While writing Prayer Encounters I reached out to a longtime friend who is an excellent writer with a very keen eye. I tried to tell her what I was trying to do, but had a hard time articulating it. She barraged me with questions until I could finally spit something out that started to make sense. It’s what I needed.
Beth has had a rocky relationship with God over the years, but not for a lack of effort. She has tried on faith in many colors, but nothing seems to fit her.
I asked her what she thought about praying with other people and she said, “AGGH! That’s terrifying! It’s the most intimate thing there is.”
Truer words were never spoken.
A few months later she called me in an anxious state. “Paul, can you tell me why some people have much, much harder lives that others?”
I told her that I wasn’t sure I could answer that question. I dread THAT question. There is no good answer. Many try to rationalize it away. “We all suffer. Life is hard.” But you do not have to be a pastor to know that there are most definitely some people who have a harder life than the rest of us. It cannot always explained away by saying that people bring it upon themselves, which is sometimes true. It’s a hard fact.
“You’re a pastor! You’re supposed to have an answer for this!” I wish.
“What’s going on, Beth?” I asked. I already knew that she lost her parents at a young age. I know that she has had more than her share of difficult relationships. I know that she struggles with anxiety and depression.
Within the last week, though, she had another break-up, found out she was pregnant, and shortly found out that she had lost the baby. During the procedure they discovered cancer.
It is not fair. It totally sucks.
There was silence. Then she asked, “Can we pray? And don’t make this into a story!” I knew how difficult it was for her to ask that question.
(By the way, I wrote the story anyway, but just for her. I was so touched by it and I did not want to forget it. After reading it, she gave me permission to share it if I changed her name.)
I began to pray. I lifted up her grief and her hurt and her anger. I asked for healing of her body and soul. I asked God to remove her depression and let her experience joy. At this point she cut in with her own plea, “God, I would be satisfied with just not feeling miserable! You don’t even have to make me feel great or joyful or happy. Just take away the misery I feel every day. I’m fine with ok.”
Within her voice lay a bare bones, honest expression of pain. It cut right into my heart and I believe it cut into the heart of God as well, for he is infinitely more compassionate that I am.
I closed the prayer by asking God to reveal himself to her. Sometimes what we really need is to just know he’s there.
We talked for a while after that. She was clearly lighter in spirit. We joked and told old stories.
Two weeks later, I got a text from Beth. “It happened.” What happened? “God showed up.” What? How?
She started by telling me that I might think she needs to be institutionalized. She was walking her dog down a wooded path the last evening when all of a sudden what must have been thousands of fireflies converged upon her enveloping her. A strange occurrence especially when you consider that it was March and fireflies had at least another month before they begin to appear in her region of the country.
I asked her why she believed this was God showing up?
She explained that the last time she had ever seen a firefly she was a child at her grandparents’ farm. “The last time I felt truly happy.”
Since that wonderful, wooded walk with God, whenever she sees fireflies they remind her that he is there and he cares.
She calls them “God’s glitter”.