Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Peace of God

I couldn’t remember a time in my life when I had been so jumpy and nervous, and with each passing day it worsened. Ever since the tragic death of my seventeen-year-old stepson, a few months earlier, I had been going through the motions and feeling anything but alive.

My husband and I had two children of our own. It felt as if my grieving family was directing all their anger at me, making it even more difficult to cope with my own despair. Thoughts of divorce and even suicide, constantly plagued my mind.

I used to wonder how the death of a child could destroy a marriage. I assumed the thread of common agony would bring a couple closer together, and their shared grief would build a bridge instead of a wall. Instead, the anger over our loss had begun to poison our relationship. When one wanted to talk, the other didn’t. Communicating with anyone, including each other, was very difficult.

One day at work, after hanging up the phone from yet another argument with my husband, I desperately whispered aloud, “Dear Lord, help me.”

Suddenly, I felt a strong hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see my cousin, Jay, who worked nearby. In a comforting voice, Jay asked if I needed help, and then offered the number of a friend—a Christian counselor named Joe.

During my first visit with Joe my tears flowed effortlessly as I poured out my torment to a stranger schooled in listening to hearts. Before long, he nailed it. “How much time are you spending in the Bible?” he asked.

The Bible? I just told him I was having trouble focusing on anything, especially reading.

“God’s Word has tremendous power. And, you don’t need to read much for it to help,” he said, as if he read my mind. Handing me a piece of paper, his eyes met mine. “I want you to look up these two scripture verses and memorize them.” Neither of us blinked.

I had been a strong Christian prior to my stepson’s death, but between the weight of the grief and my own anger at God, I had stopped having my quiet time with the Lord. Even though I continued to attend worship services, I was going through the motions there, too.

When I returned home, armed with the verses in hand, I looked them up and slowly read them out loud. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” It was Philippians 4:6-7.

I had to break the words down, meditating on just a few at a time, but with each reading I felt as if a soothing balm was being lovingly massaged directly into my heart. Gradually, an amazing transformation began to occur. As I spent more time in the Word, I returned to prayer. Then the fog in my mind began to clear, sound sleep returned, and the heavy pain slowly subsided.

With God’s help I began crawling out of that deep, dark cave that my soul had been choking in for so many months. I became more patient and loving with my family, too, praying out loud with them again, infusing hope and comfort in their hurting hearts, as well.

I realized how close I had come to almost allowing the enemy to destroy my marriage, or even my life. God had divinely intervened; first through Jay and then with Joe, but mostly through the power of His Word. Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel. Our part is to turn to, and trust in, Him alone.

Wishing you peace,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Time Well Spent

“I’ve been offered a part-time job,” my friend, Linda, said in a tone that was more questioning than matter-of-fact. “But, I’m not sure what to do.”

Recently widowed and retired, Linda was still very active, both mentally and physically. She liked staying busy and had excellent secretarial skills; I assumed this job would be perfect for her. But, Linda went on to share that she had gotten used to her freedom, and while she could use the money, she could get by without it.

I said a quick prayer for wisdom before responding to her. Having been home writing for several years, I loved setting my own hours; arising early in the morning to write if I knew I had something else going on during the day. Sure, I could find a “real job” that paid better, but I knew I was doing what God called me to do. Plus, this flexibility had allowed me to spend more time with my aging parents, both of whom were around seventy.

Linda’s parents were even older and she was very close to them. We had a short discussion of the pro’s and con’s of going back to work, even just part-time, when suddenly I made a statement that I didn’t realize would make all the difference: “I’ve never regretted the extra time I had to spend with my dad, especially since he passed so unexpectedly.”

Those few years prior to my father’s passing, he and I had lunch together several times, which included lots of long talks about the past. One day, Dad accompanied me on the two hour trip to Ohio University to see my son. Dad and I had a great day together; even talking about the Lord, which Pops was never comfortable with. I didn’t pressure him, I simply shared my faith.

Dad quietly responded with, “I’m not ready to do that yet, but… don’t give up on me.”

I didn’t. And more importantly, God didn’t.

Unknown to dear ole Pops, his response had lit a fire in me to “pray without ceasing” for him (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I prayed daily for dad to come to the Lord and put his name on the prayer chain at my church, too.

Then, just two short years after our OU trip, I got the horrible call that dad’s aorta had suddenly burst—he had only hours to live. I arrived in time to remind Pops of our conversation—how the Lord had not given up on him. I told Dad to squeeze my hand if he was ready to ask Jesus into his heart—thankfully he squeezed hard.

Linda knew all about this, because…she had been married to my dad. She had witnessed over the years the seeds planted in his heart for Jesus. After dad passed, she rededicated her life to the Lord. Then just this year, she learned her father had only months to live. Linda was able to spend time caring for her dad and sharing her faith in private conversations with him. A few weeks before he passed, Linda’s father asked Jesus into his heart. He even went on to share his faith with his family before leaving this earth.

Sometimes the enemy tries to convince us that we need to make more money, or that we simply don’t have the time to invest in others. But in actuality, our time is a gift from God. One day we will stand before Him alone and give an account of how we spent it. Spend it well—for Him.

“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33).


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