This is part two and the conclusion of a story that started on Friday. You can find part one here. ~ F
Faced with a friend whose strong faith is perilously close to slipping over the edge of the abyss … I close my eyes and pray … God, help. I am not equipped for this.
As I often do with my counselees, I change the direction of the conversation. There is a time to shake the muck and mire off your feet and scramble back up to the edge of the pit. I concentrate on asking Paula to pray for God to speak to her and then to watch closely and listen for Him to speak. “He can use anything and anyone,” I say.
“I do,” she says. “How come I don’t hear Him?”
Knowing that she believes she isn’t hearing Him I add, “His voice may not come the way you think it will.” I remind her that I’d wanted to share Psalm 66: 1-10 with her earlier and hadn’t had the opportunity to – mainly because of how our conversation had unfolded. I ask her to read it at home because it had been called to my attention that morning and it was so beautifully brimming with praise to God. It’s hard to feel poorly when you’re busy praising Him. And, since it’s one of my spiritual gifts, I tell her that I’ll pray for God to send me a word for her and that when He does I’ll let her know immediately. She doesn’t look very confident. It doesn’t matter. I’m confident for the both of us.
We settle the bill and I suggest we go sit on the rocking chairs that litter the front porch of this establishment.
Outside we rock and talk softly. The gravity of her earlier emotion subsiding, she’s now deep in her head and I’m still praying that God will speak to her and allow her to hear Him.
A woman walks by with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. I notice her hair is cropped really short like maybe she’s coming off chemo. “Happy Birthday” I call out as she passes by. She turns and smiles, it’s not her birthday but a friend’s … she’s just going to the car and will be right back. I mention to Paula that she might have cancer. “Look at her hair,” I whisper.
“It may just be her style,” Paula responds.
“Maybe.” I say, sighing and looking out into the parking lot.
As the woman returns from her car she stops and hesitates in front of us. Looking at me she indicates that she’s just finished treatments for breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery. She apologizes for surmising my situation (which I presume is due to my lovely ‘I’m fighting cancer’ hair-do). I wave her off and congratulate her and her progress. I gesture to Paula and tell her that my friend is also battling cancer and having a tough day.
Her words so tender and uplifting, I gasp and grab Paula’s hand as the woman bends down and speaks directly into Paula’s soul. She mentions much of the verbiage in Psalm 66 – the very Psalm I had planned to read to her hours earlier. She talks about gratitude and hope and healing. Paula is crying and I’m thanking God for this angel He has sent to us. Talk about divine appointments! Hugs and kisses later she hurries off to retrieve her friends inside. I praise God aloud for sending the woman and squeeze Paula’s hand again.
Paula is still despondent. “She’s just a woman,” she states matter-of-factly.
“A woman sent by God,” I emphatically declare.
The next morning I was not even out of bed before I was praying for Paula and asking God to give me a word for her. I sigh laying my head back on the pillow, “Lord, we need a word from you now,” I implore aloud. Suddenly I ‘got’ Isaiah 62:12. I smile and say (again out loud), “Thank you, Lord,” my heart brimming with joy. I grab my HCSB from the nightstand and read:
“And they will be called the Holy People,
the Lord’s redeemed;
and you will be called Cared For,
A City Not Deserted.”
How glorious! Of course He cares for her and has not deserted her. I immediately text Paula. The Lord makes my day before I’ve even gotten out of bed! How can you not love such a responsive Father? He is so faithful! I pray Paula will receive this message from Him and meditate on it.
At church the following Sunday Paula remarks that she didn’t understand the verse I sent her. She opens her Bible and we read her version of the verse. It’s nowhere near as glorious as the version I’m currently using (the HSCB or Holman Christian Standard Bible). I open mine and read it to her. She sits back contemplating the message.
Then, just before service started Paula grabbed my hand, “Don’t give up on me,” she whispers. I turn to look at her with tears in my eyes.
“I won’t,” I whisper as I hug her tightly. “I won’t.”
Now tell me … What have you done to strengthen your own faith, or someone else’s faith?
Update: While Paula still struggles, she is doing better, is reading the Bible, and has (at least) remembered that she will be going to Heaven when she dies. Glory!