August 5, 2014

Journeys With Jesus

I stood to collect the songbooks after we had finished singing a hymn. My friend pulled out her pen, ready to take the prayer requests. These were our girls. Our girls! They dressed alike—navy-blue scrubs and orange Crocs, courtesy of our local jail. But their personalities, their stage of growth, their walk with God, were all unique.

A voice broke into my thoughts. “My name is Crystal,” she said.

I smiled at her. “I’m so glad you’re here tonight. Are you new? I don’t remember seeing you before.”

She shook her head. “No. I’ve never come before. I don’t have any use for God!”

Her vehemence startled me. Most of our girls had at least a desire for God. This was unusual. My friend asked her, “Do you have any prayer requests, Crystal?”

She folded her arms across her chest. “No. I don’t have any requests for God. I don’t want to talk to Him.”

“That’s OK,” I said. “We’re just happy you came.” We continued asking around the room, then stood for prayer. Crystal held back, but another girl pulled her into our circle. “C’mon, Crystal. If you’re going to come to church, you’ve got to hold hands and join us for prayer.”

Later, as I launched into our study on forgiveness, I silently prayed for Crystal. Why had she come tonight? Obviously, it was the work of the Holy Spirit. What was the key to her heart? How could her bitterness be released?

Halfway through the study a significant shift occurred. As we discussed holding on to bitterness, someone raised her hand. “You all know I have cancer,” she said. “However, I believe I developed cancer because I held on to a resentment for years.”

I cringed inwardly. Yes, our emotions and stress can impact our health, but I didn’t want any of the girls to feel as if any disease they might have was their fault. Suddenly Crystal spoke. “So what type of resentment does a kid have that would cause him to get cancer?”

The words hung in the air, smoldering. I took a deep breath, but before any sound came out, she lashed out again. “My 8-year-old son died of cancer six months ago. Sure, he had childhood squabbles, but you can’t tell me a child is responsible for cancer!”

Understanding flooded my mind. Here was the source of her pain with God! I turned to Crystal. “I am so sorry for the loss of your little boy. Of course it wasn’t his fault he got cancer.” I paused to let that sink in. “Tell me, do you believe God caused his death?”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t. But He could’ve stopped it, and He didn’t.”

Praying for wisdom, I began to speak about Adam and Eve, and their choice in the garden to walk away from God. We discussed the results of sin, and this thing called the great controversy. The pain sin causes. The suffering and death that ensue. How God has to allow sin to ripen and bear fruit so that all can see the results of rebellion.

The guard stood at our window. “Time’s up!” she barked.

I looked at the women. Tears streamed down their faces. Oh, why did it have to end now? Had Crystal gotten enough? Did she get a glimpse into the love of Jesus and the freedom of choice?

I hugged Crystal tightly and was amazed to feel her hug back. She walked out of the room and down the hall. I watched until she was lost from view, but never from the sight of God.

If you’d like to join me in praying for Crystal, simply e-mail [email protected]