Friday, February 23, 2007

O Lord, I am calling to you

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Listen when I cry to you for help!
Accept my prayer as incense offered to you,
and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

Psalm 141:1-2

What do you do when you encounter someone who is hurting, who is frustrated, who is overwhelmed, who is in a situation for which there is no easy solution? My natural reaction is to find myself feeling very small, helpless and inadequate in the face of their pain. My friend is going through a storm in her life that is rocking her whole world right now.

I've been reading The Heart of Prayer by Lana Bateman. The first thing she introduces is not prayer, but the sovereignty of our God. I blew over that at first, thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know that. What about the prayer part?" I kept reading, waiting to get to that part. She kept talking about it. Sovereignty. What exactly does that mean, anyway? I looked it up. It means supreme authority within a territory. Supreme authority--none higher. The territory? All of us, the world, the universe--anything in existence.

I kept reading, and Lana kept on talking about sovereignty and trusting God to do the best thing...she mentioned the classic example of Christ, who was facing certain, agonizing death. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for relief, but in the same breath, he prayed for God's will to be done. Even though it meant that he was surely going to suffer excruciating pain, that he was going to die that day, he still left the outcome up to God. Why? Because He knew God. He trusted Him. Even though the immediate situation looked pretty grim, he trusted that God's will was the best way.

I thought about that. Could I let go of the outcome as I listened to my friend's story? Instead of telling God what I thought the answer should be, and then asking for that in prayer, could I sincerely and simply just ask God for His will to be done? Did I trust Him that much? That slowed me down a little. Ouch. Okay, I had to sit and just breathe for a minute as the fear and anxiety swept over me while I considered the implications there.

How much did I trust God? Did I truly believe, deep down in my gut, that God had my friend's best interest in mind? Okay, maybe this easy, pat-answer solution of praying for someone is not so easy after all. It's much more palatable, as Lana mentions in this book, to believe in God's sovereignty and to rest in His care when life is moving swimmingly along. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful day. Thank you for my beautiful grandbabies. Thank you for your church, to which you have brought me. Thank you for my health. I can do that.

But how about when I hear the raw, gut-wrenching pain in my friend's voice? It sounds so callous to just say, "Thank you Lord, for this lousy situation." I didn't get that. I needed to know more. I wanted to understand how this could be. I craved to comprehend this mystery, if it was so, and how it could be. It seemed like an unanswerable puzzle.

I kept reading. I jumped a little when I read the line in her book today, "God sees the big picture." It sounded eerily familiar! She said that God may allow us to go through situations of great troubles, but he will not abandon us there.

Aaahhh, there we go. He will not abandon us when we are in the middle of the storm. That is a promise backed up by scripture. Even in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy in Chapter 4, I see where Moses is telling his people that trouble is definitely coming. He tells them that they are going to suffer, be scattered, and worship man-made idols; he says that many of them will die. [Pretty cheery stuff, there, Mo.] But.

I love when the Bible says "But," and there is a But in that chapter. In verse 29, he says, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." If we just stop in the middle of our pain, and seek God. . . we. will. find. Him. Wowza. What a great promise to hang on to. Moses goes on to say in verse 31, "For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you. . ." That's what I'm talkin' about! I'm starting to feel some hope, here.

We don't have to avoid or deny the pain in order to experience God's goodness; we find Him right smack-dab in the middle of the pain. We come to Him with our hearts laid open from the battle, and He will gently carry us up into His arms and care for us. We bring our inability to cope and lay it right at His feet for Him to handle. We can pray right from the messiness in our hearts. It doesn't have to be said with fancy words, not from lofty, impossible-to-reach high places that are far above the muddy, painful lives we lead. No, we simply drag our broken selves to our Papa, and we say, "Help!" And He will be right there.

We can trust that this sovereign God will be able to bring us through the pain to a place of unimaginable beauty. This God, who placed a hunger for His divine love within us, will willingly fill us with His presence. When we stop pretending that we can manage it all, when we finally look for Him with all our heart and all our soul, when we finally just rest in Him and trust, we will find the peace we seek. So I still don't have any pat answers for my friend, but I can choose to abide in His peace during the storm and encourage her to do the same.

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