Thank you for your prayers, love and light sent our way the night before last.
I’m going to be honest, I was afraid to post the story I shared.
Why? You might ask.
Well, it was because of my closing line, which read,
“Yes, prayers are powerful, but right now, though I’m praying will all my might, it doesn’t feel like enough.”
I know what Christians say to that. I’ve experienced it more than enough times.
“God’s in control,” “You have to trust in Him,” in other words, “Slap that smile on your face.”
Somehow in Christianity, it’s become a sign of lack of faith to show any emotion other than positivity.
I don’t agree.
One of my favorite verses is repeated three times in Psalm 42:5, 42:11 and 43:5,
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
I love how David, all through the Psalms is just so wonderfully open with his emotions before the Lord. In his writings you can see depression, despair, worry, fear, doubts, it all comes out.
“…my tears have been my food day and night.”
“…I groan because of the turmoil of my heart”
“…why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?” (Psalm 42:3, 38:8, 43:2)
I’ve had people tell me and even teach that worry and doubt are a sin. This is debatable, I guess, but to be honest, I don’t think it really matters. And what does it help to say that?
Have you ever tried to tell a person racked with worry to just stop worrying already? It doesn’t work. Suffering through worry is punishment enough in my opinion. It’s horrible.
Despair is crushing, doubts fall heavy on our shoulders. Whereas those moments of hope, belief and trust are light and freeing. God wants us to feel that way. But he knows we’re human. In fact, he’s been a human himself, right?
- He was anguished to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44)
- He was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (John 11:33)
- “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
- He saw the crowds “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” and his heart broke for them. (Matthew 9:36)
And yet He was without sin.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
You know how I said above that prayer “just didn’t feel like enough?” I think those type of prayers might just be the most authentic prayers I have to offer. Because they come from the very depth of my heart.
“Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)
When words can’t express how I’m feeling, all I can do is just tap in to those deep emotions. Because God is within and all around and “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
So in a sense He goes through those emotions with me and counts them as prayer. The very deepest and most real prayer I have to offer is my sorrow, pain and despair.
“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)
But He doesn’t leave us there. As we go through the emotion, He honors our pain and our sorrow and gently, tenderly moves us out of despair and into hope.
He is so kind and gentle with us. He understands our weaknesses. He gets our emotions. They are O.K. with Him. Don’t be ashamed to feel what you feel or to express it. Go through it with Him. You have to go through the pain to the healing on the other side.
“…for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
I’m tired of quick fixes and pat answers. The only way to get to the root of a problem and seek a solution is to go to the depths with it.
Can we be that for each other? Can we stop casting judgment on others because they feel too deeply, or they are too honest? Can we trust them and trust God to get through those emotions to the other side? No one wants to be stuck in worry and despair. But the only way out is through.
God is kind, gentle and understanding with us – can we be that way with each other too?
On Thursday night, God was kind and gentle with me in my sorrow. And He responded to the prayers that were offered.
Here’s how the situation unfolded.
On Friday morning Lisa went to the farmer’s market, and when she returned she had the three run-away boys with her.
Relief flooded over me as I saw them sitting in my living room. They had solemn faces, because they knew they had missed their court date. Just as I started talking to them, my neighbor walked in the door to bring me a mango.
She is an angel. Literally. She always appears right at the moment I need her. I explained the situation going on and we immediately got the youngest’s parents on the phone.
After talking to them, my neighbor called her friend who is a lawyer to explain the situation more. She also got on the phone with the municipality and the judge.
The biggest message out all of this was to the boys – that they are not alone in trying to solve their problems. They ran because they were scared. They thought they were going to jail. In our conversations stories of abuse came out.
As we addressed the problem with the court they had to face, I said to the boys, “Yes, we need to deal with this, but there is a bigger problem here, and it is that you keep running away from home.”
I asked them how they would feel if I called social services to see if we could get them into one of the children’s homes. I wish there was another option, but at this point that’s the best I could do. They all three looked me in the eye and nodded their heads.
All three said they would prefer to live in an institution then with their families. That to me, says a lot.
I spent most of the rest of the day on the phone trying to talk to the right people and get the right advice.
The boys relaxed in my living room with coloring books. I sat with one sixteen year old and we worked on my son, Jude’s (4), pre-school workbook. Yep, pre-school.
We sounded out letters and practiced spelling simple words. This was all at the boy’s initiative. He wants to learn. He’s expressed to me before his desire to learn to read. It is baffling to me that no one has ever taken the time to just sit with him and teach him to read.
The police came to pick them up and take them to social services. Before they left I fed them macaroni and cheese and gave them each a coloring book and pack of crayons in a little back pack.
I gave them each my phone number, looked them in the eye and said, “There are laws in this country that say adults are not allowed to hit children. You have the right to be in a home where you will not be hit or hurt. Do you understand? If you end up back home and you are being hurt by an adult, call me. I will call social services and keep calling until something happens. I will do everything I can.”
Their eyes filled with tears and they nodded. I hugged them each as they climbed into the police car. I made one final phone call to the social service office in Liberia to report the situation and request that they not be sent back home.
So what did I gain from all of this? Well, by spending so much time on the phone talking to different offices and social workers, I gained an understanding of how the system works here. Though it seems chaotic, there is a process to everything.
I gained a deeper understanding of the situation with the boys, so I will know better how to respond if they end up back here in Jaco again. These are all things I was seeking to know and understand.
Yesterday, through a long, chaotic day, I got answers to questions, which in reality were answers to prayers. All the issues aren’t solved, all the pieces of the puzzle aren’t in place, but it was enough for now and I’m thankful.