Mark Anderson, the writer of the meditation for November 4 and today’s guest blogger, is pictured here with his family at the University of Maryland Parents’ Weekend:
I remember the day I wrote the devotional titled “The Instruction Manual.” It was one of those all-too-frequent-days when the electronic devices we depend so much upon to do our daily work had malfunctioned, and after multiple attempts to fix the problem, and a few calls for help, I was waiting for the repair so I could continue my work. The tools that human ingenuity has created allow us to do things that previous generations had never dreamed of, but often we become the slaves or victims of the very tools we create. Texting and emails have replaced genuine conversations. A mistaken text or email can create multiple unintended misunderstandings between people, when a quick conversation would have avoided the entire problem in the first place.
Throughout my career I have had to learn and adapt to the different computer, phone, and electronic systems of many companies. I do not see that challenge going away as technology continues to change. I know that I am not very good at keeping up with all the latest changes, so I also know that I need to ask for help before I get completely lost. Many people and resources are much more knowledgeable about how to help me out of a difficult situation than I could ever be myself. I have asked for help, and I now know I can depend on them. Their willing support saves me a great deal of time and anxiety -- but I have to act first and ask for help.
The devotion for today brings home the point that we have a place to go for help when we seem lost in day-to-day decisions. We may feel that we have to face many decisions and difficulties on our own, especially if we lack close friends or family to depend on. Fortunately I have good friends and family who are always eager to help, but even people with the same support I have still may feel they need to face deep troubles or private matters alone. But as Christians, never go through anything alone. God is always with us as our Creator who knows us better than we know ourselves, as Jesus our brother who has felt our pain and anxieties, and the Holy Spirit who prays for us when we are at a loss for words. We can be present with God and hear God’s voice when we read the Bible and devotions written by our fellow Christians as found in The Upper Room. God can provide us with the instruction we need, exactly when we need it, IF we will be open to God’s Word in scripture and to the revelation of God’s abiding presence in our church and in our fellow Christians.
If we allow the instruction manual to sit unopened on the desk, our condition and situation will not change. The same is true if we do not ask and pray for help, and accept help when it comes. When we open ourselves to God in either reading or conversation, we unlock a universe of support that is already put in place for us. It is an act of faith to ask for and receive help when we need it. Often we are better at giving help to others than we are at asking for and accepting help from others when we need it.
Each day brings us to new crossroads that we must face. We can face all crossroads with the knowledge and trust that “…all things work together for good for those who love God…” (Romans 8:28). God will be with us along what ever path we choose and will not leave us alone. If we seek guidance where it can be found -- In the Bible, in the church, in our fellow believers -- it will be there for us if we are patient and persistent. I had to remind myself about this again just yesterday, when our work computer had a virus and our email was shut down. Fortunately I was not infected with the virus, but I was greatly inconvenienced by the down time. However, instead of getting frustrated, I focused on the things I could do, and asked for help with the rest. Today I feel much more relaxed and able to see the things that are the highest priority in life – like sending this message to you.
-- Mark Anderson