It shouldn’t surprise me.
This wondrous love of my heavenly Father.
Yet, somehow, it never ceases to amaze me when He reveals the fullness of His affection.
During a meeting with my Pastor last week, I shared that I have been feeling ‘stuck’ in my journey toward healing. I know that I have made tremendous gains in coming to understand the depths of God’s love for me. He has graciously surrounded me with love and support over the past few months, especially from many of you who have blessed me beyond measure with beautiful words of encouragement. Although there have still been difficult days, it has made a world of difference knowing that you are there to compassionately ‘listen’ as I share my heartache and brokenness. So thank you!
My loving, heavenly Father has also blessed me with a renewed strength that I know could only have come from Him. He has helped me to stand firmly against the lies of the evil one, saving me from spiraling downward into the pit of despair. I truly have much to be thankful for!
But the sense of being ‘stuck’ persists. The journey feels stagnant. There has been little, if any, moving forward. As he often does when there is no straightforward answer, my Pastor suggested we pray and ask God why things seem to have been put on hold.
As we prayed, I sensed God speaking to my heart, telling me that I do not have, because I do not ask. The Pastor opened his Bible, and showed me James 4:2, “…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (NLT).
“Have you been praying for God to heal you?” he asked.
I had not. At least not for a while. God had promised to heal me, but had revealed that the process would be lengthy and difficult. I believed that God would keep the promise He had made, and thought that my part was to wait patiently for His perfect timing.
“No,” the Pastor objected gently. “Just because God has promised you something doesn’t mean you don’t have to pray for it.”
He reminded me of the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18). Her request was granted because she would not stop asking. She was not willing to give up. Then we discussed Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10) who shouted out relentlessly for Jesus to have mercy on him. Many in the crowd became annoyed with his continuous yelling, and told him to be quiet. Bartimaeus only shouted louder, until Jesus finally heard him and granted the desperate cry of his heart.
“Would he have received his healing,” my Pastor asked, “if he had listened to the crowd and sat quietly by the roadside?”
Like the widow and Bartimaeus, we should be persistent in making our requests known before God.
There are exceptions. Times we are clearly told that the answer is no. Paul prayed three times that God would remove the “thorn in his flesh”, but each time God responded, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). But unless we, like Paul, have received a clear ‘no’, we should keep on praying.
My Pastor likes to say it this way…
Don’t take no for an answer, until you know that the answer is no.
I was to be persistent and bold in my prayers. Making agreements with the promises I had sensed God making to me, and fearlessly asking for His healing touch in my life.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
So that was the plan. Bold prayers for healing.
But then life happened…
Two of my close friends experienced crises in their lives that week. A dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, and another received a troubling report after a routine prenatal ultrasound.
I prayed adamantly, repeatedly, and with great passion. I boldly asked for healing and complete restoration for both of my friends. I poured out my heart in desperation, pleading with God to intervene in both of their lives.
By contrast, I realized that my prayers for myself were weak, inconsistent, and faithless.
Why the difference?
I met with my Pastor again today, and we discussed that very question. It soon became clear that I felt unworthy. My friends were certainly worth God’s time and attention, but was I?
My Pastor prayed and asked that God would reveal His thoughts on the matter. I sensed Him whispering to my heart of hearts…
I love you deeply, with a perfect love.
So much, that I sent my Son to die for you.
The price was extravagant,
but you are worth it.
Worth the pain of every betrayal,
every lash of the whip, every minute of suffering.
You are so precious to me.
My Pastor explained that there is a big difference between being unworthy and being undeserving. None of us are deserving of the grace that God has shown us. We have done nothing to earn it. But worth is vastly different. The worth of something is determined by the price that someone else is willing to pay for it. An old vase that a collector is willing to pay a million dollars for, is worth a million dollars regardless of what I may think of it. Jesus paid an extravagant price for us. He considered us worth the cost.
My Pastor asked I could remember the first time I believed the lie that I was unworthy. I thought back to my childhood, and could picture myself as a young child, cowering before my angry father. My eyes brimmed with hot tears as I explained to the Pastor how the harsh treatment at the hands of my father had filled me with feelings of unworthiness, guilt and shame. I believed that I deserved to be hurt and intimidated; that I wasn’t worthy of being cared for, protected and loved.
The Pastor gently encouraged me to close my eyes and see if the Lord would reveal a picture of how Jesus thought I should have been treated. I immediately pictured Jesus crouching down and inviting that little girl, who was me, into his warm embrace. His eyes danced with joy as He spoke to her and listened intently to what she had to say. I could not hear most of their conversation, but I clearly heard Him say, “I take much delight in you, my precious child”. The little one smiled widely and began twirling in her white dress – peeking over to see if He was still watching.
All of a sudden, I remembered the poem that I wrote recently to express the hurt and brokenness that I experience as a result of my father’s rejection and harsh discipline. One stanza, in particular, stood out in my memory…
But I needed a daddy.
Someone to watch me twirl in dresses, and tell me I was beautiful.
Someone to love me unconditionally.
To be a place of safety, and an example of Jesus.
I longed for that.
Tears streamed down my face as I realized what my heavenly Father had just done for me. He had heard the cry of my broken heart, and lovingly chose to fulfill my longing – not only through the precious vision, but also by revealing to my heart that He has always been there, and has been my Abba Father all along.
He never ceases to amaze me – this God who is Creator of all things, sovereign, and all-powerful King, and yet willing to stoop to this tiny, blue, speck of a ball to pour His love and grace into the lives of His precious children. We are not deserving, sweet friends, but He has deemed us completely worthy!
Blessings and hugs,
Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/463804