I Would Have Prayed
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one
, I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23 (TNIV)
I prayed too late. If I’d known sooner, maybe things would have been different. I stood gazing into the casket of my dearest friend. A sister. One I’d long to be in the company of, so when God blessed me with the opportunity to be her friend, I grasped hold and held tight.
That morning Mom had called me to ask if I’d heard from Lisa. I’d not heard from her in days, but we’d talked the week before.
“Lisa is dead,” Mom said. “Electrocuted in the tub.”
I hung up the phone. Don’t remember much after that. Somewhere between the four-hour trip and the reception line, I woke up to find myself staring into her casket, Lisa’s Bible clutched in her hands. Just like in life, she held Christ tight. Only now she was dead.
If I’d have known there was a problem between Lisa and her husband I’d have prayed for her safety. My heart broke as the loneliness swept over me. Christ had brought us together as friends and now we were divided by the shroud of death.
Lisa and I prayed together, talked about everything. And not once had she mentioned a fear of her husband or that he’d try to harm her. I’m not sure she knew the possibility. She’d ask how I was doing and yet, she kept silent about her own life.
I felt so helpless, torn. I could have prayed – would have, if I’d known. God might have saved her … changed her circumstances. But I didn’t know.
But Jesus knew. I took comfort in the fact that, just as Jesus prayed for us then, He prays for us now. Long before my birth, He fell to His knees and pleaded that I would know the Father as He knew the Father. Christ prayed for me like no one else has ever prayed – He asked for me to be brought to Him and united in His love. He wanted me to have that peace and reassurance that He would die for. He prayed that same thing for Lisa.
It took years for me to learn the secret of prayer is not in the words but in the purity of our hearts. That it’s the sincerity of soul, a naive faith that believes we can know God and that God knows us. That He seeks us and desires our presence with Him. Christ pleaded to the Father that I would know the unity of His presence in my life and He prayed those words with that same purity of heart and a “Father’s faith,” believing that through my trials, I would respond.
What an amazing gift Christ wanted me to have—an indivisible unity with the Father. No one has ever wanted more for me.
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)
In death, Lisa clung to His word. Like Christ clung to the cross. Like I cling to the hope I’ll see my friend again and the hope that I can know the Father as Christ knows Him.
Won’t you seek the One who reaches out from the cross to you? Allow His love to fill your heart. Hold tight to the unity found in Him through the Father and through the love we share with one another. He has provided a way to know Him.
We only need to stand in the shadow of the cross.
Believing God for Seasons of Joy Again
JUNE 7, 2021
“Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.’” Genesis 48:11 (NIV)
“Mom, I miss our old house,” my sweet girl whispered. I asked why and expected to hear thoughts on our lush backyard or her pink bedroom.
“We were so … happy there.” Her tender honesty pierced my heart. I affirmed her feelings and proceeded to name some positive points about our current life — but I couldn’t escape the reality she’d so wisely identified.
We were happy there, in our season of “before.” Before an agonizing diagnosis rocked our family. Before a cross-country move and the loss of a supportive community. Before multiple hardships wore us down with a fierce relentlessness.
The loss of a “before” season often leaves us listless and low on hope. We wonder if life can indeed be good again, as it once was before the diagnosis, job loss, crisis, death or affair. Before the lights went out and life stopped making sense.
This soul ache presses hard into our faith muscle, sometimes even threatening to wear it out. And when these grueling seasons unpack their bags and linger for a while, it’s easy to begin believing: My best days are behind me.
The patriarch Jacob experienced a “before” season, too — before the loss and presumed death of his beloved son, Joseph. While Jacob had many children, Genesis 37:3 tells us he “… loved Joseph more than any of his other sons” (NIV).
Unfortunately, this favoritism led Joseph’s jealous brothers to sell him into slavery and fake his death. With chilling deception, they presented Joseph’s bloodied, multicolored coat to Jacob, who then grieved mightily.
While Scripture doesn’t give us many details, we can imagine the depth of Jacob’s trauma. We can envision the way this massive loss tore at his soul and clouded his mind. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine Jacob was never quite as lighthearted from that day forward. Perhaps, like us, he believed a season of joy would never come again.
And yet the conclusion of Genesis reveals the exquisite story God had been writing through those dark days: Joseph, alive and well in Egypt, was finally reunited with his father. Our key verse recounts the tender, poignant words spoken by Jacob (also called “Israel”):
“Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.’” (Genesis 48:11)
What a resolution! Not only does Jacob have his son back, but he also experiences the joy of knowing his grandsons. After years of heartache, God brought Jacob into a spacious season where he enjoyed 17 years with Joseph.
When seasons of loss arrive, let us not forget the truth that God always, always works for our good. He loves us deeply and will never cease moving on our behalf — even when we don’t understand His ways, for what is dark to us isn’t dark to Him.
You and I may not receive the ending we’d choose, but we can choose to trust the God who wants the very best for us. It’s tempting to draw conclusions about the end of the story when we’re in the middle of it. But what if we leaned into that faith muscle a little deeper? What if we grasped onto the truth with all our might and trusted God to write the ending He knows we need?
In painful seasons, we can draw hope and strength from this story of Jacob and Joseph. Instead of pulling away from Jesus, we can run to Him and entrust our heartache and disappointment into His scarred hands. We can reject the enemy’s lie that joy will never come again.
Your best days are not behind you, dear one. In Jesus, we know each season serves a divine purpose. And just as God was faithful to Jacob and Joseph, so God will be faithful to you, too. Let’s never give up hoping and expectantly looking for the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Love Coupons from the Lord
by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com
Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
Hebrews 6:12, NLT
Rummaging through our junk drawer once upon a time, I came across a gift from my wife that has brought me nothing but trouble.
Hold it right there. You keep presents from your wife in the junk drawer?
I’m happy to explain. Everything else I’ve ever received from Valerie is a treasure, a blessing. But in this case…
I’m speaking here of a booklet of “love coupons” placed in my stocking one Christmas. You’ve surely received something similar at one point in your life – a bundle of certificates entitling the bearer, at his or her behest, to a smattering of various benefits such as back rubs, dates, baked goods, relaxation, respite from chores, or other goodies. Whoever invented these well-intended documents of doom wasn’t a master of foresight.
The problem doesn’t lie in the sentiment, it’s in the redemption. Flipping fondly through the long lost book, I plucked out a coupon for a 30-minute massage and excitedly approached the one from whom the much-appreciated thought originated.
“Hey, look what I found. Do you think I could redeem this tonight?”
Body language is an amazing thing. Val said nothing, but her facial expression told me I might as well have been expired yogurt. Her lips didn’t move, but I very clearly heard her brain say:
“Are you kidding me? I’m overwhelmed and on my feet all day chasing down rambunctious children, and you have the audacity to bring me a coupon? If there’s anybody who should be receiving a massage tonight, mister, it’s me! In fact, if you really loved me, you’d know when I was too busy or moody or tired!”
And there it is. Something that had been designed to show her love to me had turned into something that demonstrated my perceived lack of love for her. Um, how did that happen? Stupid coupons. Back into the junk drawer until you’re more convenient to my wife – once the kids are out of the house.
So, in need of unconditional promises I could count on, I pulled out the old concordance seeking out scriptures about which I could pray: “Look what I found. Do you think I could redeem this tonight?”
See, Valerie is human; I’m unwise. Our Father is neither. He loves us more than we can fathom and He’s put together quite a package of unbreakable promises that have no flaw in the redemption. We just have to faithfully submit them.
Holding fast to promise in difficult times was a major theme for New Testament authors. Here are just a few examples of the encouragement they offer through telling us what’s available to the believer through Christ:
- 1 – Power, Holiness, Escape from Temptation and Worldliness“And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you feel bogged down by all the sin and negativity in the world, when you need to feel that your destiny is something more than this crude earthly matter, but a partaker of the divine.
- 2 – The Holy Spirit, Complete with Gifts, Fruit, and Power“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you need to remember that Jesus did not leave you here alone; He sent His messenger to fill you with everything you need to know Him and make Him known.
- 3 – Fellowship, Joy, Eternal Life“You must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will continue to live in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life He promised us” (1 John 2:24-25).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you need to return to the first principles of the faith, being reminded of the benefits of walking with God.
- 4 – Salvation, Belonging, Riches & Blessings, Being Children of God“And this is the secret plan: The Gentiles have an equal share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God’s children. Both groups have believed the Good News, and both are part of the same body and enjoy together the promise of blessings through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you are overtaken by selfishness or self-centeredness, and need to focus on who you are as part of the Church and an all-inheriting child of God.
- 5 – Truth, Confidence, Assurance, Life“Truth gives them the confidence of eternal life, which God promised them before the world began – and He cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you feel let down by those around you, lost in the temporal rather than the eternal, or in need of knowing that God can’t go back on His Word.
- 6 – Membership in the Family, Persecuted but Free“And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. And we who are born of the Holy Spirit are persecuted by those who want us to keep the law, just as Isaac, the child of promise, was persecuted by Ishmael, the son of the slave-wife” (Galatians 4:28-29).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you are downtrodden by right-and-wrong, do-and-don’t. You are born again free in the family of the Most High.
- 7 – Trials, Patience, Endurance, the Crown of Life“God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).Pluck this out and turn it in when… you wonder at God’s wisdom and will, when tough times come your way, and when you feel you don’t have the strength to go on. Testing is guaranteed, so don’t despise it or your own discipline – how else would you be able to exercise your faith?
And the best promise of all while we’re on this earth may just be new joy, new mercy every morning. Each day another chance. When days get rough and we could use “a backrub from above,” all we have to do is open up the Bible and say, “Look what I found, Lord. It’s been a tough day. Do you think I could redeem this one tonight?”
Since the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the answer is always yes. Until one day we experience His ultimate promise of a new heaven and a new earth and there will be no need of coupons.