It’s National Poetry Month and thus I am taking a brief hiatus from my study posts. I’ll be celebrating poetry all this month and will share new poems for my regular Monday posts but will also spotlight a few of my favorites throughout the month. I am continuing my study of darkness and plan to return to Isaiah 45:7 in May.
Until then, I hope you enjoy.
Prayer in Dark Times
To them who love the Lord
I dedicate this prayer
May we turn our eyes to Jesus
Show our neighbors that we care
May we show them love unfailing
Unconditional but not compliant
May we show God's grace unending
That on Him we're all reliant
Let us have mercy for our fellow man
Instead of condemnation
Let us leave our judgments with the Lord
Let us see their desperation
May we be a light in darkness
For we know the One they seek
And when they turn and ask us
May it be His words we speak
May we be Jesus personified
To everyone we see
And in this present darkness
May you say these words to me
I suppose I could call this post “Great Expectations Part Four” because I wish to address a statement I made in my previous post. I said that I “did not expect specifics” and I wanted to elaborate because I do not expect specifics and yet I do, of course, expect specifics. Confused? Allow me to attempt to elaborate.
I do not have a vague prayer life. My prayer life does not consist of saying to my Heavenly Father, “Well, thy will be done” by which is inferred: “You’re going to do whatever You’re going to do anyway and I just hope You give me the strength to accept whatever happens.” No! I’ve been quoting 2 Corinthians 1:20-all the promises of God are ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus-and the promises throughout the entire bible are wonderfully specific. Neither does my prayer life consist of magic formulas. What do I mean by that? I do not pray to an aloof God who is so busy with other far more important problems than mine that I have to try to get His attention, convince Him to do something for me, and strong arm Him into answering me by saying “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Again, no! My prayer life is better described as talking to my Heavenly Father. It’s conversation held in relationship. I have very specific cares which, through prayer, I cast on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).
This is the greatest truth ever revealed to my wondering heart and, despite all my study and prayer and searching to know the heart of my Father, it is one I barely grasp. He Loves Me. He cares for me. He Loves You. If you doubt this and John 3:16 and especially verse 17 isn’t enough for you, I encourage you to read First, Second, and Third John. Done? Welcome back! Because I know He loves me, I know I can bring any worry, anxiety, happening, question, and desire to Him and trust Him with it.
One of the greatest examples of what I’m trying to make clear here is the story related in Luke chapter 24 verses 13-35. I’m sure we’ve all heard it: it’s after Jesus’ crucifixion and all hope has been dashed to pieces. Two of the disciples are travelling to Emmaus, conversing and reasoning with each other. Then, Jesus Himself is walking with them though they do not recognize Him. It’s so exciting. I never get tired of reading it. The two ask Jesus if he’s the only one in Jerusalem unaware of what’s been happening. Now, there are so many things I would have expected the Risen Son of God to do in that moment. No doubt this would be the perfect time to open their eyes to the truth of who He was but Jesus does not. Instead, He asks “What things?” He doesn’t need to ask. No one knows better than He what has really happened but He asks questions, draws them out, and only after they’ve spilled their guts does He begin to speak.
I know there is not one thought I have, have had, or will ever have that is not already known to the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). And yet He asks me “what things?” and invites me to spill my guts. And so, my prayer life is very specific. It is my expectations as to how He is going to answer me and reveal Himself to me where I have learned to not be specific. I expect an answer: I do not expect how that answer will come.
I don’t spend a great deal of time in Lamentations but there are some beautiful verses in it. In chapter 3 verses 22-24 I read; “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him.’” The Hebrew word my New King James Version translates as “compassions” is defined in my Strong’s Concordance as meaning “favor, blessing, loving-kindness”. These verses put succinctly what I am struggling to say. Because He loves me I know it’s safe to tell Him anything. I know I can expect answers but I also know I can expect to be surprised at how He chooses to answer me. He won’t ever do the same thing twice.
I cannot count how many times I’ve heard it said God does not fit in a box. I know this to be true. He’s terrifying…in the best sense of that word. I cast my cares on Him and await His response with fear (awe) and trembling (excitement). I also expect that the answer I receive might be to a question I didn’t think to ask. Why does this happen?
I don’t know. But, I wonder if it isn’t like sitting down with an architect and going over the blueprints to a fabulous building. I can barely contain myself as the architect takes me through the plans, shows me how much progress has been made, and shows me the end result. The architect has samples of the planned materials and I’m so excited by the color and style of the roof I insist on its installation. The architect tells me I have to wait because the walls aren’t up yet and I ask why because the corner pillars are in place: surely that’s enough to support the roof. The architect very gently tells me I have no idea how to put a building together but if I will trust him, he will see it through.
Perhaps this is a weak analogy but it came to mind last week during a teaching I was listening to and it made sense to me. I thought I’d share it here in case it made sense to any of you.
Truly the Lord is my portion. Great is His faithfulness and my expectancy is in Him.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the car accident that left me differently-abled. I am grateful to be walking and that, once my hair grew back in, I was not left with visible scars but I do live with limitations; both physical and cognitive. Which brings me to what I want to discuss in this series of posts: I say I have a relationship with Jesus…why then am I not healed?
2 Corinthians 1: 20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”. There are many promises of healing I could quote from both the Old and New Testaments but, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus on Exodus 15: 26 which states, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.” If He is the Lord who heals me and this promise is “yes” in Jesus, then I should be able to expect healing, right?
And, it does seem Exodus lays out the rules for receiving healing. IF I pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, THEN He will heal me. I have attempted to pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees. I attended churches (not forsaking the assembling like Hebrews 10:25 says!) and attempted to do what they told me to do. I read my bible, attended multiple services per week, and devoted time to prayer. Then, I would miss a day of reading or a prayer time. Since I could not do these simple things on a regular basis, how could I expect God to heal me?
I sought healing through biblical methods. I had hands laid on me, was anointed with oil, stood in healing lines, and was prayed over. One traveling evangelist insisted that if he laid hands on me I WOULD be healed so I imagine my disappointment when he did so and I was not. Of course then the fault was mine because “a double-minded person is unstable in all they do” and “such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1: 8 and 7) so my still being in pain caused me to doubt which meant I didn’t really trust God and didn’t have any faith so He could not heal me. I had these things said to me.
Then I realized that, if I was following the rule laid down in Exodus, all I had to do was pay attention to His commands and keep His decrees. What simplicity! Jesus only left me with one: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Well, has anyone else tried this? Have you found it as difficult a command to keep as I have? Failure after failure after failure. No wonder I didn’t have my healing! How could God heal someone who so consistently fell short of His standards of behavior?!
Have any of you been subjected to this? If you have, know I empathize with you. I have been trapped in this never-ending cycle of just not being good enough to please God and finally receive of His promises. I was already tired from the effects of the car accident and all this striving only made me more so. Then, I had a life crisis so devastating I was certain I could not and never had heard from God. I had failed Him so completely I should just curl up and die so He could send me to hell and get it over with. It was in this place that I met God! The living God. The gentle, loving Father who so desired a relationship with me, He sent Jesus into my darkness and death to get me and bring me out. (John 3:16 and especially 17!, John 17: 3, Ephesians 2: 4-7)
My feet were set on a new path and I began to get to know The Father. I do not say the path has been easy. In fact, it felt like the moment my Father began to show me who He was, the floodgates of hell were opened in my life. Even though…through every devastating circumstance, my Father has revealed a little more of Himself to me and I have been filled with awe and wonder.
But still I struggled with limitations from the car accident and, as the years went by, I developed other health problems. I prayed about them, tried to “Amen” all the promises of God, and received no miraculous healing. I ended up having a major surgery and afterwards had the opportunity to speak with a close friend. I told her how I had prayed leading up the surgery-that I would be spared having to go through it-and how the answer I had received had been “no”. I told my friend that, while I could accept the no, I had expected things to be different. It had been years since I’d come to know The Father in a new way and I’d expected I would level up somehow: like in a spiritual video game.
We both laughed at that but, after hanging up with her, I continued to think about it. That had been my expectation: that with greater understanding came greater blessings. Wasn’t that the rule? Within a few months of this conversation, I had to have another minor procedure. I threw up my spiritual hands. Whatever the secret was, I clearly had not discovered it.
Again, while a painful place to be, it is not a bad place to be. It has been my experience over the last seventeen years that these valleys of deepest darkness are where my Father’s light shines brightest. And so it proved.
To be continued…
Bible verses are quoted from the New International Version