We are often urged to be still during prayer and reflection, to listen for God’s voice or to receive His direction for where we are to go, what we are to do.
Be still. Listen. Be patient.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time being still, listening, and certainly being patient! I’m so busy trying to “help God” with a certain situation or circumstance that I don’t give Him the chance to help me at all. And quite often He will send a more than subtle message to get my attention.
I want to tell you about two of those not-so-subtle messages from God. While neither of them was sent directly to me, I was blessed in that I was a witness to both, and even more so in that I was involved in them too.
My mother-in-law Carolyn has been having some health issues during the past couple of months. She’s been suffering from mini-seizures, which leave her disoriented, lethargic, and pretty much incapable of taking care of herself. Carolyn has been hospitalized several times, and in between those visits there have been several nights when my wife Jackie or her brothers Preston and Richard have had to spend the night in her home to safeguard her well-being. To make matters worse, it appears that Carolyn is suffering from the early stages of dementia.
This entire situation has taken a tremendous toll on Jackie’s state of mind. I believe that for a while Jackie felt that if she found the right doctor, or asked the right questions, or demanded enough tests, or gave enough effort, that Carolyn would be well. Jackie was going to will her mom into good health. It was so frustrating for me, watching Jackie’s mental health deteriorate, that all I could do was pray for Carolyn’s health to improve, and pray for God to help Jackie.
He sent Jackie a message…
Jackie and I were attending a Wednesday night service at The Church of The Highlands a couple of weeks ago. During this service there was an Altar call for prayer, and the Pastoral and Prayers teams took various positions around the auditorium. Those in attendance with a special need or problem that they may be dealing with were encouraged to step forward so that a prayer may be said specifically for them, or “over” them.
I tilted my head towards Jackie’s and in a hushed voice whispered “Why don’t you go up there and have one of the Pastors say a prayer for you and your mom? Perhaps they can ask God to give you some peace.”
Jackie remained where she was, singing with the congregation and fighting back tears. I offered a prayer that God give some comfort, strength, and peace to Jackie.
A young couple that had been directly in front of us abruptly left the service, leaving the seats directly in front of Jackie and I unoccupied. Within 30 seconds of their departure, a lady with blonde hair, perhaps in her late 50’s, walked up from behind us, stepped into the space that had been occupied by the young couple, turned to Jackie, got right up in her face, and said “I’m sorry… I know that we don’t know each other, but I have it in on my heart to give you a message. God is so powerful. There is no problem that you have that is too big for Him to handle. Let Him help you with whatever it is that you have. Give it to Him.”
She and Jackie shared a heartfelt hug, and with that, this beautiful lady turned and walked away, disappearing into the congregation. Needless to say, Jackie, myself, and Haley, a young lady that works with us in our salon, were in tears.
Jackie and I were still in a state of shock driving home that night after the service. Still trying to regain her composure, and through tear-filled eyes, Jackie turned to me and said “I still can’t believe that she came up to me…out of nowhere.” I thought about Jackie’s statement, then looked at her and replied “I’ve been trying to tell you the same thing for weeks now, to no avail. And you know what? If you had taken my advice and had one of the Pastors pray over you, it still wouldn’t have impacted you as much as that lady talking to you. God put that lady in church tonight to give you a message. And it was directly from Him.”
Jackie’s attitude, outlook, and spirit have been so much better since that night. She has more peace in her heart. And her faith in God has reached a new level.
The very next morning Haley and I were sitting in the back of the salon recounting what we had witnessed in church!
The conversation turned to a problem that Haley had been dealing with for several months. I won’t go into details…I’ll simply say that it involves the well-being of Haley’s stepchildren, and it had really been weighing heavily on her heart and her mind. Much like Jackie, Haley had been consumed with worry.
Trying to offer some counsel and comfort to Haley, I told her to recall God’s message to Jackie the night before. Haley looked at me and confided “I know that everything is in God’s plan. And I know that everything comes in His time, not ours. And I know that He will do what’s best for the kids. But it’s so hard not to worry. It’s so hard to do this.”
I sat there for a moment, wondering what I could say to Haley to ease her burden, feeling almost helpless; asking God to give me some words for her… as gently as I could, I offered this advice…
“Haley, you know all the right things to say, about God’s plan, His time, and His knowledge. These are all things that you’ve been taught about God, or read about God. You know these words in your head, but the problem is that you don’t feel them in your heart. You believe, in your heart, that your worry is stronger than God’s will. But I ask you, is there anything that you can do better than God? I’ll answer the question for you: Of course not. And here’s something else that I want you to work on…you keep saying that it’s so hard to turn it over to God. What you’re doing is telling your subconscious that you aren’t going to be able to totally let Him have this problem. This is what I want you to say for the rest of this day, whenever doubt creeps into your mind:”
God, it’s going to be so easy for me to give this problem to You, because I know that You don’t want me to have it. I’m going to give it to You because You know what’s best, and I trust You completely. I’m going to give it to You, and it’s going to be easy to do it, because I know that You want to take this burden off of me. It’s just going to be so easy for me to give this to You, to put my trust and my faith in You and Your will.”
And then I did something that I have never done before: I said a prayer over Haley. Oh, I’ve said prayers for people…I do it all the time. But I’ve never said a prayer aloud for a person while in their presence. Prayer had always been a private thing for me, until that moment.
I took Haley’s hand in mine and offered a prayer for Haley, her husband Jamie, and of course, their children. To be honest with you, I was so deep into prayer that I can’t recall exactly what I said, but I know that it came from my heart, and I know that it felt good.
For the remainder of the day, every time I walked past Haley I reminded her that it was going to be so easy for her to “give it to God.”
The next day I walked into the salon after running a few errands and saw Haley standing at the back door, in deep conversation on her cell phone, wearing a huge smile on her face. I gave her a questioning look, as if to say “What’s up?” Never missing a beat, and wearing that beautiful smile, she looked at me and said “I don’t believe it. We just found the witness that we’ve been trying to locate for six months! It’s an answer to our prayers.”
I believe that God had sent a message to Haley through me, His humble servant: Sometimes you just have to put it in His hands, no matter how high the stakes, no matter how hard it is to do so. Make no mistake about it; what I deem to be important here is the message, not the messenger. I am honored that God would use me in any way, for any purpose.
I believe that God sent a message to me as well. In two consecutive instances I had offered sincere, heartfelt prayers, not for myself, but for others. In both cases God had, in His own way, answered those prayers almost immediately. So I’m thinking that perhaps prayers we offer for others are in some way more powerful than those we offer for ourselves…
Holding onto that thought, I ask that the next time you’re in prayer, would you say one for me, that I may continue to be a soldier of Christ, spreading His Word, never passing up an opportunity to be a witness for Him, trusting in Him and loving Him completely, and always walking towards His light?
Surely you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways. Job 22:26-28 (NIV)
See you next Monday.