“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” ~John 16:24
Note: What I wrote below was written days before my trip to visit my parents for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was already sensing the looming struggles that lay ahead.
There are multiple struggles and changes occurring simultaneously at this moment in my life, demanding my attention and energy. I have been depleted for quite some time now, in need of rejuvenation, in need of deliverance. I found myself wondering last night, when was the last time I felt joy? I could not recall. I am in the midst of a heavy heart season, and I have lost touch with joy. Somehow it has disappeared into all the demands placed on me at the moment.
With a boyfriend too afraid to step up to life’s uncertainty and stand by my side, I felt a mixed blessing in his disappearance. If he can’t stand by me and be an anchor, then best he run scared into his safe closet. Now I may devote my energies to what God is calling me toward.
“The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.” ~Ronald Reagan
Hurricane Sandy heaped additional difficulties for my 87 year-old parents, living alone in NYC. Both were hospitalized within a day of each other. They are adamant about continuing to live alone in the city they have known all their life, despite having no family to assist them. As their Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, I am in a position to make decisions that will impact their lives. I want to make the right decisions for them, yet the distance poses a challenge, as does my father’s stubbornness to the point of self-destruction. It is all very daunting to begin to figure out what to do when I arrive. My father’s health is spiraling since admitted to a rehabilitative / long term care facility recently. I don’t know what I will be walking into when I arrive to see my father.
In my future, I will have a loving, supportive and encouraging spouse who will stand by me and walk through difficulties with me. He will be wise, offer encouragement, guidance, give me a hug, and talk. However, given he hasn't arrived yet…I feel alone now walking through this. I must hang on to hope and the realization that there is purpose in this present moment exactly as it is.
Sunday I awoke at 7 a.m. without my alarm clock being set, which is very unusual for me. I was alert which was to me a surprise considering I went to bed very late. I took the time to do some writing, and in the midst of it all, I was visited by a feeling that I needed to save my document and get ready for the mid morning service. At first I was thinking to catch it live on the internet, but then felt prompted to go in person. I was obedient to this feeling.
When I arrived at church, the sermon was on “The power of prayer.” I must admit, I have not been giving to God the attention and focus He deserves, for all He provides in my life. My thanks at mealtimes and bedtime prayers—which lately have been cut short by me falling asleep due to pure exhaustion—seem an insufficient prayer life. Something within me has been clamoring to connect more deeply and more often to The One.
“When we Pray we are filled with boldness and with the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~Pastor Robert Morris (from Acts 1:8 and Acts 4:31)
In this season I need boldness and power to do God’s will in the midst of all my challenges. Lately this woman that I am, that is known by all as strong, has been feeling weak and inadequate to meet the challenge. I feel completely vulnerable during a time I know I must be strong.
What I like so much about this church is that they provide such great prayer support. So many people take Pastor Morris up on his invitation to come and ask for prayer. It is inbred in the culture of this church and he encourages it as very natural, by reminding us “We all need prayer.”
As I waited in line for prayer, a former co-worker walks by and stops when he recognizes me. I reach out my hand to shake his, but he lunges forward and gives me a hug. Oh, how I needed that. Meanwhile, the man in front of me begins to talk about some of the pastor’s CDs that he listens to during his drive to work. He gives me his business card and asks me to email him to continue our conversation. I notice an older woman searching for something she’s lost. I step out of line to assist her and thankfully find her umbrella. She places her arm around me to thank me.
I felt God’s love surrounding me in the warmth of these strangers. When in my immediate world I was feeling isolated, perhaps abandoned, He provided confirmation that He will not have me walk alone.
When it was my turn, I was led right to a friendly woman who was completely attentive to me. This kind woman held both my hands in hers, and prayed for my “Discernment, Strength and Joy.” She reassured me that “God has not forgotten you. He wants you to come to Him, seek Him and ask.”
Come to Him. Prayer.
Seek Him. Prayer.
I got it. Loud and clear.
It didn’t escape me that she prayed for me to receive joy. Of all things, it wasn’t what I would have expected her to pray for — Joy.
To me this was confirmation that God is listening. He hears my laments and my cries to once again feel joy.
“Those who sow with tears
Will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
Carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy,
Carrying sheaves with them.” ~Psalm 126: 5-6