First Things First (Sort of)

We’ve discussed ad nauseam the fact that I’ve been hurt by churches. (Who hasn’t?) But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that one of the coping mechanisms I used to deal with those hurts was actually backfiring on me rather badly.

Each time I got hurt by a church, I’d withdraw from the church—and yes, from God to some degree (because He let me get hurt, right?)—and I would decide that instead, I would pour my energy into loving other people.

Pretty noble, right? Loving other people. Noble, maybe. But extremely short-sighted. Because in pouring myself into other people, I forgot that really, I have nothing to give. I’m just an empty pitcher. If I don’t go to God and His people to fill me up, then I have absolutely nothing to pour out. And so it’s never long before I’m exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed and worn-down.

In Romans 1:11-12, Paul talks to the people of the church in Rome, saying, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

None of us is an island. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully, the places where I’m weak in my life, I will have someone else to turn to for strength in that area. But then, when I see others around me with needs, maybe I have what is needed to fill their needs. We impart to each other. We meet each other’s needs. That’s loving. And because all strength and wisdom and knowledge—and all good things—come from God, when we are connected with Him, we can give each other bigger, better, stronger things. We can meet each other’s needs so much more deeply and sufficiently. When I’m withdrawing from God and from other people, then I just don’t have anything to give.

It’s hard, right? We don’t want to be weak. We don’t want to ask for help. And we don’t like the feeling of knowing that we really don’t have anything to give when we’re apart from God. I understand those feelings. But I also have to recognize the truth of how impoverished I am apart from Him.

The good news is that the remedy is simple. I want to love people. God wants me to love people. And as long as I’m spending time with Him, getting strength and wisdom and love from Him, then I have something to give to the people I love.

In “The Fire of Delayed Answers,” Bob Sorge says, “I’m discovering that God really does want the first commandment (to love God) to be first in my life, and the second commandment (to love others) to be second. When the two become inverted, nothing works right.”

This post is part of a regularly-scheduled book discussion on Bob Sorge’s book “The Fire of Delayed Answers.” Feel free to express yourself in the comments, even if you aren’t reading the book. We want to hear what you have to say anyway! If you did write a response to this chapter, please feel free to link it up at the widget below. Then, run over to my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen’s place, and see what he has to say. 


About Sarah Salter


  1. You have been there for me sister.. And no, no man is an island.. I only hope that I can be there for someone as you have…I always appreciate you listening/reading my I call it..We do have to spend time with Him to pour out love for others.. Just as you pointed out about the commandments..we have to God and then love others.. Thank you for all you do and all the love you show others..

  2. I immediately thought about Karate Kid II. Yes, I am a child of the 80’s. So, in my best Miyagi voice, I would say:

    Rule #1 – Love the Lord your God.

    Rule #2 – First, learn rule #1.

    It is only when we experience and know a love relationship with God that we are capable of loving others as God would have us do.

  3. Haha, Dusty!! I love that! (Also, child of the 80s. Represent!!)

    Sarah, you are SO right! God designed us for relationship, first with Him, and then with others–though we do need others so so much. I find when I make that time, first thing in the morning with Jesus, the Word and my cuppa tea, I am so much more ready to face the day and pour out and into everyone and everything that awaits me. And I am also more ready and willing to receive from Him and from others.

    When we withdraw from either one of those relationships–God or people, we are not only cheating ourselves, but them as well, of the very thing God created us to enjoy.

  4. I highlighted that same quote. Sounds so simple, but we don’t always get it. God is the Author, the Source–and everything flows from Him. Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Beautiful thoughts, Sarah. Thank you.

  5. Been enjoying all these post about the book “The Fires of Delayed Answers”. From the replies to your post it sounds like God is using your hurt to help others and draw you closer to Him. Great honest thoughts.

  6. This is such an awesome book! I can’t wait to read more posts and to participate!

    I’ve been hurt in churches too- one thing I have to keep reminding myself is that no one is perfect. I’m just as guilty of hurting others as they are of hurting me. Forgiveness is part of being in a family and the Family of God is no exception!

    Thanks so much for your openness and honesty.

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