Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
From a Distance,” the 1991 Grammy Song of the Year popularized by Bette Midler, describes what the world looks like from a distance: “From a distance the world looks blue and green . . . there is harmony . . . And no one is in need. And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease . . . We are instruments . . . playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.” The song ends with the lingering refrain: “God is watching us from a distance.”
Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.
The UK foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic in 2001 wrought more destruction to the British farming community than any event in history. Some believers prayed that Christian farmers would be miraculously protected, while others prayed that their witness for Jesus would be strong, no matter what happened.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!
When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”
Nehemiah was grieved at the report of the dire state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). He shared God’s heart for the holy city, but could do nothing about it in his position as a cupbearer for the king in far-off Susa. Then, his opportunity to make a difference came in a most unexpected way: by risking his life in making a request of the king (Nehemiah 2:4-5). A cupbearer wasn’t even permitted to express unhappiness on his face, let alone describe his grief because of the state of his far-off home. To say anything was to court death. But Nehemiah did.
In December 2013, Australian worship leader Darlene Zschech went for a routine mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the turmoil of raw emotions, specialist appointments, and the scans and surgery that followed, she instinctively reached for hope from God’s Word—the Psalms in particular. In January 2014 she Tweeted, “Psalm 91:1-16 in any version; God is so good to us all, cling to His Word and find hope that will never disappoint.”
Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 has been a blessing to me, but it’s also slightly confusing. How are we supposed to grasp the full measure of God’s love for us when it’s beyond our ability to understand? An experience with my son can help answer that question.