
Many churches operate an on-site food pantry for struggling families in the area. Find out what foods are currently needed and purchase them. Canned foods, like tuna, beans, tomatoes, soups, and fruits are usually on the list. So are boxes of macaroni and cheese.
You could get in the habit of picking up something extra every time you buy groceries. The food you give could be the only food a family eats in a day.
Here’s an idea: You might even want to take your family to volunteer to help at a food pantry. Even littles can stack cans or small packages.
Another way to build community through your local church is by doing life together with the people in the church.
Let me share a true story I saw unfold several years ago.
Cherie Warren, a young mom in my church, was going to have breast cancer surgery in a few hours. Understandably, she was nervous. She’d never expected to face anything like cancer.
Some women met at church that morning to pray for Cherie and her family.
Kelly Driggers, a busy mom of four little girls, left the prayer gathering and felt God urging her to go to Cherie’s house to encourage Cherie. Kelly didn’t know Cherie very well, but drove 10 minutes down the road to Cherie’s house anyway.
Cherie and her husband had just pulled out of their driveway, heading to the hospital, when Kelly arrived. God orchestrated the timing so Cherie could hear what Kelly had to say.
“I wanted her to know that all her friends had just gathered to pray for her. Cherie didn’t know we did that,” Kelly says.
Kelly talked with Cherie and her husband, John, about God’s goodness and His peace. They prayed together and Cherie and John drove on to the hospital for the surgery, realizing that God really was with them.
For years afterward, Cherie told everyone who would listen about how all the anxiousness and dread left her when Kelly showed up unexpectedly and prayed with her that day.
Cherie even gave Kelly a memento of their God moment, which Kelly keeps in her bathroom to this day.
Over the next few years, as Cherie battled cancer again and again, people in the church–especially those in Cherie’s Sunday School class–walked beside she and her family, driving Cherie’s daughters to their activities. Cutting the grass. Taking meals. Running errands. Standing with Cherie and John and their two girls in prayer, praying for them and praying with them.
Nearing the end of her life, Cherie considered the medical facility where she was going for one final round of chemotherapy treatments to be her mission field and the people there her neighbors. Cherie encouraged–and prayed with–many scared, anxious people getting hooked up to chemo beside her. She talked about how good God had been to her. About how He’s always with us because He loves us.
The day of Cherie’s funeral, family members and church friends streamed into the church for the service.
But, then, something extraordinary happened.
The fellow cancer warriors Cherie had told about Jesus, came into the church. Many wore a cap or a scarf to cover a head made bald by chemo. One was on oxygen. Another was pushed in in a wheelchair.
We were all there to celebrate Cherie’s life and faith that carried her home to the very Jesus she loved so much.
When a church friend stepped to the altar and sang Cherie’s favorite song, “In Christ Alone,” tears filled my eyes, spilling silently down my cheeks. I realized in that moment that all of us in our church who had come alongside Cherie and her family had played a part in showing God’s love to Cherie. Then, she had, in turn, shown God’s love to others.
Serve in your city
Do you see a need in your city? Pray for God to guide you to the church or ministry that is meeting that need, then check out the website or make a phone call to find out how you can help.
For example, maybe your heart hurts when you pass by a homeless person sleeping in a tent or under a bridge. You wish you could do something. So do.
Find a homeless shelter in your city and ask how you can help. You could cook and serve meals one Saturday a month or even once a quarter. Maybe give some money. Donate needed items like coats or shoes you no longer use. Or buy staple food items, such as peanut butter, cereal, canned tuna, pasta sauce or more.
A homeless ministry with multiple locations around the Atlanta area (check out http://www.mustministries.org) has a shelter for men and a separate shelter for women and children. MUST also provides clothing, job training, medical care, and more for free to people who want to get back on their feet. MUST always needs businesspeople to teach basic computer skills and healthcare professionals to staff the free clinic.
“Providing more than 78,486 safe nights of rest last year, MUST is a place to begin to recover from financial disaster, discouragement or job loss,” the MUST homepage says. “Between the Emergency Shelter and Supportive Housing, MUST serves as a place of refuge for many in our community.”
Your city may have a similar ministry where you and your family can serve.
There are probably also women in your city working right now to help rescue and restore victims of human trafficking. And others taking meals to lonely senior citizens. Do you feel God calling you to help make a difference in your city by volunteering or donating to one of these kinds of ministries?
If you see a need in your city but can’t find any ministry or church meeting that need, take time to pray. Ask God what He wants you to do. Tell God your willingness to listen to Him and obey Him.
Whatever God shows you to do, just do it. God works through ordinary people like you.
Go to the ends of the earth
Have you ever considered going on an overseas mission trip? Many churches and ministries take groups to build schools for children in remote areas.
Groups of people from my church have traveled to other countries to construct churches in villages without the means to build a church for themselves.
A doctor I know has flown to the other side of the world several times to give free healthcare to people living in places where there is no healthcare.
Maybe God is stirring a passion in you for families around the world to have safe, clean drinking water. You can choose to give or raise money to build a well, a water filtration system, and/or a latrine. You can even personally go help with installation.
Many women and children in countries like Cambodia, the Philippines, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, have to walk 1-2 hours a day (or more) to fill up a jug with water from a ditch or polluted stream just for their families to survive. The fear is always there that the water will make them sick. For good reason.
According to http://lifetoday.org, a ministry that is building wells, nearly 800 million people in the world today lack access to safe drinking water “and waterborne diseases are one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of 5.”
In developing countries, children who live past the age of 5 often get sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by contaminated water. When parents spend what little money they have to buy medicine to help their children get well, there may not be enough money for food. Sick kids miss out on going to school, getting behind in schoolwork, making dropping out of school more likely.
You want to make a difference in some people’s lives? Get them a steady, safe supply of local, life-giving water that will help them–not hurt them.
In addition to Life Today, several other trusted, Christian organizations are also drilling wells, providing water filtration systems, building latrines, and teaching basic hygiene to prevent waterborne diseases:
Another way you can make a lasting difference is by sponsoring a child monthly through highly rated Compassion International, a ministry that works “with the neediest and most vulnerable children” in 25 different countries.
For the cost of taking your family out to eat once a month, you can give a child nutritious food and supplements to protect against malnutrition, money for school, medical checkups and health care, health and hygiene training, key life skills, Christian teaching, and more–all through a local church in the child’s own community.
“Local churches are best suited to address the needs of the children in their communities because the churches are already located and involved in the communities,” according to compassion.com.
Sponsors truly make a lasting difference in the lives of children through Compassion. Sponsored children are: 40% more likely to finish secondary education, 80% more likely to graduate college, and 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities. And then there’s the incalculable benefit of experiencing the love of God.
Here’s what some adults have to say about their time as a Compassion kid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRagQjePTgM
How you live your life matters
Are you ready to make a difference in the world? God has works for you to do. Showing His love now. Every day. In every relationship. Everywhere you go. And even some places around the world you may never go.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.
As you live a life of love, serving and giving to others, you will discover the joy God has for you. Your life will have lasting meaning and purpose. And you will point people to a relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Remember: no one has ever been argued into becoming a Christian. Many have been loved into believing by Jesus followers just like you.